Chris Peterson worships the music of the Grateful Dead. Marty Taucher is a Dave Matthews Band fan. Peterson and Taucher met at in Redmond, where Peterson rose to winemaker and Taucher volunteered during the 2009 harvest.
Despite their diverging musical tastes, Peterson and Taucher struck a chord and have gone into business together. Taucher founded Woodinville-based Avennia Winery in 2010. Peterson consulted during the 2010 harvest before leaving DeLille in May 2011 to become the full-time winemaker at Avennia.
They are currently selling their first wines (a Sauvignon Blanc, two Syrahs and two Bordeaux-style blends) to be released next fall and winter.
Peterson and Taucher eventually agreed on Miles Davis to bridge their musical gap. Seemingly, Davis’ Birth of the Cool inspired the birth of their winery.
“Miles is always OK at the winery,” Peterson said.
Taucher bonded with Peterson over music and gained an appreciation for his winemaking style.
“I knew we both had a deep-rooted appreciation for music,” Taucher said. “His thoughtfulness about music and his rigorous commitment to dissecting it gave me insight into Chris as a winemaker. He pays attention to detail.”
Taucher went to work at Microsoft in 1984, early in the history of the software giant. He retired in 1999 to spend more time with his two boys. He was the Boy Scout leader for his children’s troops.
“It is hard to work at Microsoft and be involved with your family,” Taucher said.
He dedicated more time to civic work, serving as president of the Seattle Repertory Theatre board of directors. He also worked with a few technology startups.
As his youngest son was ready to graduate high school, Taucher started thinking about the next phase of his life.
“I like to play drums and I like wine,” Taucher said. “I wasn’t going to play drums for a living.”
Committed to start a winery, Taucher set out to learn as much as he could. He enrolled in the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College in the fall of 2009 but it was too late to start the wine making curriculum. Instead, he enrolled in the wine marketing and sales program and volunteered at DeLille to learn as much as he could about wine making.
Peterson earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington. He would go on to become the first graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program in 2003. He made wine at DeLille Cellars for seven years, picking up weekend shifts in between at McCarthy & Schiering, the wine retailer with stores in Seattle's Queen Anne and Ravenna neighborhoods.
With Taucher’s wealth and Peterson’s winemaking wisdom they have teamed up to make elegant and balanced wines with fruit from venerable sources such as Boushey Vineyards, Bacchus, Red Willow and Klipsun.
Taucher had to prove to Peterson that he was serious about owning a winery. Work ethic and commitment has never been an issue for the ambitious Taucher.
“I volunteered at DeLille with the specific goal of owning a winery,” Taucher recalls. “I’ve never done anything without being thoughtful. I didn’t want to be frivolous.
“I hadn’t put together a résumé in a long time. I was a raw, naked rookie. I think I made an impression on Chris with my seriousness.”
Avennia’s first releases are uniformly, shall I say, harmonious, like all 12 tracks in Birth of the Cool.
Total production of their initial releases is about 1,100 cases: 900 cases of red wine and 225 cases of the Sauvignon Blanc. All the wines are available for sale directly from the winery.
2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Boushey Vineyard – Their only white wine is fermented in French oak barrels (10 percent new) using native yeast and aged sur lies for eight months. The result is an elegant wine with chalky minerality. Tropical fruits (guava, grapefruit) abound on the nose and palate marrying with citrus (lime, grapefruit) on the pleasantly creamy palate.
Citrus notes linger on the lengthy lip-smacking finish. The acidity is classic to Boushey Vineyard fruit from the cool corners of the Yakima Valley. 225 cases produced to be released in September, $25.
2010 Parapine Syrah, Yakima Valley – This single varietal Syrah is a blend of 53 percent fruit from Force Majeure on Red Mountain and 47 percent fruit from Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley. This forward Syrah seduces with a nose of raspberries, blackberries and white pepper, and flavors of ripe plums and blueberries as well as surprising minerality. The fine-grained tannins lead to a finish of lithe acidity. 170 cases produced to be released in September, $35.
2010 Arnaut Syrah, Boushey Vineyard – This is a 100 percent Syrah with 100 percent fruit from Boushey Vineyard. It is a classic expression of Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, arguably the best source of Washington Syrah. The floral nose with a hint of black licorice and pencil lead mixes with the classic quality of smoke from Boushey’s cool weather sites.
Layered flavors of rapberries, black cherry, blueberries and plum massage the palate. The luxurious tannins accentuate the elegance and femininity of the wine with its long and minerally finish. 170 cases produced to be released in September, $35.
2010 Gravura Red Wine, Columbia Valley – Gravura is Peterson’s expression of the wines of Graves, Bordeaux. A blend of 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 39 percent Merlot and 6 percent Cabernet Franc is aged 20 months in French oak barrels, including 50 percent new barrels. Like the wines of Graves, the Gravura expresses the stony soils of the vineyards with a nose of wet stones and graphite.
Black cherry and cassis courtesy of the Cabernet Sauvignon marries with a plush and soft mid-palate that is unmistakably Washington Merlot. 325 cases produced to be released in February 2013, $35.
2010 Sestina Red Wine, Columbia Valley – The backbone of this wine is 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bacchus vineyard planted in 1972. The balance is 18 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Willow Vineyard, 18 percent Merlot from Red Willow Vineyard and 9 percent Cabernet Franc from Bacchus Vineyard.
This complex wine is the most muscular of Avennia’s initial release. A nose of espresso, black tea, old leather and black cherries suggests Old World winemaking. Black cherry and cassis dominate the broad palate. The lengthy finish is marked by surprisingly bright acidity. 250 cases produced to be released in February 2013, $50.
Wine Pick of the Week: 2011 William Church Winery Viognier
The 2011 William Church Winery Viognier is an elegant expression of this White Rhone varietal. It eschews the alcoholic, fat and volatile style of winemaking that has maligned Washington Viognier in the past. This floral Viognier is seductive and balanced. Hints of rose petals, orange zest and tropical fruits greet the nose. Layers of guava and pineapple, grapefruit and lime intertwine (or, perhaps, intert-wine) on the palate.
The lengthy finish of lime and a touch of stony minerality begs for the next sip. The wine will be sold for $23 during its release party on Saturday, May 19 at both Woodinville locations of William Church, the winery in the Warehouse District and the tasting room in the Tourist District.