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Wine with dinner inspired Islander | On Wine

Anna Schafer, a native Islander, is the winemaker for àMaurice Cellars in Walla Walla. The winery was a longtime family dream. - Contributed Photo
Anna Schafer, a native Islander, is the winemaker for àMaurice Cellars in Walla Walla. The winery was a longtime family dream.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

Our relatively small community has fostered the development of seven winemakers and/or winery owners. Six are Washington wineries, and one is in Napa Valley in California.

First in this series is Anna Schafer, who is the winemaker for àMaurice Cellars in Walla Walla.  Schafer lived on the Island from infancy, attending Lakeridge Elementary, Islander Middle School and Mercer Island High School.  She graduated in 1997. Her parents still live on the Island in the same home that they built in 1980.

Schafer grew up with wine as a constant on the family dining table.

“It was at this table that we most talked about starting a winery,” said Schafer. “We needed to make wines to complement my mom’s amazing cooking.”

Having visited 36 countries and worked harvest in Argentina, Schafer feels that she brings a world perspective to her winemaking.  Seattle Magazine featured her among the Top New Winemakers.

The winery is a family operation that began in 2004. Tom Schafer, Anna’s father, is the general manager. The winery is named after Anna’s paternal grandfather, Maurice Schafer, a Pacific Northwest timber baron. The design for the distinctive black and white label bears Maurice’s signature. The Schafers are fifth-generation Washingtonians.

Anna Schafer sources from the Columbia Valley for her viognier, chardonnay, syrah, malbec and red blend. From the winery’s own vineyards in the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla, she has estate wines of viognier, syrah, malbec, cabernet and a red blend.

àMaurice wines have received many awards and accolades, including the 2007 Horiuchi red blend 94 from Wine and Spirits and the Wine Enthusiast; and 2005 Columbia Valley malbec, “the finest malbec in the US,” Steven Tanzer.

2006 Columbia Valley chardonnay and 2006 Columbia Valley viognier were winners of the 2007 Seattle Magazine awards.

2005 Columbia Valley “The Callahan” red blend was a winner of the 2008 Seattle Magazine awards.

I have been heartened to see many wineries embracing sustainability. àMaurice  is among them. Ken Hart, the vineyard manager, has been a longtime advocate of sustainable viticulture. He designed the vineyard to optimize the sun and wind patterns. Soils manager Rick Turnbull constantly monitors water levels and nutrient composition. àMaurice is a charter member of Vinea, an alliance of Walla Walla wineries and vineyards which adhere to strict guidelines of sustainable viticulture.

When Schafer talks about her wines, the family dining room table is foremost in her mind.

“My foremost interest is in creating extraordinary wines that are compelling companions to food. Social bonds are forged over meals, putting great wine and great cuisine at the center of special moments,” she said. Apparently, restaurants agree. Her wines are on the list at The French Laundry in Napa and Per Se in New York.

The àMaurice tasting room is located at 178 Vineyard Lane in Walla Walla. Hours are on Saturday from 10:30 to 4:30 or by appointment. Call (509) 522-5444 for information.

Dee Hitch can be reached at rockypointlane@aol.com.

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