Plenty of winemakers will tell you how they fell in love with wine, then dreamed of one day owning a vineyard. Matthew Rawn, winemaker at Two Mountain Winery in Zillah, Wash., doesn’t doubt their backstories — it’s just not the path he and his younger brother walked to achieve the success they enjoy today.
“I was 29 and he was 25,” says Rawn, recalling how old he and Patrick were when they purchased their uncle’s vineyard. “So we were too young to have a lifelong dream of having a winery and a vineyard like so many people do.”
The Rawn brothers grew up in Wenatchee, Wash., east of the Cascade Mountains, about a two-hour drive north of the Yakima Valley, where their winery is located. Matthew makes the wine and is in charge of marketing; Patrick manages vineyard operations. They grow about 150 acres of estate vines — cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay among several varieties — and craft about 12,000 cases annually. They oversee an additional 150 acres for clients.
“Our family has historically been in the tree fruit industry, and my brother and I, for all intents and purposes, are the first generation of the wine grape and winery aspect of things,” Rawn explains. He spent summers on the Zillah farm of his grandfather, Phil Schmidt. In 2000, after college, he helped his uncle, Ron Schmidt, plant a vineyard on the property. “He had the desire, the foresight, the vision, the hankering — whatever you want to call it — to have a vineyard and winery,” he says of his uncle. “A lot of his friends were the guys that really started the Washington wine industry.”
But Ron Schmidt only lived to see a handful of vintages before dying in an automobile accident in 2006. That summer was one of soul-searching for the brothers. “We realized we loved the direction of the wine industry that we were now a part of, and we were early enough into it that we foresaw the soon-to-be meteoric rise of Washington wine. So we said, ‘This is what we want to do. We don’t want to go anywhere else. We don’t want to do anything else. But we’re not doing it without each other.’”
Fast forward to the present, and they have achieved a major milestone. Last year, LODI RULES, a rigorous third-party accreditation program for sustainable winegrowing, certified the brothers’ vineyards. The certification encompasses all aspects of growing grapes, including soil and crop management, water usage, ecosystem health, as well as how a company takes care of its employees. Rawn states that they were the first in the Evergreen State to secure the certification. “At the end of it, [the auditors] said, ‘You don’t have to change anything. You’re the first people we’ve ever audited that are doing everything anyway.’ So it gave validation to us, because we’ve always farmed that way.”
The siblings are convinced that this approach results in better wine. Their “#Rawn Rosé,” conveniently packaged in slender 250-ml bottles, is an excellent example. The delicious pink wine blends grapes from three estate vineyards; and it ages sur lie just over a month.
The winemaker knows firsthand how opportunities arise when at a crossroads. “Our opportunity was that we were able to carry on Ron’s dream — and make it our own,” he says.
Two Mountain Winery, “#Rawn Rosé” Expressing scents of red berries, nectarine, and wet river stones, this direct-press rosé, crafted from near-equal parts cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, tastes thoughtful and intentional, tangy and dry with flavors of rhubarb compote, Meyer lemon, and a hint of salt. 13 percent ABV. $6 each 250ml bottle; $24 for a 4-pack. Distributed by Vineyard Road. At Bacco’s Wine + Cheese, Boston, 617-574-1751; Social Wines, Cambridge, 617-225-0040.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at email@example.com