Wolfe, who’s operated Thurston Wolfe for 30 years, is a leader in Washington’s wine industry.
IT IS SAFE to say that the Washington wine industry would look considerably different if Wade Wolfe hadn’t arrived on the scene in 1978.
Wolfe came to Washington from Arizona to work for Chateau Ste. Michelle on the viticulture side, alongside the legendary Walter Clore — considered the father of Washington wine.
In the early 1980s, Ste. Michelle boss Allen Shoup directed Clore and Wolfe to write a petition for what would become the Columbia Valley American Viticultural Area. The 11-million-acre AVA takes up a third of the state and has defined where most of the wine grapes are grown today. In the ensuing years, almost all the other areas defined are based within the Columbia Valley.
Three to try
Three Thurston Wolfe wines distributed in the Seattle market.
Thurston Wolfe 2016 PGV, Columbia Valley, $15: The perfect summer wine, this is a blend of pinot gris and viognier. Gorgeous notes of citrus, ripe pear, minerality and tropical fruit. Bright acidity makes this perfect with freshly shucked oysters, seared scallops, grilled salmon or a cup of chowder.
Thurston Wolfe 2015 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, Columbia Valley, $16: This blend of zin, grenache, petite sirah and lemberger is a classic Washington red table wine that reveals aromas of raspberry, milk chocolate and spice and flavors of rich, red fruit backed with balanced acidity. Perfect with barbecued ribs.
Thurston Wolfe 2015 Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This won’t be confused with a lighter-bodied Dry Creek Valley zin. It’s more of a full-throated red with rich, bold flavors of ripe raspberries, strawberries and Rainier cherries. A great wine for barbecue, meatloaf or even grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce.
After leaving Ste. Michelle, Wolfe began a consulting business, helping to launch Hyatt Vineyards as its first winemaker. In 1987, he and his wife, Becky Yeaman, started Thurston Wolfe in Prosser. Four years later, he took over management of nearby Hogue Cellars. During his time as general manager, he built Hogue into a large national brand with a destination tasting room. Under his direction, Hogue converted to screwcaps, becoming the first Washington brand to switch on a large scale.
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After Constellation Brands took over in 2001, Wolfe chose to retire from Hogue to focus all his efforts on his own winery. When Vintner’s Village in Prosser was being established as a wine tourism area, he and Becky built a new facility large enough for their 6,000-case production and a tasting room that is dramatically open in design and attitude.
With a persistent goal of honing his already-top-notch winemaking skills, Wolfe has developed into one of Washington’s best. He’s known for focusing on varieties that others don’t, including lemberger, petite sirah, zinfandel and primitivo.
After nearly 40 years in Washington, and 30 years running his own winery, Wolfe continues to be a generous and bold leader for the Washington wine industry.