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WSU professors say ‘wine not,’ bet on red … and white

Washington State University professors Phillip and Patricia Butterfield are accomplished, lifelong academics. Phillip spent 25 years as an engineer before shifting to microbiology; Patricia, who was dean of the College of Nursing at WSU Spokane between 2007 and 2014, sat at a 2015 White House roundtable discussing the health effects of climate change.

As the couple approached retirement age, living comfortably in a South Hill mansion, they faced a well-earned, relaxing journey into their golden years.

So they sold the mansion, bought an old red barn and opened a winery.

“We’ve been pretty cautious our whole lives,” said Patricia. “I never, ever thought, in a million years, we would do something this risky.”

The Butterfields moved into a refurbished cabin on the property, swapping their 6,400-square-foot South Hill mansion for 900 square feet of shag carpet, spread over a floor held up by bottle jacks.

“But we love it here; to me this is just like a farm,” Patricia said.

Winescape Wines, inspired by a 2009 tour of Australia’s Barossa Valley, began in the Butterfields’ garage. After a lifetime working with precise measurements, Phillip found that he enjoyed winemaking’s decidedly imprecise creative process.

“It’s an interesting turn for someone like me, who is quite analytical,” Phillip said. “It requires a lot of other parts of my brain.”

With “wine things first” as their mantra, the couple took each step carefully. The first was choosing a location. Their impulse was to go where the grapes were, but they ultimately decided that grapes were easier to ship than customers.

“We looked really hard at Walla Walla,” Phillip said. “But we kept coming home. There are 150 or so wineries down there, and there only seem to be a few up here – and there are a lot more people up here.”

They chose a 14-acre plot in the Glenrose neighborhood and commissioned architect Tom Kundig to design a production facility, modeled after the property’s old red barn. The project broke ground in July 2016, and the wine-tasting room opened in November 2017.

The Butterfields added veteran sommelier Anna Pearson, who forged her craft in the crucible of Portland’s upscale Kimpton Hotel Monaco, to preside over the tasting room and a small wine bar.

“We’ve learned from Anna,” Patricia said. “She just knows how to anticipate every guest’s needs.”

The wine bar is in the climate-controlled aging room, surrounded by racks of barreled wine. “You walk in, you can smell the barrels,” Pearson said. “You can smell the wine.”

The tasting room floor looks like it was stained to look antique, but it wasn’t. “It’s legitimately grapes,” Patricia said. “It’s grapes-stain.”

“You can see Phil’s footprints in places,” Pearson said.

The tasting room serves around 150 customers on a good weekend. Neighbors, drawn to the convivial setting, often stop by while out taking a walk. “It’s got kind of a ‘Cheers’ vibe,” said Patricia.

The Butterfields began with four wines, two white and two red.

“We try to make nonformulaic wines,” Patricia said. “We are not trying to shove anything into a category.”

A Washington-styled Columbia Valley Chardonnay is their best seller, followed closely by what Pearson characterizes as a big, bold Red Mountain Syrah.

Customer Andy Hoye was surprised by the chardonnay.

“I hate chardonnay; I never order it,” he said. “But it was lovely, and very unique.”

Pearson classifies their gewurztraminer as just a little bit sweet.

“There are a lot of different flavors you can pick up if you have that really advanced palate,” Pearson said.

Pearson calls their Red Mountain cabernet sauvignon the show-stopper. “People are excited to drink it now or excited to cellar it,” Pearson said. “We think it’s going to be a really special bottle of wine in 10 years.”

Petunia’s Marketplace and Rocket Market carry Winescape wines. A pouring is planned for downtown’s Vino! in August.

A fifth entry – what Pearson calls an elegant rosé – was added to the wine list during a release party over Mother’s Day weekend.

Pearson’s father entertained the crowd with his bagpipes; to match the rosé, Anna added a pink feather boa to her father’s Portland firefighter’s uniform.

“He’s this tall, giant guy,” said Patricia. “He’s got his bagpipes, and he looks great … there were 100 people in the parking lot, and they were all cheering.”

A recent live music event, featuring Kari Marguerite and the Seventy-Six, drew 140 people.

“We ran out of glasses, we ran out of chairs, and then we ran out of toilet paper,” said Patricia, laughing. “It was just frantically crazy.”

“It had a neat vibe,” Pearson said. “It had a feeling like you were getting in on the ground floor of something really special.”


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