“I love wine, so I’m always working to make a product that fascinates me.”

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CELLAR MASTER
Todd Threlkeld

What do you do? I’m the cellar master at Northwest Wine Academy (NWWA) at South Seattle College. I work with a small team, winemaker Peter Bos and enologist Jen Hurley. We guide our students through the year-long production cycle of our … wine production program. We are a working winery, and produce outstanding wine from grapes donated by Washington vineyards.

How did you get started in that field? My wife, Anne, and I were struggling to find ways to use fruit from our three plum trees, eventually making a plum wine. An alum of NWWA prodded me to try winemaking with grapes. This kind of snowballed, making wine for friends and family. Anne and I started attending classes at NWWA, and 2017 is the second commercial vintage for our own winery. As for NWWA, Peter needed someone for weekend punch downs and found out I live a few minutes away. How convenient.

What’s a typical day like? Aside from cleaning, my job changes throughout the year. I teach the students how to carry out whatever the wine needs that day. This ranges from processing clusters of grapes (that students may have picked themselves), transferring wine from barrel to tank, teaching the students to set up and run the bottling line, to the occasional troubleshooting of errant wine.

What’s the best part of the job? The work is fun and stimulating, and everybody around me has something to teach me. The students come from all imaginable walks of life. Peter has been part of the Washington wine industry as long as anyone. Jen, who was one of my wine production classmates, has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, and baffles me on a regular basis with the inner workings of the wine molecule. I love wine, so I’m always working to make a product that fascinates me.

What surprises people about what you do? Winemaking is so mysterious to most people. It was to me, too. There is something intrinsically fascinating that rotting fruit will create a healthy food that will keep for years. But almost everything we do is pretty mundane. It’s cleaning bins and equipment, hooking up hoses, forklifting barrels around. It’s not that glamorous.

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