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Fall 2008 Newsletter

Go ahead...?have another glass of wine.

You're not seeing double.

This holiday season - for the first time ever - we will celebrate the release of two wines.

Without further hesitation - we are pleased to introduce our 2006 Merlot & 2005 Reserve.

2006 Merlot carries on tradition...

The 2006 Merlot falls right in step with our highly acclaimed, previous vintages. This plush, sophisticated wine is densely packed with luscious, intense flavors of ripe currants, black cherries and Italian plum. Hints of Asian spices and floral notes mingle with touches of chocolate mousse, nutmeg, cinnamon and earth scents. Rich, layered and concentrated, it finishes with a smooth, refined elegance.

This is our first offering from the 2006 vintage. The wines from this harvest year have terrific fruit intensity, show great natural acidity and are beautifully balanced. As always, production is quite limited. We only made about 1,500 cases of this wine. To order, click here or please see below. (Official release date: 12/5/08; Price: $50 or $40 for Bridge Club members)

...and the 2005 Reserve starts a new one!

The 2005 Reserve marks the beginning of a new line of wines. This wine represents Jean-François's best blend from our estate vineyards and is comprised of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34 % Merlot, 6% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. This Bordeaux-style blend pays homage to the winemaking traditions of France but is unmistakably Walla Walla through and through.
This generous, rich, and smooth wine is crafted around copious dark fruit flavors. Aromas of black cherries, black currant, blueberries, spices, cloves, and nuances of chocolate create a very complex, very pleasing nose. This expansive wine offers an incredible blend of power and finesse with a long and persistent finish. In 2005, Mother Nature provided us with a stellar harvest, among the very best in the history of this winery.
We only made 310 cases of this thrilling wine. To order, click here or please see below. (Official release date: 11/7/08; Price: $75 or $60 for Bridge Club members)

How to order

Don't miss out on these exciting wines. If you can't make it to Walla Walla to visit with us in person, we have other options available. To make a purchase, call us at 509-525-6502, e-mail us at, or click here.

Tasting Room Manager Lisa Schmidt, Managing Partner Norm McKibben and Assistant Winemaker Tim Kerrigan sample the latest vintages in our winery's tasting room.

Pepper Bridge named best wine, top American winery

Wine writers from around the world continue to enthusiastically recommend our wines to their readers. We are filled with gratitude and excited to share some breaking news from Wine & Spirits Magazine's 22nd Annual Buying Guide. In this guide, they applaud us four times by:

1. Naming the Pepper Bridge 2005 Merlot the best Merlot of the year from the United States. Some of you may remember that they also bestowed this honor upon us a few years back, for the 2001 vintage. (Note: The 2005 Merlot was also recommended as a top bottle by Wine Enthusiast, Food & Wine, Northwest Palate and Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm.)

2. Giving our 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard blend a score of 95, which was their second-highest Bordeaux-style blend of the year. (Note: This wine is available to Bridge Club Members only. Not yet a member? Interested in becoming one? Please see below for details.)

3. Listing Pepper Bridge as a top U.S. winery. "Pellet and McKibben, with their partners the Goff family, have maintained their focus at Pepper Bridge.... We tasted six releases from Pepper Bridge this past year that scored 92 or higher."

4. Recognizing Tom Waliser, manager of Pepper Bridge Vineyard, as the top viticulturist from Washington. "Waliser's level of commitment to his farming practice clearly inspires his peers."

In a previous edition of Wine & Spirits, our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was praised as well. The magazine gave it a score of 93 and called it "fine, generous and elegant." Wine Enthusiast also gave it 93 points and will be recommending it in its December Buying Guide. (Price: $55 or $44 for Bridge Club members)

Furthermore, the San-Francisco Chronicle listed it as one the top wines it tasted, and Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate gave it a score of 90, calling it "supple and quite rich."

Meet the Team: Tom Waliser

Wine & Spirits Magazine's Washington State Viticulturist of the Year, Tom Waliser, is a longtime member of the Pepper Bridge team. In fact, he was a part of team before the winery was even built. Managing Partner Norm McKibben first recruited Tom to manage his apple orchards and then sought his help when he planted Pepper Bridge Vineyard. To this day, he still manages this highly acclaimed site that surrounds our winery.

Pepper Bridge Vineyard Manager Tom Waliser (r) and Winemaker Jean-François Pellet pause for a photo in the vineyard. Tom was recognized as a top viticulturist by Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Formerly a horticulturist, Tom has farming in his blood. His family has grown apples and other types of tree fruit in the Walla Walla area since the early 1930s. The transition to grapes seemed like a natural one for him, as he immediately displayed an intuitive grasp of concepts such as canopy and irrigation management. Tom realized early on how important it was for him to work in concert with winemakers and to share ideas with other viticulturists. Winemakers and wine growers across the state began to turn to him for his expertise.

Tom firmly believes in sustainable viticulture, and he focuses his efforts on soil health as a means to healthier, stronger vines and better quality fruit. He played a key role in forming VINEA, the Walla Walla Valley's Sustainable Trust and in gaining certifications for our estate vineyards from Salmon Safe, LIVE and the IOBC.

Enjoy a free membership to the Bridge Club

If you love our wines, you should really consider joining the Bridge Club, which is our very own wine club. Membership is free.

The wines in the last four shipments have all received a score of 92 or higher.

(To the left) Julia Russell (l) and Sarah Scarborough enjoy a glass of wine at Holiday Hors d'Oeurves, which is a party we throw every December exclusively for Bridge Club members and their guests.

Membership in the Bridge Club offers many benefits. As a member, you will receive:

  • Up to three bottles of estate-bottled wine four times per year at a 20% discount. Additional purchases of current vintage wines and wine-related items will also reflect a 20% discount. This discount also includes large- format bottles.
  • Wines made exclusively for our club members that are not available to the general public.
  • Advance notification of any library wines or limited-release wines as they become available.
  • Private tours of the winery and our two internationally acclaimed estate vineyards, Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills. (Appointments required.)
  • Complimentary tastings in our tasting room.
  • Invitations to private parties, where you will find fantastic Pepper Bridge wines, excellent food, great entertainment and fun times. Our next party is Friday, December 5 (Holiday Hors d'Oeurves).
  • No annual fee and no cancellation charge.

Again, there is no cost to become a Bridge Club member. Interested in joining? Simply want more details? Contact Lisa Schmidt at 509-525-6502 or You may also sign up online here.

Raptors at home in vineyard

A key component of sustainable viticulture is encouraging nature to stay in balance.

Raptors (like this red-tailed hawk, pictured to the right) are our friends because they hunt vineyard pests such as rodents and snakes.

This spring, we installed three wooden nesting perches in Pepper Bridge Vineyard to make them feel more welcome.

Calendar of Events: 2008

November 6-9 Fall Release: 2005 Reserve

December 4 3rd Annual Walla Walla Winemakers Fête

December 5 Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres (RSVP required: or 509-525-6502.

December 5 Holiday Release: 2006 Merlot

December 5-7 Holiday Barrel Tasting

For more details and a complete list of upcoming events, click here.

From the Wine Grower

Norm McKibbenAfter 100-degree weather the first week in June and snow almost down to the valley floor on June 30, the vines and the vineyard managers were wondering what would happen next in this seemingly bizarre growing season. What happened was we had one of the driest summers in years and the perfect weather for the grapes. Harvest s

tarted a couple of weeks later than usual in the middle of September, and as I write this article on October 13 we are more than 70% finished.

Jean-François and I were talking this week with some special visitors, some winery people from Banfi (Tuscany) and Concho y Toro (Chile), who had heard the buzz about the Walla Walla Valley and wanted to taste the grapes and check out the region for themselves. Because Jean-François has made wine in many places other than Walla Walla, they asked him for his thoughts about winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley compared to other wine growing regions, such as Napa.

Jean-François said that what has him very excited is that our wines get better every year as the vines get more age and we learn more about which varietals grow best in which areas of the valley. As great as the wines are today, Jean-François feels we are still in our infancy and sees nothing but continued improvement in the years ahead.

This is quite a statement when Wine & Spirits Magazine's Annual Buyers Guide named our 2005 Merlot as the best Merlot and our Seven Hills blend as the second best Bordeaux-style blend they tasted this year from the United States.