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Fall 2009 Newsletter

Breathtaking 2007 Merlot Available December 4th

Densely packed, luscious flavors of ripe raspberries, currants, and Italian plums explode in the palate of our 2007 Merlot. Hints of cinnamon and flower petals mingle with touches of dark chocolate and earth. Rich, layered and concentrated, this plush Merlot finishes with a core of dark red fruits and a long, persistent, velvety texture.

As always, Winemaker Jean-François Pellet blended in small amounts of other varietals to increase the complexity of the wine. This stunning Merlot includes 4% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 growing season was perfect, giving us fully ripened, well balanced fruit.
Production is limited to around 1,500 cases.

Please don't miss out on this thrilling vintage. To purchase, call us at (509)525-6502, e-mail us at, or click here.

Tasting room price: $50 per 750 ml bottle.

Bridge Club price: $40 per 750 ml bottle.

From the Winegrower

2009 Harvest Update
After more than 70 years on this Earth, I rarely get surprised anymore. However, this year's harvest was like no other I have experienced. I guess that Mother Nature - just like my wife, my mother, my daughters and all the other strong women I have the pleasure of working with - is determined to keep me sharp and on my toes.

Around the second week of August, several different varieties of grapes started to ripen simultaneously, whereas normally there is some staggering. This led to around-the-clock winemaking and a crunch in the winery. For the first time ever, we were seriously concerned about having enough picking bins, tank space, and hands to sort the fruit. Our production crew worked long hours, and the rest of us pitched in as much as possible.

This intense period turned out to be a blessing in disguise, when just three weeks later, winter weather loomed. We were lucky enough to have all our fruit ripened and in the winery before the frost hit our blocks. The other piece of good news is that the cold snap was not harsh enough to cause damage to the structure of the vines. So, at this point, there is no need to worry about next year's harvest.

The quality of the grapes this year is fantastic! The fruit itself has great flavor with perfectly balanced sugars and acids. Furthermore, the seeds matured nicely, giving off a subtle nutty flavor.

Quality, Quality, Quality

The 2009 crush brought us a new tool in our never-ending quest for quality, a new Key Technology shaker/sorter table. As always, when the grapes are hand-harvested, they are sorted in the field prior to arriving to the winery. Now, once they arrive at the winery, they are sorted twice, rather than just once more.

Assistant Winemaker Tim Kerrigan (left side of table) welcomes the help of Partner Travis Goff, Amanda Marshall and Mariya Kovacheva (right side of table, back to front). Mariya and Amanda traveled from Palm Beach, FL to attend W2U, a hands-on educational conference for wine professionals.The new shaker/sorter table has two tables instead of just one. When the grapes arrive at the winery, we place them in a hopper.

This hopper allows the grapes to slowly drop down to the top table, which has a gentle vibration allowing the clusters to separate and advance. This separation helps us to remove any clusters that are not of optimum quality and any material other than grapes (leaves, etc.).

The clusters then move to the destemmer, which removes the grapes from the rachis (the rachis is the stem from the vine that feeds the grapes and which holds the cluster together). From the destemmer, the grapes flow to a second sorting table where we remove pieces of rachis. While the grapes are moving down the second table with vibration, they pass over a slotted, sieve-like area that separates debris such as leaves -- and shriveled berries.

This extra step of quality control is an exciting addition for us. Jean-François feels confident this new sorting tool will continue to heighten the quality of our wines.

Winery / Vineyard Visitors

W2U attendees gathered at Pepper Bridge Winery to taste 40 Cabernet Sauvignons from across the Walla Walla Valley. Michael Scheifler of Disney's Artist Point Resaurant in Lake Buena Vista, FL is pictured in the foreground.During crush this year, we hosted many visitors. In cooperation with other wineries across the state, we provided seminars, tours, tastings and entertainment for wine professionals from across the country.

 Two key events: Walla Walla University (W2U) and Washington Road Trip, gave us the opportunity to teach others about our wines and give backstage tours of our beloved valley.

We always enjoy sharing our world with you. Please visit us sometime soon... perhaps for Fall Release and Holiday Barrel Tasting?

Be sure to check out the rest of our newsletter below.

Norm McKibben


Having a champagne toast upon the arrival of the first load of grapes is a good-luck tradition at Pepper Bridge Winery. Winemaker Jean-François Pellet pours up some bubbly for Mariya Kovacheva (c) of Café Boulud and Amanda Marshall of The Breakers (r) before putting them to work.

Meet the Team: Tim Kerrigan

Tim Kerrigan, our Assistant Winemaker, was born and raised in Redmond, WA. He did not plan a career in making wine, but ironically enough, he grew up learning all about fermentation. Throughout his childhood, his father brewed beer and made various types of fruit wine at home.

Assistant Winemaker Tim KerriganTim graduated with a Bachelor's of Geology at the University of Montana before taking a job as a naturalist in Alaska, working on site-seeing cruise boats. After working for a couple of years touring Glacier Bay and living out of a suitcase, Tim decided that he would go back to school. He moved to Portland, OR, and took a job tending bar at The Edgefield, a McMenamin's property that has a brewery, distillery, and a winery on premises. Lucky for us, the folks in the winery quickly hijacked Tim, taking him from behind the bar and turning him into a cellar rat.

Tim joined the Pepper Bridge team in 2000, when the production team was comprised of only one person, Winemaker Jean-François Pellet. Today we have a winemaking team of 6 and our production has grown from 800 cases to almost 5,000.

After 13 years of winemaking, Tim still loves what he does. He considers himself part of a team of artisans, combining hard work, science, craftsmanship, and art to produce a quality product.

Outside the winery, Tim is busy with lots of hobbies and activities. In the summer he plays soccer, and in winter you'll find him backcountry skiing in the nearby Blue Mountains.

Tim continues to be a self-proclaimed rock geek, traveling with a copy of Roadside Geology on all vacations. He and his wife, Shannon, live in Walla Walla with a full house - two cats, two dogs, a big garden, and a fantastic collection of vinyl records. His knowledge of old jazz and blues music is vast. It is a good day when he provides the soundtrack for us at work.

Recent achievements:

Norm McKibben & Travis Goff

The Auction of Washington Wines, the Northwest's largest and most prestigious charity auction named Managing Partner Norm McKibben as its honorary grower alongside honorary winemaker, Master of Wine Bob Betz. The 2009 auction raised $1.5 million for Seattle Children's Hospital.

Master Sommeliers James Tidwell (l) and Drew Hendricks (r) enjoy a visit to Woodward Canyon Vineyard with Travis Goff (now a Certified Sommelier) this August. Drew and James are the founders of the TexSom conference.In other news, the Court of Master Sommeliers recently certified Partner Travis Goff as a sommelier. She passed a rigorous three-part exam consisting of a blind tasting of two wines, champagne service, and theory. Only 55% of applicants pass this test.

Travis was inspired to undertake the certification after attending TexSom, an annual conference that features tastings and in-depth classes taught by master sommeliers. For more information, visit

She found the studying, the practice and the Certified-level exam itself immensely challenging yet rewarding, with theory being the most difficult. "It really motivated me to study even harder," Travis says."

I highly recommend the Court to my colleagues as an avenue for deepening their wine knowledge, regardless of how far they want to go in the program." The Court consists of four levels: Introduction, Certified, Advanced, and Master. For more information, contact

Upcoming Events

This is one of our favorite times of year. Right around the corner, we have Fall Release and Holiday Barrel Tasting.

Fall Release (November 6-8): Please come taste our 2006 Reserve. As we only make 340 cases of this luxurious, Bordeaux-style blend, this is the ONLY time we will be offering samples of it in our tasting room.
Holiday Barrel Tasting (December 4-6): We will be releasing our 2007 Merlot and offering barrel samples of next year's releases. We hope to see you!

Holiday Hors d'oeuvres (December 4 ): Bridge Club members, please RSVP for this festive annual gathering. As usual, Jean-François is keeping mum about what special Pepper Bridge vintages he will pour. We do know that our wines will be complemented by live music and Andrae Bopp's exquisite catering.

For a complete list of winery events, click here.

In the Press

  • ­On the site, writer Nick Passmore says Managing Partner Norm McKibben's life story is "wonderfully emblematic of the entrepreneurial, make-it-up-as-we-go-along spirit that pervades the young Washington wine industry, a region that has producing some of the most exciting new wine being made anywhere."
  • ­­Author Paul Gregutt profiled Winemaker Jean-François Pellet in the Seattle Times, tracing his steps from Switzerland to Walla Walla. In the article, he says "[Jean-François'] focus is on that elusive, expressive complexity that comes from an intimate knowledge of your vineyards. In French, it's called terroir." Praising his winemaking style, Gregutt continues: "Working with just two vineyards - Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills - Pellet can reach for details that are easily lost when too many grape sources, grapes that are too ripe, maceration that goes on too long, too much new oak, etc. impact the winemaking."
  • ­Our 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon received a 91 from Wine Enthusiast, who describes the wine as "a lovely, sweet floral top note over some chocolate accents, and then come the berries; the layering is beautifully done." The San Francisco Chronicle recommended this "muscular" wine to its readers as well. Wine & Spirits scored the wine with a 93. The Wine Advocate gave it score of 90+, describing it as "supple, savory and textured."
  • Our 2006 Merlot nabbed a score of 90 points from Wine Enthusiast, who told its readers that the wine has a "lovely floral top note to the aromas, anise, some cocoa, and a pleasing dusty character."
  • Wine & Spirits also gave a pair of 94 scores to our two Bridge Club exclusive wines, the 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard and the 2006 Pepper Bridge Vineyard. Furthermore, Wine Enthusiast named the Seven Hills Vineyard blend as the Editor's Choice with a score of 93. The Wine Advocate gave the Seven Hills a 92 and the Pepper Bridge a 93.

To order the wines mentioned, click here. Or... as always, feel free to call us at (509)525-6502.

Membership in the Bridge Club is free, and it offers many benefits, including a 20% discount on purchases. For more details on the club, click here.