Few of the world’s 380 Masters of Wine are winemakers, making his rigorous multiyear achievement especially rare.
NICOLAS QUILLE climbed a five-year mountain to the top of the wine world, becoming one of 380 Masters of Wine spread across 30 countries.
As an MW, Quille is in exclusive company. In the Pacific Northwest, there are just three MWs: Quille; one in British Columbia; and Bob Betz, who still serves as consulting winemaker at his eponymous winery in Kirkland. Betz was Quille’s mentor during his MW journey.
It’s rare for an MW to be a winemaker. Usually, they work in the trade as a retailer, a writer or in restaurants. Earning the MW designation is a rigorous, multiyear process that culminates in a multiday exam few are able to pass. Anyone who has seen the movie “Somm,” in which four people try to earn their Master Sommelier status, will begin to understand the rigors of attaining the MW degree.
Quille, who grew up in Lyon, France, has been in and around the wine world most of his life. He was a winemaker for Hogue Cellars in the Yakima Valley before moving to California to work in the Santa Cruz region. He returned to the Northwest in 2006, when Pacific Rim Winemakers relocated to Eastern Washington, where he served as director of winemaking and general manager of one of the largest riesling producers in the world.
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Earlier this year, he was hired by Crimson Wine Group as its head of winemaking and operations officer. Crimson, based in Napa Valley, has deep ties to the Northwest, owning Double Canyon winery in West Richland; Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla; and Archery Summit Winery in Dundee, Oregon, as well as top properties in Northern California.
So why go through the rigorous Master of Wine program? Quille admits an addiction to learning (he earned an MBA from the University of Washington in 2005). As a third-generation wine professional, going for the MW was the next logical step.