Matt and Kelly Austin made their bold move into the wine industry five years ago when they left California and their respective careers as a tax attorney and a fashion designer for Washington state.

But their journey became more daring than a career change with a winning bid a year and a half ago on a winery, vineyard and lodging property off the Old Milton Highway.

“That kind of fast-tracked all our plans,” Matt Austin said.

Today, at the launch of the Spring Release wine tasting tradition, they open Grosgrain Vineyards for the first time.

Their wines reflect an equally bold step — a focus on uncommon Italian varieties, which they make into sparkling wines, whites, rosés and lighter bodied reds.

“It’s a lot of what we like to drink on our own,” Kelly Austin said.

And it’s a niche not that deeply explored yet in Washington state, they said.

Located at 2158 Half Acre Lane, Grosgrain Vineyards is the property formerly known as Sole Rosso.

First envisioned as a destination winery with a vacation rental, amphitheater and estate vineyard, the previous operation closed after many years of development. For the Austins, the foundation was in place for their own version, which has included moving what was lower floor wine production space at the previous vacation house and winery into its own building that ties to the tasting room through the covered crush pad.

The four-bedroom, four-bathroom vacation rental, which overlooks the terraced property, stands alone at the complex.

The hilltop Old Milton Vineyard at a 785-foot elevation carries two acres of Nebbiolo and Aglianico that were existing plantings when they bought the land. Last year they added Grenache and Carignane.

They also have sights on Xarel-lo and Macabeo plantings. Cava lovers will recognize the names as two key grapes made in the Spanish sparking wine.

The pair are also planting at SeVein across the state line. Their 12 acres are said to be the first development on the south side of the mountain.

Just three days before the noon opening today, much construction remained to complete the tasting room. Among the fog of tools and crew members, the vision for a comfortable and welcoming space was taking shape.

“We want it to be like coming into our house — not a fussy tasting room,” Matt Austin said.

Wines will be poured over a wooden countertop, opposite of a stone-covered fireplace flanked by furnishings. From the design to the wine, the operation blends the expertise of both of them, they said.

Kelly Austin, a Seattle native, met her husband in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to raise our kids in the Pacific Northwest,” she said.

So they relocated. Matt Austin studied enology at South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy and then trained in Woodinville. With a move to Walla Walla, he became cellar master at Dunham Cellars.

“On that side of the state you’re pretty far removed from the vineyards,” he said. “This was really the perfect opportunity for going off on my own.”

Although his vineyards were being redeveloped, he sourced out grapes and crushed 33 tons last year for production of about 1,800 cases.

The goal is to become a largely estate operation with sustainable practices and wines that don’t use a lot of new oak.

They’ve worked to build momentum for their brand — an homage to Kelly Austin’s previous design work with the name known for a corded fabric — through social media and participation in Taste Washington and other events.

“It’s been fun to exercise our creative powers in a different way,” Matt Austin said.

Grosgrain Vineyards operates noon-5 p.m. today. Hours of operation will be Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment.

 

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

Recommended for you