The state’s fast-growing wine industry will continue to evolve under new leadership.
ANDREW JANUIK has spent more than half his life working in the Washington wine industry.
This wouldn’t be unusual if he were 60 years old. But he’s 29.
While he began helping his famous father, Mike Januik, when he was 13, he’s actually been hanging out at wineries for as long as he can remember. When his father was head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, Januik recalls chasing peacocks around the historic property.
“We spent quite a bit of time at the winery,” he says. “I still remember what the Ste. Michelle cellar smelled like when I was 6 years old.”
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Today, Januik is a rising star in Washington’s fast-growing wine industry. He already has his own label — Andrew Januik Wines — which is earning acclaim with critics and collectors alike.
Januik is a young man with big ideas, someone who will help shape the future of the Washington wine industry. And he’s not alone.
Thanks in no small part to four Washington colleges training the next generation of winemakers and grape growers, our industry is poised to educate young people rather than rely on other states — specifically California — to do the job for us.
Last year, Washington State University opened its high-tech Wine Science Center in the Tri-Cities. That will bring education and research to the heart of Washington wine country, while Walla Walla and Yakima Valley community colleges and South Seattle College provide vital training to those who want to become winemakers.
What might the future of Washington wine look like? For this story, we found three people under 30 who are in different stages of their budding careers.
Januik already is deeply immersed in wine. Sabrina Lueck is a community college instructor who is molding the industry’s next generation. And Oscar Galvan, a son of immigrants, just completed his winemaking education and is figuring out what’s next.
IT WOULD SEEM that Januik was meant to be a winemaker. Born in Boise while his dad briefly worked in the nascent Idaho wine industry, Januik has always been around barrels and vineyards.
His father’s Washington winemaking career started in 1984, three years before Januik was born. Mike Januik became head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1990, and he left in 1999 to launch Januik Winery in Woodinville.
For young Andrew, having your last name on thousands of bottles of wine seemed natural.
“I got the impression at a pretty young age that, ‘Oh wow, this is pretty cool what we do. I’m not sure why, but it’s a cool thing,’ ” he says. “I’ve never felt uncomfortable with it.”
By the time he was a teenager, Januik was coming to work with his father, whether that meant going to the cellar or traveling across the state to walk through vineyards.
“I started working full-time in summers and on weekends when I was 13 or 14,” he says. “In 2004, I was really involved in the harvest. That’s when I made my first wine, a rosé from syrah.”
He made enough for a half-dozen cases.
“I opened one earlier this year. It hasn’t held up very well,” he says with a laugh.
Since then, Januik’s skills have improved tremendously.
After graduating from Juanita High School in Kirkland, he went to the University of Washington. After graduation, Januik went straight into the industry as a full-time employee of Januik Winery.
His parents never had a career in wine in mind for their son.
“It’s not in my nature to push either of our kids anywhere,” Mike Januik says. “This was driven by him. For some reason, he made this connection with winemaking and really enjoyed doing it.”
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In 2011, Januik was ready to create something of his own, something he could put his name on and stand behind. That was the launch of Andrew Januik Wines. He started with one wine, a red he calls Stone Cairn, which is heavy on cabernet sauvignon and uses grapes from some of the best vineyards on arid Red Mountain in the eastern Yakima Valley.
Not everyone can buy grapes from Ciel du Cheval or Obelisco vineyards, at least not without a reputation. But not everybody has been hanging around vineyards since he was 6 years old, and that opens doors for the younger Januik.
“Having those relationships built in through my dad and growing up with these vineyard managers have made getting fruit very, very easy,” he says. “It wouldn’t be for most people coming into the industry, because you don’t just fall into really good vineyards like that.”
Januik has added a second wine: Lady Hawk is a cabernet sauvignon from Lady Hawk Vineyard, owned by legendary Paul Champoux of Champoux Vineyards.
Next up, Januik wants to try something that isn’t normally done in Washington: make an international wine.
Last year, he spent three months in Argentina’s Mendoza region learning about winemaking. And earlier this year, he took two months to work in South Africa. The idea is to work harvests in the Southern Hemisphere — where he would source grapes and make wine — then import it back to the United States and sell it under his brand.
The winemaking part is not difficult, but Januik is discovering that logistics are.
“Making wine comes naturally,” he says. “Working with lawyers and doing government paperwork is not. Importing is the biggest hurdle.”
But when he pulls it off, the globe-trotting Januik will be able to make wine from two harvests every year and earn a more worldly view of his profession.
LIKE MANY WHO have come before her, Sabrina Lueck, 28, happened upon the wine industry more than anything.
She was studying medical ethics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., with every intention of going to medical school. She grew up in a family of academics — her father taught physical oceanography at the University of Victoria in British Columbia — and science came naturally to her.
But she quickly learned she had little interest in medicine and found another path in life.
“I didn’t dig it very much and saw that the same college I was in was launching an undergraduate wine program,” she says.
The Ivy League school has long enjoyed a reputation for its master’s program in enology and viticulture, so the new bachelor’s program appealed to Lueck.
“I could combine my love of science with something that’s a tangible product,” she says. “And honestly, I could have more fun doing it.”
In 2007, she transitioned to earning a degree in winemaking, which she accomplished in 2010.
Immediately after graduation, her Cornell connection brought her back to the Pacific Northwest and into the Washington wine industry. Josh Maloney was the red winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle. He had graduated from Cornell with a degree in chemistry in 1995 before coming west to work in California and then in Washington.
Maloney needed a harvest intern, and Lueck jumped at the opportunity.
“I learned a ton, and I realized that Washington is the place to make wine,” she says.
After the internship, Lueck took a part-time job helping in the tasting room at Terra Blanca Vintners on Red Mountain. Soon after, academia came calling.
A job teaching winemaking opened up at Walla Walla Community College, and that intrigued Lueck.
“People were making wine, it was in a vibrant town and it was an academic job,” she says. “I could see it was going to be a good fit.”
Walla Walla Community College launched its enology and viticulture program more than 15 years ago. It’s a two-year degree that focuses on workforce training over research, and it’s been a huge success by any measure, with hundreds of graduates working in seemingly every nook of the Washington wine industry.
So in August 2011, Lueck took the job, and today she teams up with enology instructor Tim Donahue to teach winemaking to 30 new students each year. She tends to focus on the science and chemistry of winemaking, with Donahue handling the practical content.
“He takes ideas and makes them concrete for the students by putting example wines in front of them,” she says.
The teamwork is paying off, as the resulting wines — marketed commercially as College Cellars — are earning high praise from critics.
Lueck is in an unusual position: She is the next generation of Washington wine industry leaders — and she is teaching the next generation. She understands what that means, and it keeps her alert.
“That’s what wakes me up at 2 a.m., for sure,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a heavy burden, and it keeps me striving to be a better educator and a better person as a whole. I came from a privileged background: a fancy private school followed by a fancy Ivy League education. Teaching at a community college makes you better as a person because you’re seeing so much human experience that you wouldn’t see if you’d just gone into academics and stayed in a lab.”
OSCAR GALVAN DID not come from privilege. He grew up in an immigrant family with parents born in Mexico who came here to find the American dream for themselves and their children.
For Galvan, 26, that is becoming a reality, thanks to the wine industry.
He grew up in Kirkland and often helped his parents at their longtime Mexican restaurant in Everett. It’s called Café Tequila but ironically doesn’t serve hard alcohol. Galvan’s father is from Jalisco, the traditional home of tequila.
In 2009, Galvan began working as a server at Bin on the Lake, a wine bar in Kirkland. He was 19 and quickly became intrigued by wine. After signing a waiver, he was allowed to try wine as a training tool for helping customers make buying decisions.
“I was exposed to tasting wine at an early age. For me, that was kind of cool.”
Quickly, he became intrigued and decided to make wine his profession. He first considered becoming a sommelier — a French word that now refers to a restaurant wine steward — but soon realized making the wine would be more enriching.
Galvan volunteered to work various events, including Taste Washington. This afforded him the opportunity to talk to winemakers and understand what it would take for him to join their ranks.
“The more I researched, the more I liked it,” he says. “The interest just kept growing and led me to where I am now.”
Two years ago, Galvan entered South Seattle College to learn winemaking. About the same time, he began working as a server at famed Café Juanita, where he has fallen in love with Italian wines. And that intrigue in international wine is sending him hurtling toward his next adventure, which is not too dissimilar to Andrew Januik’s.
Galvan’s working harvest at Darby Winery in Woodinville before flying to Europe, where he is making plans to work in the Piedmont region of Italy and possibly France’s Loire Valley. His idea is to gain an international perspective — and do it while he’s still young.
If everything works out, he’d like to work in New Zealand next spring during the harvest season there.
“I’m just trying to get as much harvest experience as I can get in the next couple of years before I decide to come back to Washington and work here,” he says. “Getting international experience and working with winemakers at a young age will make me better for the future, especially when it comes to finding the style of wine that I want to make.”
When he does return to Washington wine country, he will be one of the few Hispanic winemakers. As with many segments of the agriculture industry in Eastern Washington, grape growers rely heavily on Hispanic workers to do the hard work in their vineyards.
Galvan believes this could give him an advantage.
“Eastern Washington has a big Hispanic community,” he says. “I’m fluent in Spanish, and my parents are from Mexico. I think it will make communicating easier for me.”
IT IS A SIGN of maturity that Washington’s wine industry — the second-largest in the country — has so many young people bringing their youthful zeal and energy.
In the past 40 years, Washington wineries have been run by people who came from somewhere else or were working at Boeing or Microsoft. Vineyards often were planted by farmers looking to diversify their crops. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how we figured out this was viable.
Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine Commission in Seattle, likes how the industry is evolving.
In many cases, children of winemakers are getting into the business, studying and learning from those who already have walked down the path while bringing new twists and ideas.
And now a generation of young people with no connection to the industry but a love for wine also is stepping in. Thanks to the in-state educational opportunities, 50 to 80 new graduates are entering the wine industry each year. They will become winemakers, grape growers, salespeople, retailers and marketers. They will find their niche — probably inventing jobs we haven’t thought of yet.
“It’s so exciting,” Warner says. “The current generation got us to this spot where we’re not just a cute little cottage industry. We’re on the world stage, thanks in part to an influx of youthful exuberance. They’re coming in with a solid foundation.”
In many ways, Washington wine country is still the Wild West. In Europe and even in California, it’s difficult to bring new ideas and make a difference.
Here in Washington, you can still leave your fingerprints on the industry. And that is what these three have every intention of doing.