He was going to be a banker. But then he tasted Chateau Ste. Michelle’s legendary 1975 cabernet sauvignon, and history changed course.

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DICK BOUSHEY arguably is Washington’s best wine grape grower. And to think he was going to be a banker.

After graduating from the University of Puget Sound, the Sumner native decided to spend a year in the Yakima Valley working on the family farm. That was 1975.

“The one year turned into four years,” he says.

Two to try

Fidelitas Wines 2012 Boushey red, Yakima Valley, $45: This cab-leading blend opens with aromas of cocoa powder, black cherry and pipe tobacco, followed by flavors of chai spice and blackberry pie. Bright acidity and restrained tannins give this youthful approachability. Will be released Nov. 1. Call the winery at 509-588-3469 to pre-order.

Betz Family Winery 2013 La Serenne, Yakima Valley, $55: Acclaimed winemaker Bob Betz has crafted a classic Washington syrah that sits on the crossroads of the New and Old worlds. Aromas of prosciutto and blueberry lead to bold, ripe flavors of ripe, dark fruit and alder-smoked bacon.

Then he met his wife, Luanne, who grew up in Bellevue and had taken a two-year teaching assignment in the Yakima Valley.

“We’re still here.”

After tasting Chateau Ste. Michelle’s legendary 1975 cabernet sauvignon, Boushey fell in love with wine. Even though there wasn’t much of a Washington wine industry back then, he decided to plant grapes in 1980 north of the town of Grandview, focusing on such red varieties as cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

In the late 1980s, he tasted Columbia Winery’s 1988 syrah, the first produced in Washington. He was so entranced, he decided to plant the red Rhône variety. He couldn’t get any plant material until 1993, but since then, Boushey has earned his reputation with his cool-climate syrah grapes, first with McCrea Cellars and later with Washington wine stars such as Betz, DeLille, Ross Andrew, Avennia, EFESTE and Forgeron.

Today, Boushey owns 160 acres of wine grapes, of which 85 percent is red. He also grows Concord grapes for National Grape, which owns Welch’s.

In 2006, Boushey was lured to Red Mountain to manage Col Solare’s estate vineyard. Since then, he’s added several other vineyard clients, including Fidelitas, Upchurch, Hamilton, Canvasback and Ambassador. In all, he farms about 200 acres of Red Mountain grapes.

Winemakers love working with Boushey not only because of his ability to grow world-class grapes, but also because he loves wine and comprehends the processes behind making it.

“More than any other grower, Dick understands wine,” says Charlie Hoppes, owner and winemaker for Fidelitas Wines. “He drinks wine. He has a different perspective than other people. He’s pretty dialed in on the wine side.”

Boushey says that makes him a better grower. It also keeps him thinking about perhaps one day launching his own brand.

“Maybe someday,” he says. “It would be fun, but then I’d have to sell it.”

He’ll leave that to the winemakers he enjoys working with. And that’s just fine with them.