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GROWING UP in an Italian family in Southern California, Linda Trotta didn’t realize anyone could make a living producing wine.

“I made wine with my grandpa,” she said. “I just figured everyone had a barrel in their garage.”

That she decided to attend the University of California-Davis was fortuitous. She started out as a math major, “but a couple of quarters of calculus changed my mind.”

She quickly transferred to the university’s famed winemaking department, earned a degree in fermentation science and dived into the California wine scene. In 1989, she landed at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in the city of Sonoma, where she spent the next two decades earning a reputation as one of California’s most talented winemakers.

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Then she got an itch to move and landed in Washington at the new Swiftwater Cellars near the Cascade Mountains town of Roslyn, a long way from either the Columbia Valley’s vineyards to the east or Seattle’s population to the west.

“We’re in the middle of the state and the middle of nowhere,” she said.

But it is at Suncadia Resort surrounded by three golf courses, a restaurant, hotel and luxury condos.

Swiftwater is owned by the Watts family, which began farming in Eastern Washington in 1977. The Watts family sold its farming operation to Lamb-Weston in 2008, then started Swiftwater. Don Watts launched Swiftwater with the 2007 vintage, which was made by well-known Oregon winemaker Tony Rynders. When Trotta arrived, she finished the 2009 wines and has done everything since, except for an Oregon pinot noir that Rynders continues to craft.

Today, Swiftwater has grown to 4,500 cases, and Trotta crafts 14 different wines, including a delicious riesling.

“They didn’t have a riesling when I started,” Trotta said. “I told them I wasn’t going to move to Washington and not make riesling!”

In addition to the winery and tasting room, Swiftwater also runs Hoist House, an on-site restaurant, and a 2,500-seat outdoor concert venue.

Trotta, who lives in Ellensburg, enjoys the new setting and change of pace from the often-hectic California wine scene.

“Everyone has been very helpful, very welcoming,” she said. “I haven’t met a grouchy person yet.”

Andy Perdue is editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at