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Forgeron Cellars

Cody Janett, Forgeron's new winemaker

"New" is not really a good descriptor for Cody Janett. He's been with Forgeron since the 2011 harvest, working his way from intern to assistant winemaker to winemaker. But he is of a new generation at age 25.

Forgeron was established in 2001 when winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla and investors put the winery together. They were the 23rd winery in the Walla Walla Valley; there are now 140. They have always worked with Eastern Washington's best growers focused on sustainability. With Janett now leading the way, the early concepts have not changed. "We look for the best vineyard sites for each varietal," explains Cody. "As a whole, I believe Washington growers and winemakers have realized that in order to show off what Washington can be, we need to grow grapes in the best area for each specific varietal. Earlier Washington wines were made with higher concentrations of alcohol and pH levels, and more tannins, creating in-your-face wines. This probably had to do with relating to/competing with California wines. But it didn't necessarily say who we are. We have so many soil types and areas to grow in, so many aspects we haven't touched yet."

Forgeron produced 6,500 cases in 2018, increasing production to 6,800 this year using 119 tons of grapes for total production. Their Woodinville tasting room opened in 2013. "Forgeron" is the French word for "blacksmith." Their full production facility (there are only three in downtown Walla Walla, including Seven Hills and Corliss, with crush pads, barrels, and tasting rooms), is located is a former blacksmith space.

One of the beauties (and frustrations) of wine is that each year is completely different. The same winemaker can make very different wines from year to year due to a number of factors: temperature changes/extremes, wind, precipitation, humidity, soil-water balances. "Forgeron wines each show a uniqueness in their respective varietals. As conditions change and present new challenges, you find different solutions and grow into a better winemaker. As I taste this year's wines, I find they are really expressing what they want to be. It's so exciting! In 2017, harvest was condensed. Many grapes ripened at once, there was a long break, then it all moved quickly again. 2018, was a nice, slow progression. It couldn't have been better for my first year as winemaker. Each varietal came in when expected then the next and the next. It was one of the easiest harvests I've had. I kept thinking, 'What am I missing?' but as I tasted through, it was right." He has worked Forgeron harvests since 2011, and guided vintages with Marie-Eve from 2015-17; 2018 is totally Cody. "Blending is a team effort. Marie-Eve and I tasted next to each other and suggested different angles. Percentages can get complicated. For instance, we were adding 8% Petit Verdot to the Cab base in 2014, but in 2015 it went to 11%. We work to stay within our house style, keeping in the lanes of our flavor profile."

Cody is sourcing from the same vineyards with their long-standing contracts. In the Walla Walla Valley AVA, they source from Francisca's (Viognier), Minnick Hills (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot), and Seven Hills (Cabernet Sauvignon). The Columbia Valley AVA provides Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot from Dionysus, Barbera from Sagemoor, Chardonnay from Gamache. From Red Mountain comes Mourvèdre from Heart of the Hill. Zinfandel comes from Alder Ridge from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Malbec coming from StoneTree Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope. The Yakima Valley AVA offers Grenache and Syrah, from Boushey; Chardonnay, Viognier, and Roussanne from Crawford Vineyard; and Chardonnay from French Creek.

Forgeron produces three tiers of wines. The largest production, including limited production wines, is Forgeron Cellars single vineyard wines. Their premier line is Anvil, currently with three wines available. Blacksmith and Artist Series wines are on the same tier.

Cody has added new wines to the Forgeron roster: a 100% Viognier, a first, with grapes from Francisca's Vineyard. "This wine brings great freshness, with fruit characteristics but no overt oily-ness. We found the perfect center. It's the first wine I released as winemaker." The other three are all in the Artist Series. Imaginarium Red--65% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 5% Malbec; Pink Rabbits Rosé of Syrah, another first; and Otherworldly Chardonnay, the second in their history. "New York street artist Julia Yu-Baba created the labels for our Artist Series and has done a mural at our Woodinville tasting room. Her work and our wine fit perfectly together, and the wines are the best price-to-wine ratio at $25 retail at the tasting room. Generally Artist Series wines are more expensive; we wanted to change that. I get very excited to have this flavor profile for such a great price." Their Blacksmith wines are 100% vineyard and AVA blends. Blacksmith Blanc is 58% Viognier and 42% Roussanne. It is 100% stainless steel fermented and aged on lees, giving it acidity, balance, and a soft edge. Blacksmith Rouge is a GSM blend with 37% Grenache, 37% Syrah, and 26% Mourvèdre. With its fruit aspect and round flavor, it is a lovely every-day wine. "We've been enjoying it with locally-made pizza and street tacos!" laughs Cody.

Cody has created a behind-the-scenes tasting room to be reserved for private parties. Enjoy reserve tastings, charcuterie and cheese boards, and they'll even pick up food and bring it to the room for you. This is a VIP experience for up to eight people. He's also added a barrel tasting experience in the main tasting room, swapping out barrels each month.

Barrels in tasting room

Looking ahead, Cody wants to continue finding the best areas for the varietals he wants to use. "We're geared toward 100% varietals, 100% vineyard, 100% AVA wines. I want to see us show how great Washington is, offering wines that are more complex and layered: cleaner, brighter, fresher."

Forgeron Cellars
33 W Birch St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

14344 Woodinville-Redmond Rd
Woodinville, WA 98052

Click here to read about Cody's background

Connie Adams/July 2019

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