Brad Binko graduated in June from Walla Walla Community College’s outstanding winemaking program and was winning awards and fans a few weeks later.
WHAT DO YOU DO when you’re a new winery in a region already choked with wineries?
That’s the question Brad Binko faces as the owner and winemaker for Eternal Wines in Walla Walla. This town in the state’s southeastern corner is home to more than 100 producers — some of which are among the most famous in Washington.
Binko’s way to stand out is to craft great award-winning wines, package them with eye-catching labels and be willing to take risks.
Two to try
Drink Washington State NV Sparkling riesling, Yakima Valley, $19: Bright aromas of apple, clove and cardamom give way to bright off-dry flavors of orange and lime. It’s a sweeter sparkling wine with bright acidity, perfect with spicy Asian cuisine.
Drink Washington State 2015 Northern White Blend, Columbia Valley, $19: This Roussanne-based white blend provides incredible complexity, including aromas of rich, ripe pear; apple; and butter, followed by flavors of orange zest, caramel and white pepper.
So far, everything is paying off for the native of Buffalo, N.Y. He released his first wines in June, a couple of weeks after graduating from Walla Walla Community College’s vaunted winemaking program, and his approach already is resonating with wine lovers.
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Binko, 33, has two brands: Drink Washington State and Eternal Wines. The former has fun labels that shout where they’re from. His sparkling riesling declares “Welcome to the Yakima Valley” with a label that looks more like a postcard. He follows suit on his other Drink Washington State wines. This fall, he is releasing his first Welcome to Walla Walla wines.
The former sommelier came to Walla Walla because he wanted to make wine after serving it to others on the East Coast and in the South for several years. He scoured the country looking for the right place to land and ultimately chose Walla Walla because of the community college’s reputation.
In June, he graduated from the program. Two weeks later, he won three gold medals at the annual Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition, including best sparkling wine. In late summer, he moved his production from a winery at the Walla Walla Regional Airport to space he found at another winery. He’s opening a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla this fall.
So far, Binko’s wines are distributed no farther west than the Tri-Cities, but he anticipates that changing as his production rises. His first 250 cases sold out in a matter of months, and his goal is to increase production to 10,000 cases in the next few years.
One might think that with his quick success, Binko might want to move back to his home state and perhaps launch something in the stellar Finger Lakes wine region of upstate New York.
Not a chance. Binko has fallen in love with the friendliness of the Pacific Northwest and the abundance of great grapes grown here. He cannot imagine being anywhere else now.