Emvy Cellars was born under the wing of Grande Ronde Cellars and alongside Bridge Press Cellars.
Valerie and Mark Wilkerson started their small winery in 2002 with help from winemakers Dave Westfall and John Mueller at Grande Ronde. At the same time, their good friends Brian and Melody Padrta also worked with the winemakers to launch Bridge Press Cellars.
Now, the wineries share a tasting room at the Market Place Wine Bar, 32 W. Second Ave., and a winemaking and event facility at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Browne Street. The tasting room will soon move to that building – maybe in time for the Mother’s Day weekend spring barrel tasting.
The Wilkersons started with just one wine – a premium red blend they call Devotion – but recently began branching out to new wines, including a semillion-based white blend, a chenin blanc, syrah and a cabernet sauvignon.
We sat down recently with Valerie Wilkerson at the Market Place Wine Bar to talk about the new wines, the winery and their efforts to distinguish themselves as winemakers.
SR: How did Emvy Cellars start?
Valerie Wilkerson: We went on a wine tour with John Allen from Vino! and my husband became crazed about the wine business. I’m a beer drinker, so this very much a labor of love for Mark. His office is in the same building as Grande Ronde, so he started talking to Dave Westfall and said, “How do you feel about making some wine together?” and that is how the process started.
From there we gathered all of our friends and tried to think of a name for the winery. We came up with M.V. for Mark and Val and we spelled it Emvy, as kind of a play on “envy.” My husband and I have known each other since we were 4 years old, so our premier wine, Devotion, is for all of the years that we have known one other and been together.
We released our first wine in 2005, the 2002 vintage of Devotion. We haven’t even released our 2008 vintage of that yet, so we are late releasers. We’ll release our 2008 Devotion on Mother’s Day weekend in time for the spring barrel tasting. We started out making just 125 cases of wine.
SR: What other wines do you make?
Wilkerson: Right now, we have VEBA Rouge. It is a red table wine. It is very good, very inexpensive. It is also made from Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge fruit and a little bit of Red Mountain grapes are in there.
We have a VEBA Blanc. It is a very simple wine and it’s delicious. It is made from Seven Hills grapes and it is 75 percent semillion, 12.5 percent sauvignon blanc and 12.5 percent roussanne, which is rarely used.
We also have a chenin blanc made in 2011. It is the third white wine that we have released. It is made with Columbia Valley fruit.
SR: Who did the artwork for the wine label?
Wilkerson: This label was done by a local artist, Kirsten Stobie. It was something that she painted during a Mostly Merlot event. Our Devotion labels were also done by another artist, Alexei Kazantsev of Whidbey Island. My passion is that I always want to get a local artist to help create our labels.
SR: Who is your winemaker?
Wilkerson: We have a consortium now, including Brian Padrta, who is our partner at Bridge Press Cellars, he and John Mueller (of Grande Ronde) do all of the chemical work. Then, we blend our wine and they blend their wine separately. We all work together and we all get dirty together to get the wines into the barrels, but after that Emvy does all of its own blending and all of its own barrel sampling and so does Bridge Press.
It is a partnership. We share this building and we share the building that we purchased across the street, the actual winery where the wine is being made.
SR: When did you start making wines there?
Wilkerson: That started this summer, June of 2012.
SR: Did that building need some remodeling?
Wilkerson: Oh, my word. Yes.
SR: When that building is finished, what will be in there?
Wilkerson: It’s all in there now. We have all of our vats, all of our crushing, all of our pressing. We have all of our barrels moved in there. … It is a beautiful space down in the basement. There is a 7,000-square-foot hall on the top floor of the building that we have talked to different caterers about leasing. It is perfect for weddings. You could get married upstairs and then come downstairs and have the reception, but we haven’t found the right caterer yet, so that part of the building is still empty.
SR: Will the tasting room eventually move over there?
Wilkerson: Yes. We’re hoping to have it done by Mother’s Day but we’re not sure. So, we may still be over here for the Mother’s Day weekend event but we’ll have a barrel tasting over in the winery building.
SR: What new wines are you making?
Wilkerson: We have some new wines coming out and they are from Spilya Vineyard. From that we are making our first 2011 Tapteil Syrah, which Mark is so excited about. We’re also making a 2012 Tapteil Syrah, which is turning out to be just as nice. Then, we decided to branch out even more and make our own 2012 cabernet sauvignon all from Seven Hills fruits and we’re only making 25 cases of that.
SR: When will those wines be released?
Wilkerson: It will be at least another 18 months for both of the syrahs and the same with the cabernet sauvignon.
SR: Are you wines sold only at the tasting room?
Wilkerson: No. You can also find our wines at Vino!, Rosauers on 29th Avenue, Tonix, Italian Kitchen, Bottles in Millwood periodically and at the Manito Golf and Country Club.