The Wines of J. Bookwalter, Columbia Valley, Washington State
The wines of J. Bookwalter, Columbia Valley, Washington State
My Uncle Perry will be taking a trip to Washington State with some of our customers this fall, and Bookwalter Winery is one of the destinations. The winery sits upon lush lands that have been farmed for nine generations in the Richland, Washington area. Apple trees and berries once graced the hillsides along the Columbia River where the Bacchus and Dionysus Vineyards now sit, in the front yard of the Bookwalter family home.
Winery owner John Bookwalter’s father Jerry, took the farm in the direction of grape growing in the 1980’s. Jerry graduated from UC Davis and worked in farming for 13 years in California’s San Joaquin Valley before moving his family in 1976 to the Tri-Cities area in Washington State. He eventually became vineyard manager of the famed Conner Lee Vineyard which remains the largest source of grapes for J. Bookwalter wines. In 1982, he leveraged his vineyard connections and industry knowledge to start his winery’s namesake. Jerry’s son John quite literally grew up in the vineyards of Eastern Washington, but left in the late 1980s to pursue a successful 10-year sales and marketing career with E&J Gallo, Winterbrook Beverage Group and Coors Brewing Co. In 1997, he returned to Richland with a keen understanding of the winery’s heritage and a clear vision for its future. Since then, John has made sweeping changes to improve and expand the J. Bookwalter brand. He hired world-renowned consulting winemakers Zelma Long and Claude Gros to support the company’s winemaking efforts. In 2014, John turned over most of the winemaking responsibilities to Caleb Foster, who is recognized as one of the top winemakers in the country by multiple industry publications. The winery boasts an award-winning restaurant on the property, called Fiction.
The homage to literary references is not coincidence, but also an homage to the family name, as you will see in many of the clever names for their wines:
J Bookwalter Reader’s White A bright wine that leads with notes of pear and citrus, with flavors of granny smith apple and anise. I give it two bones!!
J Bookwalter Reader’s Red Sourced from Cabernet blocks high up on Elephant Mountain, the Dionysus and Conner Lee Vineyards, this blend boasts flavors of floral black cherry, toasted spice and bittersweet chocolate. I give it three bones!
Suspense is a great name for this wine, 65% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Franc combine to keep surprising the palette with rich fruit on the nose and a long complex finish of oak and deep dark fruit, cocoa and herbs. I give it three bones!
Protagonist The Columbia Valley’s Conner Lee Vineyard is the source for most of the fruit in this bottle; mostly Cabernet Sauvignon , with 5% Merlot 3% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Franc for an aromatic lift. This wine is huge, expressive and age worthy. I give it two bones!
Subplot Ripe fruit and sweet oak spices entice the nose while Syrah and Cabernet marry for a rich berry profile complete with tannin and structure, with some Merlot blended in for length and smoothness on the finish. Two bones!
Volume 5 Cabernet Sauvignon 100% Cabernet, luxurious and complex. Flavors of ripe fig, hints of cocoa, coffee, dark cherries, black raspberries and black plums; smooth as velvet. I give this wine 3 bones!!
Conflict Merlot and Cabernet from the Conner Lee Vineyard supported by a small amount of Malbec which gives a hint of spice; the Conflict blend is mouthwatering. Classic aromatics of currents and dark berries marry with the French oak for a voluptuous, age worthy wine. I give it three bones!!
Today, J. Bookwalter has grown from one of Washington’s oldest wineries into one of the Pacific Northwest’s most recognized boutique wine brands. We look forward to a personal visit there. Since dogs can’t go on the trip, I will be minding the store- if you can’t join us in person in Washington, stop in and peruse our Washington wine selection and look for some of these incredible wines by John Bookwalter.
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown