Mortgage-broker-turned-winemaker Bart Fawbush has earned a reputation for working with out-of-the-mainstream grape varieties.
IN THE PAST two decades, several Washington wineries based in Eastern Washington have moved west or opened second tasting rooms to take advantage of the 3 million potential customers in the Greater Seattle area.
Now one Seattle winemaker has loaded up his barrels, headed east on Interstate 90 and left the big city for the heart of Washington wine country, moving into a brand-new facility along the Columbia River.
Bart Fawbush, owner and winemaker of Bartholomew Winery, expanded his winery from The Old Rainier Brewery building to a second location in the Tri-Cities. He’s the first tenant in the Columbia Gardens project in downtown Kennewick, sharing the property with Victor Palencia’s La Monarcha Winery.
Three to try
Bartholomew wines are available at the new Kennewick tasting room, or in Seattle at The Old Rainier Brewery.
Bartholomew Winery 2015 Cuvee Rouge, Columbia Valley, $37. Leading with petit verdot, this Bordeaux-style blend features aromas of sweet cocoa powder, forest floor and a whisper of mint, followed by flavors of ripe plum, blueberry and Baker’s chocolate, all backed by richly smooth tannins.
Bartholomew Winery 2014 Carménère, Red Mountain, $35: Aromas of black pepper, blackberry and a note of maple syrup are followed by flavors of ripe red fruit. This red is richly structured and backed by tannins that are integrated without being overbearing.
Bartholomew Winery 2015 Konnowac Vineyard Tannat, Rattlesnake Hills, $32: Dusty blueberries, cocoa powder, blackberry, black olive and black licorice aromas pair with nicely assertive tannins in an unexpectedly smooth red with graceful power.
Fawbush didn’t take the typical path to becoming a winemaker. He was a mortgage broker when a Woodinville winemaker came in looking for financing. Fawbush realized you didn’t need a vineyard or a fancy French château to be a winemaker. So he offered his business expertise to the winemaker, and they joined forces.
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Later, when the business partnership ended, Fawbush launched his eponymous operation, even though he still had minimal winemaking experience. At one point early on, he was learning techniques on YouTube.
Since his first vintage in 2007, however, Fawbush has earned a reputation for working with out-of-the-mainstream varieties, such as carménère (a rare Bordeaux variety) and tannat (a French variety most famous in Uruguay). When one grower offered him some aligote grapes, Fawbush Googled it while he was on the phone to figure out it was a white wine grape from France’s Burgundy region.
Bartholomew wines are proving popular with consumers, who appreciate that he stretches their palates beyond cabernet and chardonnay — even though he makes those, too. The diversity of the tasting-room menu makes it worth the trip.