The name Bookwalter, Mennonite Swiss for "tender of Beechwood forests," has also come to stand for "maker of very fine wines," thanks to Bookwalter Winery.
When Founder Jerry Bookwalter welcomed his son into the business in 1997, John brought with him ten years of marketing experience. John made some sweeping changes, and by the year 2000 he became the winemaker. That same year John hired Zelma Long, one of California's best-known winemakers, as a consultant. Zelma grew up in The Dalles, so it was no stretch for her to return to the Pacific Northwest.
"She maps the plays, I execute them on the field," says John using a football analogy. In addition to changing the way the grapes were handled, harvested, fermented, and barreled, Zelma and John also redid the label. The result of all this was overnight praise from many publications and increased standing, earning "Winery of the Year" in 2005 by Wine Press Northwest.
"Winemaking is a perfect blend of science and art," John says. "You can't produce a good wine without the use of both."
Recognizing that the greatest joy is in the tasting, John went about creating an ideal environment for discovering Bookwalter Winery's final product: a wine lounge. Now, wine tourers visiting the winery in Richland can relax in the bistro-like atmosphere of the only wine lounge in the state. Comfy chairs dot the lounge, and patio and wine tourers are encouraged to linger and enjoy the wines by the bottle or glass.
To enhance the experience, a menu featuring carefully selected Northwest cheeses, baguettes, balsamic vinegar dips, and chocolate tortes and truffles is offered. The winery offers a tasting studio in Woodinville as well, giving day-trippers from Seattle a chance to discover Bookwalter wines.
Today, when the name Bookwalter is mentioned, people are certainly more apt to think of a bottle of fine Merlot, Riesling, or Cabernet Sauvignon than a forest of Beechwood trees. And that's a very good thing.
What to Buy:
'06 Foreshadow Merlot Sandalwood, Bing cherries, resin, violets $38
'06 Columbia Valley Preface Merlot Black tea leaves, cherries, red currants $30
'06 Columbia Valley Preface Cabernet Sauvignon Caramel, black olives, plums, cherries $30
894 Tulip Lane
Richland, WA 99352
Tasting Room Open Sun 10-6; Mon-Tues 10-8; Wed-Sat 10-11
14810 NE 145th St. Bldg. B
Woodinville, WA 98072
Tasting Studio Open Sun-Thurs 12-5; Fri-Sat 11-6
Directions can be found on the website or by calling the winery.