Aged to Perfection: Trailblazers of Local Wine

In the world of wine, age is everything. As grapevines mature, they become increasingly stable in their environment and produce more robust fruit. The fermentation of the pressed grapes is a process bound by time itself, slowly succumbing to the chemistry that morphs simple juices into complex elixirs. While advanced age is a coveted property of viticulture and oenology, some individuals are revolutionizing the wine industry with their youthful perspectives and innovative techniques.

"Vineyard Prodigy"

Victor Palencia, the owner of Tri-Cities’ Palencia Wine Company, has witnessed the transformation of Washington’s vineyards since his early childhood. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Palencia moved with his family to Prosser, just 25 miles west of Tri-Cities, when his father secured agricultural work in the area.

From an early age, Palencia was drawn to the vineyards, spending time with his father amidst the vines. This experience not only fostered his love for the outdoors but also sowed the seeds of his future career. By the time he was a senior in high school in 2003, his dedication had already earned him the title of assistant winemaker at his neighbor’s Willow Crest Winery. His passion for winemaking continued to flourish as he pursued a degree at the acclaimed Institute for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College, despite being underage and initially unable to taste wine during classes.

After graduating, Palencia began crafting his own wines while managing the custom-crush operation at J&S Crushing/Columbia River’s Edge Winery in Mattawa for 15 years. This role provided him with a profound understanding of the region’s winemaking capabilities and inspired him to launch his own venture, Palencia Wine Company, in 2012. His efforts quickly garnered significant acclaim, including praise from The New York Times as the "vineyard prodigy" and a spot on Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers list.

Victor Palencia showcasing his wine at the Auction of Washington Wines

In 2022, Palencia shifted his focus exclusively to his company and its two labels, Palencia Wines and Monarcha Wines. The style of wines produced by Palencia Wine Company are greatly influenced by the remarkable soils and their diversity. From the vineyards in the Ancient Lakes AVA, they create minerally, refreshing, and aromatic white wines. Conversely, they also produce dense and complex full-bodied red wines, utilizing grapes from Red Mountain and Wahluke Slope. These varied terroirs allow for a wide range of distinct and flavorful wines, catering to a diverse palates with everything from crisp, aromatic white to robust, full-bodied reds.

Adjacent to the Monarcha tasting room, Palencia has collaborated with chef Frank Magaña to operate the Culture Shock Bistro food truck. This venture offers a fusion of Spanish and Pacific Northwestern cuisine, including signature paellas, perfectly paired with Palencia and Monarcha wines. The bistro is open Thursday through Saturday and hosts occasional pop-up dinners and private events.

From his boyhood days working in the local farm fields with his father to running his own increasingly acclaimed winery, Victor Palencia has been diligently pursuing his passions. He takes great pleasure in refining his craft and exploring new vineyards, and he genuinely relishes the opportunity to share his love of winemaking with others. Palencia finds particular joy in welcoming many first-time wine tasters to his tasting rooms, a sentiment that brings him great happiness.

A Sparkling Future in Washington Wine

Credit: Tirriddis

Just as the latin term suggests,"Omne trium perfectum" or "everything that comes in threes is perfect", there is strength in the power of three. Andrew Gerow, Gabriel Crowell, and Matthew Doutney, better known as the Tirriddis Trio, are three young winemakers and entrepreneurs on a mission to launch Washington's sparkling wine scene into the stratosphere. Graduates of Washington State University's Viticulture & Enology program, they have established a name for themselves among the notable estates and wineries in the Columbia and Yakima Valleys. Tirraddis, their boutique winery, is making waves in Washington's emerging sparkling wine scene. Their urban wine shop, Non-Vintage Wines, offers an accessible approach to wine consumption and education, proving that age is no barrier for these young aficionados.

The demand for innovation and fresh perspective on the ever-changing wine industry is driven not only by the youthful spirit of new winemakers being introduced into the trade, but also the institutions that drive the science and discovery forward. The Tirriddis Trio's alma mater, Washington State University, is at the forefront of this effort. The WSU Tri-Cities campus is home to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, a globally recognized state-of-the-art hub that incubates research, education, and collaboration dedicated to wine. This center is a testament to the innovative energy that surrounds our region and the growing opportunities available to locals who aspire to follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Victor Palencia and the Tirriddis Trio.

Visit Tri-Cities is celebrating the impact that tourism has on the local economy, business owners, and lifestyle in our region.

Related Content: