He has no family history in the wine business, just a passion for it.
NORWAY DOESN’T have much of a winemaking history, but that will not stand in the way of Kyle Welch, owner of tiny Longship Cellars.
Welch grew up in Pasco, surrounded by Washington’s fast-growing wine industry — but not in it.
“I don’t have a history in the wine industry,” he says. “My family doesn’t own a vineyard or a winery.”
Three to try
These wines from Longship are brand-new releases and are available directly from the winery. Call 509-572-7652.
Longship Cellars 2014 Ginger Man syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $28: This complex and delicious red opens with a gaminess reminiscent of classic Côte-Rôtie, followed by plush and delicious flavors of ripe plum, dark chocolate and mild oak.
Longship Cellars 2014 The Invader tempranillo, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: This Spanish variety is meant to be bold and a little wild, and this example certainly fits. Aromas and flavors of cocoa powder, red cherry and cranberry are backed by racy tannins and acidity.
Longship Cellars 2014 Wise Man cabernet sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $38: Classic aromas of black currant, vanilla and spice lead to flavors of black pepper, ripe plum and licorice. Moderate tannins keep the focus on the elegant, velvety fruit.
While serving in the U.S. Navy, Welch would go wine-tasting with his family when he was on leave. When he finished his service, he went to Washington State University-Tri-Cities to learn winemaking, graduating in 2011.
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Welch landed in Spain for an internship, where he ran with the bulls and fell in love with Rioja, the famous tempranillo-based wine. He was hooked.
In 2013, while working for Alexandria Nicole Cellars near Prosser, he bought a little tempranillo for himself and launched his winery.
Welch, 36, named his winery Longship Cellars, after the famous Viking vessels, and called that first wine The Invader.
“Here I am, wine industry, I’m coming for you!” Welch says playfully.
Next up was a syrah using Walla Walla Valley grapes, which he named Ginger Man, after his brother Jeff.
“He has a red beard, so I call him Ginger Man,” Welch says. “He gets pretty upset by that nickname.”
Thus, the back label warns: “Beware the Ginger Man.”
Welch’s brother apparently has forgiven him, because he is Longship’s sales guy in Seattle.
Welch makes his wine at Sun River Vintners in Kennewick, where he oversees winemaking and cider production.
With the release of four Longship wines this month, Welch is making 400 cases of wines and is quickly gaining fans. Thanks in large part to a growing following on Facebook, Longship is charging ahead. This month, Welch is opening a tasting room along the Columbia River in Richland, and his burgeoning wine club is making Longship a hot commodity.
Welch is crafting classically styled reds with a Washington twist. Now is the time to get on board with Longship Cellars.