Kevin White of Kevin White Winery
One of the best trends to come out of the past decade of Washington wine is the emergence of Rhône blends (generally bold reds that feature Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) as an important group of wines for our state. Accessing these wines can be difficult, however, since many of them start at $35 a bottle and go up from there. Woodinville winemaker Kevin White has earned this year’s Winemaker to Watch in no small part because his two core wines—La Fraternité and En Hommage—are Rhône-inspired and priced at $28 each. The winery’s stated goal is “crafting traditional Old World–style wines with complexity and balance that pair extraordinarily well with food.”
Much like Chris Peterson of Best Emerging Winery Avennia, White is part of a growing movement that eschews the rich fruit, high alcohol and overt oak that have traditionally characterized many of Washington’s most prestigious wines, instead opting for a food-friendlier, lower-impact style. After volunteer stints at a number of Washington wineries, he began with the 2010 vintage, and each of his releases (typically in May) have sold out before the end of summer. His countercultural wines are remarkable for their purity and freshness, and they’ve quickly found an audience eager for this vibrant style. For now, White is keeping his day job at Microsoft, but this is clearly a winemaker on the ascendancy, and we have to ask ourselves: If the wines are this good as a part-time gig, how high is Kevin White’s ceiling?
Some of the Washington's best wines are being made in a tiny city just north of Seattle and far from the well-known vineyards on the eastern side of the state
"Kevin White makes Rhône-style reds while holding down a full-time job at Microsoft. Mr. White's interest in wine developed around 2005. He took a wine science class at Seattle Community College and volunteered for industry stars like Chris Sparkman. Mr. White stressed how much he had benefited from the collective wisdom of fellow winemakers who made it possible for him to start an eponymous label with "a lot of good will and just a little bit of money."
The name of one of his wines honors the friendships that helped him establish his career. The La Fraternité (or brotherhood) is a Grenache-dominant homage to his winemaking colleagues. The rich and lush 2012 version was one of my favorite wines of the tasting."
With upwards of 800 wineries, Washington state has emerged as the second-largest premium wine producer in the United States. Turning off a side street in an industrial area of sleepy Woodinville, I start to think the majority of these wineries might reside here, within a complex of storage depots referred to by locals as the “warehouse district.”
OK, so industrial concrete isn’t quite the image of vast farmlands and sprawling grapevines I envisioned on my way over. For that you’d have to travel to Eastern Washington, to Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills - places with the kinds of names you couldn’t make up if you tried. But I didn’t come here for the scenery. I came to meet Kevin White, Bing principal program manager lead and driving force behind the well-reviewed Kevin White Winery.
"How many of us have gazed out an office window and wondered whether we should be following our passions? Have you ever asked yourself what might happen if you ditched the nine-to-five job and lived your dream instead?
Washington winemaker and Microsoft engineer Kevin White is proof that it’s possible to do both: in his case, grow a boutique winery while pursuing a corporate career. Not only that, with hard work, dedication, and support, it’s possible to be successful at both."
Edibile Seattle, November 2014