By Wine News Service
Norway doesn’t have much of a winemaking history, but that doesn’t stand in the way of Kyle Welch, owner of tiny Longship Cellars in Richland.
[blockquote quote="Here I am, wine industry, I’m coming for you!" source="Kyle Welch, owner of tiny Longship Cellars" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Welch grew up in Pasco, surrounded by Washington’s fast-growing wine industry, but not in it.
“I don’t have a history in the wine industry,” he said. “My family doesn’t own a vineyard or a winery.”
This is no obstacle for a descendant of Vikings.
While serving in the Navy, Welch went wine tasting with his family whenever he was on leave. When he finished his service, he went to Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland to learn winemaking. It was his mom’s idea.
When he first got out of the Navy, he went to Boise State University to study business. He was feeling a bit lost about the direction his life would take. His mother read in the paper that WSU Tri-Cities was starting a winemaking program.
“I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” he said.
He graduated in 2011. From there, he got an internship at Snoqualmie in Prosser, a winery owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
Welch landed in Spain for an internship, ran with the bulls and fell in love with Rioja, the famous Tempranillo-based red wine. He was hooked.
In 2013, he worked for Alexandria Nicole Cellars near Prosser as cellar assistant and grower relations director and bought a little Tempranillo for himself from Destiny Ridge Vineyard and launched his winery.
Welch, 36, named his winery Longship Cellars after the famous Viking vessels and called his first wine The Invader.
“Here I am, wine industry, I’m coming for you!” Welch said, playfully. “I wanted to come up with a brand that would pop out on the shelves. In this industry, it’s very competitive. It’s hard to get a start. I was looking for a powerful symbol that would be eye-catching and something that would represent myself and my family and where we came from. And I also thought it would be a cool theme.”
Next up was a Syrah using Walla Walla Valley grapes, which he named Ginger Man after his brother Jeff.
“He has a red beard, so I call him Ginger Man,” Welch said. “He gets pretty upset by that nickname. He doesn’t really like it.”
Thus, the back label warns: “Beware the Ginger Man.”
Welch’s brother apparently has forgiven him because he is Longship’s sales guy in Seattle.
“He’s happy to have a wine named after him, so we’re friends again.”
Welch makes his wine at Sun River Vintners in Kennewick, where he oversees winemaking and cider production.
Welch grew up in the Tri-Cities, graduating from Pasco High School. His family is from Minnesota. Like the Vikings, it’s a land of snow and ice. Naturally, Welch plays hockey.
With the recent release of four Longship wines, Welch is making 400 cases of wines and is quickly gaining fans.
Thanks in large part to a growing following on Facebook, Longship is charging ahead, opening a tasting room last fall along the Columbia River in Richland. His burgeoning wine club is making Longship a hot commodity.
The wines also are resonating with wine critics. This spring his 2014 Ginger Man Syrah and 2014 Wise Man Cabernet Sauvignon each won gold medals at the fifth annual Cascadia Wine Competition in Hood River.
Rick and Aaron Peterman of R. Peterman Construction of West Richland remodeled the tasting room at 404 Bradley Blvd., Suite 100.
In addition to the award-winning wines, food also is available from nearby The Landing Bistro and Lounge. Food is available from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Outside food is also welcome.
Longship wines also are available at the Walter Core Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, where they fly off the shelf, said April Reddout, wine program director.
“Longship is one of the hottest and fastest-growing brands in Washington,” she said. “Destined to be a cult favorite.”
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!