Vintage Details: Chatting with Judy Thoet
Washington wines continue to achieve marked notoriety in the world of wine, and continue to surprise us with excellence. Thrilled with the products cultivated in our state, I eagerly explore the process more.
I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Judy Thoet, an Assistant Winemaker for Sagelands Vineyards. A California transplant by way of Portland, Oregon, Judy received her B.S. in Agronomy from Fresno State, an M.S. in Plant Genetics and Breeding from Oregon State, her Winemaker Certification through UC Davis, and her Sommelier Diploma through the International Sommelier’s Guild based in Toronto – this gal knows her stuff!
In chatting with Judy, and learning of her remarkable list of credentials, it is no wonder Sagelands Vineyard has done so well. They truly have an A-list team. Coined the “chick” winery in Yakima Valley, Sagelands’ predominately female staff takes great pride in their repeat accomplishments – most recently, two of their Malbecs (one for reserve, and one for mass market) received incredibly high honors from the wine world's most discerning critics.
As we spoke casually, Judy explained some of the complexities involved with the wine making process. Most interestingly, she described a great difference between the Washington and California winemaking method. Forgive me if I am off in my recollection, this is truly a scientific process! The difference you ask? Phylloxera. Phylloxera, a pest of commercial grapevines similar to aphids, feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines. As you can imagine, this little insect is the “root” of very large problems. To combat this problem, California vineyards were forced to get creative. The solution, they found, was grafting. As a result, the “classic” wines produced in California are grafted rootstock. As luck would have it, Washington soil is void of this troublesome pest. The obvious upshot being that Washington is able to cultivate truly “classic” rootstock, no grafting necessary, resulting in a pure expression of the fruit.
Despite her strong ties to California, Judy is happy to call Washington home, remarking that she could not think of a better place to live. Lucky for Sagelands and us!
This Pro's Pairing Suggestion:
Judy is totally thrilled with Sagelands Malbec – there is no better way to enjoy it, she says, then paired with a grilled fatty rib-eye steak, garnished with either cilantro or parsley.
Big thanks to Judy for participating in this first portion of “Vintage Details.”