verb. to have moved or transferred (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval.
One of my favorite grape varietals is Carmenere, the “Lost Bordeaux grape.” Believed to be one of the ancient grapes, Carmenere once thrived in the Bordeaux region of France. During the 1860s, Carmenere, along with much of France’s vines, were infested by phylloxera, a tiny little aphid that came over from America. Already a difficult grape to grow, the Carmenere vines were pulled up after the phylloxera epidemic and the grape was thought to be lost forever.
During this same time period, French vine cuttings of what was believed to be Merlot were sent to Chile. The grapes thrived in Chilean soil, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when scientists tested the vines that they discovered it was the long-lost Carmenere grape. Today, Carmenere is primarily produced in Chile. But outside of Chile, Carmenere is found in Italy, California and the Walla Walla Valley.
The long and storied transplanted history of Carmenere spans three continents and arguably thousands of years. Although my story is not quite so long, it spans three states and ends in the Walla Walla Valley.
Originally from Maine, I moved to Vermont for college, where I focused my undergraduate degree in travel writing. The more I traveled, the more I realized that food and drink were at the heart of a country’s culture. The same vegetables, livestock and grape varietals can be found all over the world, but it’s the terroir, the soil, topography and climate that impart particular tastes and aromas in food and drinks. And that to me, is one of the biggest distinguishing factors in defining a culture.
I am a foodie at heart, and when I came back from studying abroad there was something about wine that really intrigued me. I applied for a part-time job as a tasting room associate at a small winery in Vermont, Shelburne Vineyard. I learned about Vermont’s terroir and gained a basic understanding of the viticulture and enology techniques needed to grow grapes in such a cold climate. I got a chance to help out with the last three harvests and ice harvests and occasionally helped with pruning. I primarily worked behind the bar during business hours and during events. I started taking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exams to learn more about enology and viticulture, and as time passed working in Vermont’s wine industry, my passion only grew.
Last spring, I decided it was time to immerse myself full-time in a bigger wine industry. I wanted my next home to be in a small community that really focused on wine and food, a place built on agriculture where I could delve into the region’s terroir, and a place I could fall in love with in order to share my passion for wine and the community I’m living in with the public at large. Washington State — being the second largest wine producer in the country—was perfect, just enough under the radar, but with plenty to explore and write about. So I saved up as much as I could and in August 2015, I packed up my 2005 Chevy Malibu, drove over 3,000 miles and transplanted myself right here in Walla Walla Valley.
Two days before I left Vermont, I accepted the job here at Reininger as the Marketing & Event Coordinator. Over the last nine months, I’ve found an environment, like the Carmenere grape, where I can grow and thrive. Not to mention, I now work for a winery that’s known internationally for its Carmenere, and have access to this transplanted grape varietal whenever I want!
Join me on my adventures while I become no longer “lost” in Washington’s vast wine industry. Read about what makes the Walla Walla Valley so unique and why Reininger Winery has made this East Coast transplant (and the Carmenere grape) feel at home.