Zillah winery owner enjoys business on his own terms
By Erick Peterson
For the Capital Press
For the Capital Press
Terry Harrison has been involved with bigger businesses, but previous efforts have not always been as satisfying as his work in building Knight Hill Winery.
He owns this winery with his wife, Anne, but he has no other partners, unlike his situation around a decade before when he was in business with another winery and a partner.
Harrison sold his share of that business in 2005, but he had an itch to start over, a desire to build a winery that would "live or die" on his own efforts.
"When you're in a position when you make your own decisions and succeed or fail by those choices, you're in a good position," he said. "You become your own person."
He confesses that he was a little afraid when he started out, purchasing property and a horse barn in Zillah, Wash. He saw potential in the land, but he was not fully certain of its ultimate success.
Though he is still growing his business, and is up to 1,000 cases of production per year (half in varieties of red wine and half in white), he has gained confidence. He expects to grow further.
The largest part of this growth, he said, will be in the varieties of wines that he produces. Harrison said that he is experimenting with different grapes and blends that he believes will lead to new offerings. A wine maker, rather than a full-fledged grape producer, he owns only a couple of acres of grapes. He uses the remainder of his total 12 total acres to grow alfalfa, which he said is good for the soil, though not as profitable as grapes.
In time, he may expand his vineyard, however.
"But I'd rather make wine than produce grapes," he said.
Harrison said that his winery has benefited a great deal from winemaker Anke Freimuth Wildman, who oversees every step of the production. Wildman comes from a long line of winemakers, as her family has made wine in Germany for more than 400 years. A student of viticulture and enology at the Geisenheim Institute and a local resident for over 20 years, her guidance has been invaluable, he said.
Harrison feels most comfortable creating wines than grapes. He added that the Yakima Valley is bountiful with grapes, grown by others. Many of his neighbors are grape producers, and he has long-term commitments, both verbal and written, with suppliers.
There are advantages to buying grapes from others rather than growing them, he said. For instance, buying his grapes allows him greater flexibility. He can experiment with different varieties, create new blends and then purchase grapes. If he grew his own grapes, he would be locked into creating a limited selection.
This situation may change, he said, as he foresees demand increasing for local grapes. He may, therefore, eventually give in to growing more of his own grapes.
Knight Hill Winery
Owners: Terry and Anne Harrison
Location: Zillah, Wash.
Number of acres of grapes: Two
How long in business: started 2008
Varieties of wine produced: Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon