Rob Griffin, the state’s foremost winemaker, has created one of the most successful midsized family wineries in the state.

Share story

ROB GRIFFIN HAS now completed his 40th harvest in Washington wine country. That’s more than any other winemaker in the state. And this doesn’t count his first few in his native California.

This is quite an achievement for a guy who arrived in 1977 with the intention of checking out a burgeoning winemaking region before likely heading back to work somewhere in California.

Griffin, owner of Barnard Griffin in Richland with his wife, Deb Barnard, by all rights should be considered Washington’s foremost winemaker. He’s certainly earned such a title the past four decades, thanks to a string of wines that have helped define Washington.

Three from Barnard Griffin

Barnard Griffin 2015 fumé blanc, Columbia Valley, $12: This sauvignon blanc carries the California name for the variety — a term invented by none other than Robert Mondavi — and Rob Griffin is perhaps the last in the Northwest to still do that. Aromas of straw, sweet herbs and pear give way to bright, crisp apple and pear. The great acidity makes this a stunning wine for shellfish.

Barnard Griffin 2012 Forty cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain, $60: Using grapes from Red Heaven Vineyard on the upper slopes of Red Mountain near West Richland, Griffin has crafted a cab that is one of his best. Complex aromas of dark chocolate, black currant, oak toast and spice are followed by a rich entry; a full-mouth feel; and generous flavors of ripe, dark fruit without the boldness of tannins. A highly collectible wine.

Barnard Griffin 2015 syrah, Columbia Valley, $17: Griffin’s flagship wine is an instant classic, thanks to Côte-Rotie-like aromas of mushrooms, earthiness, bacon fat and dark fruit. On the palate, layers of generous, round fruit reveal notes of boysenberry, marionberry and dark chocolate, all backed by bright acidity and firm, yet pliable tannins.

Perhaps he’s not because of his insistence that his wines be affordable so they can be enjoyed by the masses. Perhaps it’s because he’s in Richland and not in Walla Walla or Woodinville. Maybe he’s just not cool enough.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

But Griffin is content in what he’s created: one of the most successful midsized family wineries in Washington. He has to be thrilled that his daughters, Megan and Elise, have entered the business and are poised to take over once he decides it’s time.

Griffin was recruited to Washington by Bill Preston, a tractor salesman who had started a winery north of Pasco and needed a winemaker. Preston found Griffin working in California and brought him to Washington. Within a half-decade, Griffin launched his own small project — Barnard Griffin — and left Preston Premium Wines to build it up. In 1984, he was tapped to help with the launch of Hogue Cellars in the Yakima Valley, a winery he led as winemaker until 1991, when it was time to focus on his namesake winery.

And we have been grateful ever since.