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Browne Family Vineyards

A family tribute

For the lucky among us, there is someone (or more than one) who inspired us, or who we admired, or who mentored us. Those are the people who set us on a positive path. For Andrew Browne, it was his grandfather William Bitner Browne. William spent a year of college studying in France, where he found his love of wine, graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, and served in the U.S. Army in World War II and in the Korean conflict. After the military, he picked up his law practice, volunteered in his community and took care of his family. He enjoyed wine, especially Bordeaux, and he shared the joy he found in fine wines with his grandson Andrew.


Andrew's background in wine sales includes Southern Wine & Spirits, Chateau St. Jean, Associated Vintners, Corus Brands, and Constellation. Andrew met Dan Baty, Corus Brands, who saw his potential. They launched Precept together in 2003, acquiring wineries and vineyards, handling sales and marketing, and running tasting rooms. Precept is the largest privately-owned wine company in the Northwest, representing emerging American wine areas in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and New Mexico. Throughout his career, Andrew was laying plans for a family legacy winery, Browne Family Vineyards. It officially began in 2005, with carefully-selected viticulturists, winemakers, and cellar masters. Browne Family Vineyards uses only Washington fruit.

Best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, first released in 2005, they also offer Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Grenache Rose, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Tribute Red Blend. Winemaker John Freeman has shared background information on some of the wines:

Chardonnay. "In the past it was 100% Chardonnay in 100% new French oak. In 2014, we added 5% Viognier, and used 75% new French Oak, and 25% stainless steel."

Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc. "This spends 5 months in neutral oak. It's very tropical; a great patio sipping wine. You can also get it on tap or in growlers."

John Freeman, left, and Andrew Browne

Tribute. "Each year, we blend the same varietals for this tribute wine to Andrew's children, but we use different percentages of grapes. It's made to be easy, approachable, and is fruitier than other Browne wines. It pairs with everything and anything."

Cabernet Sauvignon. "The 2013 Cab has a touch of Petit Verdot which brings structure, tannin, color. This wine was laid down for six months to a year before releasing."

Petit Verdot. "It is 100% Petite Verdot and was laid down for five years before being released in September 2015."

Heritage Blend. "This is a new 2014 vintage. It is our on-premise glass pour or 'house wine.'"

John grew up in the Carnaros area of Napa Valley. "I heard about a wine industry job that paid $6.25 an hour, and I wanted a piece of that action!" He worked at Mt. Veeder Winery; Franciscan Estate Winery where he stayed seven years, leaving as cellar master; and Miner Family Wines where he stayed for 5-6 vintages and learned to make wine. "I worked with 12 winemakers each year. No one talked back then about how you made wine, it was almost insider training." He and his wife decided to move to Washington feeling it was a better place to raise kids. "We found Walla Walla, it was like Mayberry: safe and easy to meet people. Everyone knows where everyone's kids are. I had tasted Walla Walla wines and knew it was the place. We came up in mid-2002 and I got a job where I stayed just a few months. A friend told me about Waterbrook Winery. I started there in January 2003, and have never left. I'm the winemaker for Pendulum, Waterbrook, and Browne Family Vineyards, all part of Precept. We produce a lot of wine, both from estate vineyards and contracted vineyards. Waterbrook is large; we sold 100,000 cases last year which included two vintages. With Browne, each wine is dedicated to someone in Andrew's family; it's a very family-centric winery. Andrew believes in this label and wants it to be a legacy for the family."

Browne Family Vineyards is still building the brand. "Andrew and I discussed what he wanted Browne to be: not necessarily Washington-centric wines, there are plenty of those. We wanted the Cabs to be able to compete on the world stage. Washington wines are very distinct, but it's not important that it's clearly Washington. If someone likes big Napa Cabs, they'll like the Browne Cab. Our Chardonnay is like a delicious Burgundy. These could be from anywhere; we're focusing on the varietal more than the region.

For 2015, it's more approachable fruit and we're hoping this will take off. We're blown away by the fruit coming out of the Waterbrook Estate Vineyard, and lots of Cab grapes have been planted for Browne in the Skyfall Vineyard, across from Red Mountain. We've also planted ridiculous amounts of Malbec; it's on fire."

Their tasting room resides in downtown Walla Walla and is a great spot to stand at the bar to taste, or relax on leather couches. Make it a stop on your Walla Walla wine tour to get a taste of an impressive family legacy.

Browne Family Vineyards

31 E Main Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Images courtesy of Browne Family Vineyards

Connie Adams/August 2016

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