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Kitchen Careers: Butch Milbrandt, Winery Owner

Kitchen Careers is a regular feature that goes behind-the-scenes with chefs, bloggers, critics and others in the food industry to get the inside scoop on what its like to cook, or eat, for a living.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own a winery? Butch Milbrandt, along with his brother Jerry, got into the grape growing business in 1997 and fast-forward 15 years later, they are currently co-owners of Milbrandt Vineyards in Washington State. Butch, a self-proclaimed “foodie”, loves cooking Italian dishes in his spare time and despite owning a winery, has never stomped grapes with his own feet. Milbrandt Vineyards can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

What made you decide to enter the competitive wine industry?

We sell grapes to a lot of wineries in Washington who placed our vineyard name on the bottle, so we already had some name recognition in the market. It seemed like the natural next step in the organic growth of our company.

How has the art of making wine changed since you started?

There are more science based techniques for manipulating the wine to improve quality than ten years ago. It provides for more consistant winemaking and helps ensure that the consumer gets a better product.

What was the first bottle of wine you produced?

Milbrandt Vineyards Riesling from our Evergreen Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

Milbrandt Vineyards

What three PBS personalities would you invite to dinner (animated, muppet, or living)?

[Robert] MacNiel, [Jim] Lehrer and [Bill] Moyers. You could learn a lot from those guys.

Most people instantly think of California when they think about domestic wine production, but there is no doubt that Washington is a growing competitor. What makes Washington grapes and wine unique?

People always say it is terroir that make them special and in Washington’s case that is very true. We have great climate, good elevations conducive soils and plentiful water in Eastern Washington for growing grapes. These elements combined with the lower costs of being in a lesser known area and having knowledgable winemakers who understand winemaking in this region create a supply of very high quality wines at a value price.

Red or white?

Make white wine first. It is easier, less expensive and faster. Which means you can sell it sooner and get your money back to help reduce the financing.

Milbrandt Vineyards

If you could only drink one variety of wine for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Hard question, like which do you love most your son or daughter. I am a big Cab fan but if I could only drink one it would be Riesling. It has so much more to offer in flavors, aromas and styles. Totally dry to silky sweet. You can never tire of drinking Riesling.

What advice do you have for someone thinking about making wine?

Forget the romance, get lots of advice from people in the business, make a business plan and procure bank financing. Lots of financing.

Wine and Cheese

What is the future of the American wine industry?

It will continue to grow infinitely into the future. American wine consumption is on the rise and we are now the largest wine consuming country in the world. Wine is becoming a way of life in the U.S. as it has been for centuries in Europe. You see it everywhere in ads for cars, clothes, furniture anything to do with lifestyle has wine in the fore or background. It is almost a subliminal message, always present that wine is a natural part of your life.

What is the best part of making wine?

Having wine to drink when you are finished.

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