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Barrage Cellars

A convoluted path

Kevin Correll grew up in a small town north of Seattle. Growing up, he worked with his father every weekend at Longacres Race Track where his father bred and trained thoroughbreds. He followed his father's footsteps for 5 years, then began working at Boeing, where he is now an instructor in Global Training. He started making wine in his garage in 1996 because he liked the science behind what a friend was doing with beer, but chose to play with grapes. His MBA in 2002 was based on a business plan for creating a winery; he put his dream in motion in 2006. Not a straight-ahead path, but Kevin is in the right place.

For nine years, he made wine in his garage, 15-20 gallons. Late in 2001, the world was scary and he worried about having a job. More so, he thought about what he'd told his daughter: "If you love what you do, you never get tired of your work." Having befriended a few winemakers over time, he asked if he could help with harvest. "Most people think harvest is fun, so winemakers don't always think you'll show up and do the work. It's very hard work. I don't mind that, and harvest is way better than smelling horse manure," laughs Kevin. He used vacation time to help several wineries over two years. He completed the enology certification program through UC Davis in 2008, and has completed a portion of the viticulture certification program through WSU. "I have no interest in owning a vineyard. I have a brown thumb and want to leave it to the people who know what they're doing."

In 2005, David at Wine Glass Cellars, one of the winemakers he had helped, extended a hand and asked if he wanted to make a barrel or two himself. "I decided I'd get a license and try it. The second year, I had a bunch of barrels delivered and I realized from David's reaction that it was more than he expected. I understand it now; you only have so much room. But the experience pushed me into moving forward. I looked at a few spots in South Seattle, but then found this space in the Woodinville Warehouse District. I was the 13th winery to move into this location. Now there are 51 wineries here, and a waiting list to get in. We moved in the summer of 2007, and opened the tasting room in August 2008. I figured we'd stay 3-4 years; now it's been 10 and we're expanding into the space next door."

Kevin currently sources from six vineyards: Boushey, Red willow, and Dineen Vineyards from Yakima Valley AVA; Quintessence and Shaw Vineyard off Red Mountain; and Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Rocks AVA on the Milton-Freewater side of the Walla Walla AVA. Most growers like to sell to winemakers who have a track record of making good wine; Kevin is in with some of the top growers. "I had contact for Dick Boushey and Red Willow through Wine Glass Cellars. For a few years, I made white and rose wines for Obelisco. They own a vineyard on Red Mountain, and their vineyard manager also handles Shaw and Quintessence vineyards. Washington is cool: there are corporations you sign contracts with, but also farmers who operate on hand shakes. I'm proud of my relationships with the growers."

Kevin started out making 250 cases, then 500, then 1500, and now 3000. "I'd like to keep it at 3000 until I really go full time, after retiring from Boeing. In hindsight, it would have been better to grow a bit slower, but growers were offering me great fruit and I didn't know how to say no. I'm better now. Someone told me once that you should make wines that you love to drink. When you go to sell them, that feeling comes across. And if you don't sell them, you'll enjoy drinking them. So, I make wines I love to drink." His approach to wine making is basically hands off. "I don't like to mess with it too much. The most important things to me are the relationship between myself and the growers, the fruit, and barrel quality. I want to stay on top of it. I like the wine to show itself." Kevin's barrel program is primarily new or once-used barrels.

His plan was to make one wine: a Bordeaux blend. When he began his first blending process, he realized he liked the wines as single varietals better. "I like to say I don't blend grapes, I blend vineyards. I've done a couple of blends, more for the private label. Everything else is 100% varietal. I am doing a 2016 Cab-heavy Bordeaux blend that is fermenting now. It will be released in two years. We have a few single-vineyard wines, but our Merlot comes from 2-3 vineyards, and the Cab Franc from as many as four. Our Cab Franc just received a gold medal and our Merlot, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, received silver medals at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition."

While red wines are Kevin's passion, he also makes small amounts of Viognier and Chardonnay with grapes from Boushey Vineyards. "They sell out before the end of the summer. I got one of the concrete eggs to ferment the wine in. These are common in Europe, and a few winemakers are using them here. They are colder at the bottom and it creates a kind of Venturi effect, circulating itself. You have to move the wine to tanks to settle it."

There's much to look forward to: while Kevin won't be increasing case amounts, he does have the new Bordeaux blend coming. It will be under a different label and although a big wine, will be silkier than his current wines. Toward the end of April, the wall between his two spaces will come down and the tasting room will expand. And with his retirement coming up in 2019, you never know how he'll fill his time.

Barrage Cellars
19501 144th Ave NE, Ste E-800
Woodinville, WA 98072

Connie Adams/March 2017

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