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Pike Market Charm


Dusted Valley & Boomtown

15 years of detail and fun

From a couple of Wisconsin guys and their wives who wanted to do something with wine in 2003 to one of Wine & Spirits 100 Wineries of the Year in 2013, to marking their 15th anniversary in 2018, Corey and Cindy Braunel and Chad and Janet Johnson of Dusted Valley have an interesting story to tell.

L-R, Chad, Janet, Cindy, Corey

Starting a winery wasn't an instantaneous decision, but it did happen quickly. As Chad explains, "Janet and I had lived in Portland for five years and Cindy and Corey had visited. We'd toured the Willamette Valley. I toured California for five years before finishing college and then later the families vacationed there and enjoyed the wine." Interest in wine grew over the years with Chad sending wines to Corey to try. "We knew we didn't want to make just single vineyard Pinot Noir like some Willamette wineries (although we love it!), we knew we couldn't afford to make wine in California, and we were enjoying the eastern Washington wines. We made a reconnaissance trip to Walla Walla and within a month and a half we had moved there. It was just time to do it." Lack of experience wasn't a concern, according to Corey. "We believed in this and have been truly fortunate. You've heard of blind enthusiasm, the tireless entrepreneurial spirit. Failure wasn't an option for us. It doesn't mean you don't trip along the way, but Chad and I were absolute sponges. We soaked up every detail and spent time in the vineyards and learned how to make better wine each and every year. He won't say this, but I will: Chad spends more time in vineyards than 98% of most Northwest winemakers. Our wine is all about attention to details."

"We do things a little differently at Dusted Valley and operate as a viticulture and winemaking team, collaborating to execute our shared vision. Griffin Frey is our Portfolio Winemaker and manages the day-to-day activities in the cellar. Corey and I are the wine growers. We are very involved in Dusted Valley's viticulture and winemaking, creating a house style and collective vision. This evolution is really exciting, as it allows us to continue making Dusted Valley great by allowing us to focus more time on the estate vineyard program, vineyard partners, winemaking techniques, and sales and marketing. Quality improvement every vintage is our goal," says Chad. Both Chad and Corey had worked in corporate America, Janet worked in sales at Hormel Foods and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and Cindy was a nurse who went into clinical research. Janet is their national sales manager and co-owner, Cindy is the administrator, wine club manager and co-owner. Cindy and Janet are sisters.

L-R, Corey, Chad, Griffin

Chad and Corey also have agricultural backgrounds. "We know Mother Nature is not always nice. For the first three years we purchased grapes. Then we bought Sconni Block ("sconni" being an affectionate name for "Wisconsin") and started farming. We always wanted to do the whole process from beginning to end," says Chad. "Great wines are grown in the vineyard and that's why we got into estate farming: to take control of our grapes." For five years, they leased and managed vineyards, then built relationships outside the Valley with growers for better logistics. Dusted Valley has one Estate vineyard on the Washington side of the Walla Walla Valley AVA (Sconni Block, seven acres planted in 2000), and two on the Oregon side (Stoney Vine, 17 acres in the Rocks district, planted in 2007; and Southwind, 67 acres planted in 2007). These three vineyards lie in different meso climates with distinct soil profiles. Dusted Valley remains their estate-driven brand.

Stoney Vine vineyard

Chad and Corey look at plants per acre and prefer one cluster per shoot. "We get great fruit doing it our way and can guarantee the quality from the beginning. The fruit costs more doing it this way, but we're willing to do that. We still get 15-20% more fruit than we can use for Dusted Valley. The rest we sell in bulk." Boomtown is made with the same attention to detail as Dusted Valley, but the fruit is contracted and has higher yields. As of 2017, Boomtown red grapes come from McNary Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and Pinot Gris comes from Two Gun Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA. They also work with viticulturists from premier vineyards in the Columbia Valley who custom farm for them. "Strategic partnerships allow us to take advantage of the unique meso climates, higher elevations and southwest aspects of other AVAs outside of Walla Walla. To tell the story of place, we've increased focus on crafting vineyard designate wines. Many Dusted Valley wines are now vineyard designate, like Chardonnay from Olsen Vineyard in Yakima Valley and BFM from Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope," says Chad.

Their wine club, the Stained Tooth Society, or STS, is unique in that a large percentage of their product is only available at the tasting rooms or through the wine club, and members get to choose which wines they want in the spring and fall. It's a minimum selection of six bottles at both times, with further volume discounts. They've launched the Cult of Ceres, a collection of extremely limited-production, vineyard-designate wines and, ultimately, a new level of wine club membership. Grapes are sourced from best lots of their vineyards' oldest, most promising blocks, and wines are crafted only when growing conditions align to create something truly special.

During harvest 2015, they completed construction of a 12,000 square foot state-of-the-art winery facility at their Sconni Block Estate Vineyard. It has allowed them to exercise greater control and precision; extend macerations in added tank space to craft fuller, richer wines; and implement a form of cap management with gentler extraction for finer-grained tannins. "This allows the varietal character and place to be the focus," says Corey. And what's better than to have that sense of place (and taste it, too)?

Sconni winery facility

Connie Adams/December 2018

Dusted Valley Tasting Rooms

1248 Old Milton Highway
Walla Walla, WA 99362

14465 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

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