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Cork Dork: On Father's Day and the Family Affairs of Local Wineries

Fathers and their children have shaped the Woodinville wine industry.

 

Father’s Day is bittersweet around my family. It was shortly after Father’s Day 2004 that my father passed away. More specifically, he passed away on June 21, 2004, the longest day of the year. For us it was a long day, literally and figuratively.

He passed away without enjoying a drop of wine. He frowned upon alcohol consumption. With much reverence, I will be toasting to my dad with fine wine this weekend. Pursuing my passion for wine is, perhaps, my form of rebellion. Seeing as how I am still drinking wine it probably means I am still rebelling and I haven’t grown up.

It is my father who instilled in me the passion for the written word and journalism. As a child I would race my dad at six in the morning to pick up the newspaper, often braving the cold, misty long driveway pavement barefoot. It was so cold it felt like the chill would shoot from the soles of my feet to the funny bone. He wished I would read the liberal editorial pages of The Los Angeles Times. Instead, I chose the sports section, preferring the prose of Jim Murray and the wit of Scott Ostler, both LA Times sports columnists. Reading the sports pages instead of the editorial pages was another form of rebellion.

My father sacrificed much to provide for his family of six children. He would work long hours and travel extensively. When he was in town he would always be home for dinner. Afterwards he would retire to his home office for more work. The home telex machine (children of today Google that) would buzz at all hours of the day and night, receiving messages from around the globe.

I remember him telling us that he would work until he died. He was a man of his word. He was on the phone closing deals and signing contracts the day he succumbed to colon cancer eight years ago.

As proud of his work as he was, he insisted that his children not follow him in the family business. And therein lies another contrast between my father and the wine trade; wine is a family affair in Woodinville.

Greg Lill founded with his father Charles, and two other business partners, Jay Soloff and Chris Upchurch. Cliff Otis is the paternal figure at and , where his wife Diane and their three children, Scott, Jeff and Bryan lend their expertise. Carmen Betz works side-by-side with her father Bob Betz at Betz Family Winery. At , winemaker Shane Howard works with his father Dan Howard. Lisa Baer works in tandem with her father Les at .

Years ago I met Laura Stevens as a shy teenager who was too young to drink. At the time I never expected that we would meet again over 10 years later as she poured wine for me at , where her father is the managing partner.

Two of the most influential veterans in the Washington wine industry, Norm McKibben of and Jerry Bookwalter of , have tasting rooms in Woodinville mere yards from each other. Their sons, Eric and John, respectively, are involved in the family business.

Mark McNielly started his eponymous winery, , in his parent’s garage. Speaking of McNielly, proud father of two girls, he will be giving birth to a tasting room in Walla Walla as early as the end of June.

Proud poppa Chris Gorman of named his red blend Zachary’s Ladder after his son. winemaker John Bigelow named one of his red blends, Tre, for his three children. Mark Newton, winemaker at , named the Bordeaux-style dessert wine Sweet Catherine and the Bordeaux-style white wine Saint John after his daughter and son, respectively.

And how about the ultimate Father’s Day wine; “Big Papa,” the Bordeaux-style red blend by named after one of the winery’s founders, Daniel “Big Papa” Ferrelli?

There are many young winemakers in Woodinville with infants. Perhaps, some of these kids will grow up to become winemakers. Oliver, the brood of and Two Vintners winemaker Morgan Lee, is a prime candidate. Or, perhaps, Alexandra, the daughter of Ross Andrew Winery winemaker Ross Mickel.

Oliver can brag that his dad, Morgan, beat Alexandra’s dad, Ross, during Iron Vintner, the Iron Chef-style cooking challenge at Willows Lodge featuring Woodinville winemakers, on Wednesday, June 13. Lee will against Jerry Riener of on Wednesday, June 20 at 5:30 pm for the title of Iron Vintner.

Bobby Moore, chef at at the in Woodinville and the ringmaster of Iron Vintner, is a proud father of three. His devotion to his children and the children of the region is legendary. He devotes volunteer time cooking and raising money for Seattle Children’s, Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, Woodland Park Zoo and the Haring Center, a school for special needs students.

I probably missed many fathers contributing to the wine industry. Please share your thoughts on your father and the fathers in the local wine industry which I missed. I know I miss my dad.

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