We graduated into wine.

“What excites me the most is the future.”

— Robert Gomez, Hoquetus Wine Co.

In 2022 and 2023, Washington Wine published interviews between current students of the Viticulture & Enology program at the Walla Walla Community College and alums who are now working in the Walla Walla Valley. The result? A total of 33 conversations that each tell a different tale: about their paths into wine, what they find most exciting about Washington Wine right now, as well as words of advice for the next gen of graduates. Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite moments from the series, but make sure to visit them in full here.

We graduated into wine: 32 conversations with V&E alums
  • “Making wine is one of the most challenging and humbling endeavors there is and I love this constant journey of discovery that wine has made possible. I got into wine through service; I was a professional musician before.” Robert Gomez, Hoquetus Wine Co.
  • “I like being surrounded by plants all day, also when working in the vineyard I listen to podcasts and books on tape, last year there were about 19 books. Aside from that, just being able to see the grapes that go into the wines and taste them showing through is very rewarding.” Sager Small, Woodward Canyon
  • “I love being outside and working with a team. I love harvest and tending to the machinery, that first day when the fermentations really start kicking off and the winery smells like new fermentations, there’s so much to love. I admire especially all the female winemakers in Walla Walla who came before me, paving the way and breaking down barriers for other women to feel welcomed in this field.” Laura Detwiler, Garrison Creek Cellars
  • “Winemaking isn’t so much a job, but a way of life.” Keith Johnson, Devium Wines
  • “Winemaking and grape growing is an expanding industry with new practices and methods coming out every year on how to better your farming methods and how to get the best quality of wine in your glass. It isn’t your typical 9-5 job and you will be wet and have dirt on your shoes but after going on 21 years of doing it I still love it.” Blake Hintz, Saviah Cellars
  • I think we have a freedom to create that is unmatched. You can plant in unknown territory, try new varieties, anything you dream can be done. In other areas of the world, you have to seek permission to plant new acreage, or even permission to plant certain varieties or clones.” Devyani Gupta, Valdemar Estates
  • “No one will ever know everything about wine: the varietals, the farming, the growing areas, production. There is so much to learn and no one is truly an expert.” Elizabeth Bourcier, Cayuse Vineyards
  • “I love that I get to use so many different parts of my brain and personality. It’s pretty cool to one day be clean, in a dress hanging out on a beautiful sunny patio pouring wine for people, and the next be covered in dirt on a crush pad blasting music doing rewarding, physical tasks. It’s so fun to constantly engage all those different skills, and see how they ultimately connect in their different ways.”Eva Hixson, Alton Wines
  • “We get to create something that is always evolving, and you only get to one chance a year to make it.” Marcus Rafanelli, L’Ecole No. 41
  • “Don’t be afraid to get as much experience as you can. Travel if you can, as much as you can! Never stop searching for more knowledge, as well as sharing it where you can.” Toby Turlay, Ducleaux Cellars
We graduated into wine