Jean Claude Beck, a native of the Alsace region of France, is thrilled to be crafting a broad variety of wines for The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville.
IN THE OLD WORLD, a winemaker is pretty much required to use certain grapes in different places. For example, Bordeaux winemakers don’t use syrah, and Rhône Valley winemakers don’t work with cabernet sauvignon.
In many cases, that’s the law.
And that can frustrate some winemakers who would like to make wines from a wider variety of grapes and in different styles. That’s why many Old World winemakers move to the West Coast, where virtually every classic wine grape is grown.
Three to try
Kennedy Shah 2012 La Vie en Rouge, Columbia Valley, $14: A delicious and affordable red blend that leads with merlot, this is loaded with aromas and flavors of dark-toned fruit and supple tannins that provide drink-now approachability.
Dussek 2012 syrah, Columbia Valley, $20: This syrah is bolder and more structured than most made in Washington, with dark, brooding aromas and flavors of smoke, espresso, black licorice and dark cherry.
Maghee 2010 merlot, Columbia Valley, $36: Using grapes from the Royal Slope just east of the Columbia River near Vantage, this is a dark and intense red with roasted plum and black-cherry aromas and flavors.
One native of Alsace, France, is thrilled to be working with Washington grapes, and he’s making the most of the opportunity. Jean Claude Beck crafts a broad number of wines for The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville, not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle. Beck’s family has been making wine since the 1570s. He was a winemaker in France for many years before moving to the United States, where he started in California before heading north to Washington to work for Brian Carter at Apex Cellars.
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He then came to Woodhouse to work for owner Bijal Shah, where he makes wines under such labels as Kennedy Shah, Maghee and Dussek.
Shah launched Woodhouse in 2004 with his uncle, longtime Yakima Valley winemaker Tom Campbell, who owned Horizon’s Edge near Zillah and now owns Tanjuli in Zillah and Mission Mountain Winery near Flathead Lake in western Montana.
Today, Beck works closely with Campbell, producing everything from bold red blends to sleek, dramatic rieslings. In the past half-dozen years, wine lovers throughout Washington have begun to take notice of the Woodhouse wines, and there is plenty to love, thanks to a broad range of wines and styles that cost anywhere from $14 to $50.
At first glance, Woodhouse’s winery and tasting room amid warehouses would make it seem like so many others in Woodinville. But a step inside reveals something pretty special: a gorgeous facility that looks like it’s straight out of Napa Valley.
And behind a big, sliding wooden door is where Beck performs his magic, using techniques he brought from the Old World and combining them with tricks he’s learned along the way.
Woodhouse is a winery on the rise. Now is the time to take a closer look at what it has to offer.