by Fred McMillin
for May 29, 1998

Winery of the Week

Preston of Washington

Columbia Valley, 1976—Successful tractor dealer Bill Preston is supervising the first crush of his new Columbia Valley winery when his winemaker quits unexpectedly. With a winery full of fermenting wine, Bill high-tails it to California and races back with U.C.-Davis grad Rob Davis. The combination of Bill's fine grapes and Rob's talent establishes Preston Wine Cellars as Washington State's largest, most successful family-run winery.

...Anthony Dias Blue in American Wine

The Rest of the Story

Twenty years and 400 medals later, it's clear that Bill Preston built a winner. What are some of the reasons?

Climate—The New York Times tells us: "Most Washington grapes are grown between the 45th and and 47th parallels, or about the same latitudes as Bordeaux and Burgundy. This means more sunlight, which provides a beneficial longer growing cycle. It also means more stress for the vines than in milder California. Vines that must struggle to survive always produce finer wines."

Farming Know-How- Bill ran his old, established family farm and irrigation machinery business. Thus, he developed creative methods for the "care and feeding" of his vines. (Note: There IS water in arid eastern Washington; the Columbia River flow is twice that of Egypt's Nile.)

Family Dedication—While Bill and Joann Preston created all of this, their grown children play major roles today. Son Brent is now the winemaker and daughter Cathy is director of marketing. Here are comments on what she sells.

Merlot—As far back as 1982, critic Roy Andries De Groot said Preston's was "the best American Merlot I've tasted. "
Riesling - Author Bob Thompson said the Preston 1989 Dry Riesling was the most haunting imaginable, with scents and flavors one would remember for years.
Chardonnay—The Wine Spectator listed a Preston Chardonnay as one of its Top 100 Wines of the Year.
Overall—Prof. John Baxevanis: "Unusual and meticulous vineyard practices produce an array of full-bodied, robust, flavorable wines. 

Just the Facts

Name—Preston Premium Wines
Location—Five miles north of Pasco, WA.
Vineyard—50 acres initially, now 180; 10 varietals
Contact—Cathy Preston-Mouncer, (509) 545-1990
Prices—Good values


How does the Preston Vineyard climate compare with that of the central Napa Valley? The total amount of growing heat is about the same. During the summer, the sun shines about two hours longer in Pasco than it does in St. Helena.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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