THREE DECADES ago, a young West German arrived with the goal of making riesling in Washington. It didn’t work out.
But this is a classic parable of a man emigrating to the New World to make his mark and finally coming out on top.
Juergen Grieb was the most prolific Washington winemaker nobody ever heard of until he splashed onto the scene three years ago with the launch of Treveri Cellars — a rare winery that produces only sparkling wine.
Grieb grew up in Trier, a town on the Mosel River. He went to college to become a winemaker, learning both sparkling and still wines by the time he was 21. In 1982, Wolfgang Langguth, one of Germany’s most famous winery owners, announced he was coming to America, setting up near Mattawa, Grant County, to show the upstart Washington wine industry how to do riesling right.
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Grieb jumped at the opportunity to come to the United States as part of Langguth’s team. Langguth’s winery on the Wahluke Slope was magnificent, a 500,000-gallon-capacity, state-of-the-art facility. Yet it failed, primarily because its first rieslings were bone dry — a style unappreciated by American palates. Grieb stuck it out with Langguth until 1987, when the winery went bankrupt. He worked as a consulting winemaker until joining Coventry Vale, a large custom-crush winery in the Yakima Valley town of Grandview. There he toiled for nearly 20 years, making wines for others, working in the shadows as others enjoyed accolades.
But Grieb never forgot his sparkling-wine roots, and he launched Treveri in 2010 with 1,000 cases of wine. He named the winery after his hometown, using a variation on the name “Treveris,” as it was known in 300 A.D.
Fame has come suddenly for Grieb, now joined by his son, Christian, 24. Twice, his wine has been served at State Department functions, most recently for July 4 festivities.
Grieb is making his mark with a wide selection of bubblies from such varieties as riesling, gewürztraminer and even syrah. His prices are modest, and his quality is superb, with a style that is more fruit-driven and less yeasty than typical Champagnes. His tasting room in the western Yakima Valley overlooking Interstate 82 regularly buzzes with activity.
This holiday season, add some sparkle to your events and meals, and try out Treveri’s offerings.
Three to sample:
Treveri Cellars NV extra brut blanc de blanc, Columbia Valley, $14: A bold, bright, dry sparkling wine with no perceptible sweetness. It’s a dramatic drink from first sip through the lengthy finish.
Treveri Cellars NV sparkling gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, $17: This slightly sweet sparkler manages to retain the gewürztraminer’s varietal tendencies of grapefruit and clove. This is thoroughly enjoyable.
Treveri Cellars NV sparkling müeller-thurgau, Columbia Valley, $16: Made from one of the most popular grapes in Germany but a rare find in Washington, this bubbly is like taking a bite out of a crisp apple.
Andy Perdue is a wine journalist, author and judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com