Walla Walla’s Bubbly Monstera: an interview with Laura Detwiler of Garrison Creek Cellars by William Stewart

Laura Detwiler is the Production Winemaker at Garrison Creek Cellars in Walla Walla, WA where she has worked at ever since her internship there in 2009. Garrison Creek Cellars is a small production of about 1,250 cases/year with a winemaking team of 3 and a general manager who oversees the winery. During my time as a tasting room associate I was fortunate enough to become good friends with everyone that worked there due to the small size of the production. Laura exemplified her love for monsteras by answering any questions I might have, teaching me about the methods and decisions made by the winemaking team, and sharing her experiences in wine and life which has helped me in my own journey in the industry and life but also taught me more about her as a friend and person. I am grateful to have gotten to know her, and everyone at GCC, during my time there and am happy to call her and them all friends.

William Stewart: Can you please update me on some basic information, including your date of graduation from the EV program, current employer and position, social media handles, and preferred contact details?

Laura Detwiler: Production Winemaker, Garrison Creek Cellars, class of 2010.

WS: How did you get into wine?

LD: When I was in culinary school, I got a scholarship to go to Italy for a week for a Corso Breve Italian cooking class. There were seven of us chosen from all over the country. We’d pile into a bus every day and go on field trips, learning about the different foods that are the specialty of the region (Piedmont). I was introduced to Barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Moscato and the concept of food and wine pairings there. Working in kitchens is brutal work and the idea of pursuing wine production piqued my interest. When I got back, I finished my culinary degree, moved to Walla Walla, and enrolled in enology and viticulture classes.

WS: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?

LD: Yes! Too many to count. 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.

WS: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?

LD:  It’s such a unique industry, I don’t know of anything quite like it. Galileo said, “wine is sunlight, held together by water”. What other product out there, can you eat or drink it and know where it was grown just from the flavor? It is just fascinating.

WS: What is your favorite part of your job?

LD: 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.

WS: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?

LD: As a middle-class, educated white person, I can’t say that I’ve faced many challenges in general. A source of frustration was getting people to believe that I knew what I was talking about-when I graduated, I was only 22. As a very young woman in a role traditionally occupied by older men, it took some patience and persistence to convince folks that I worked in production at all.

WS: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?

LD: There’s so much untapped potential here. The industry is still relatively new in this state, and there’s still so much to learn about how to excel here.

WS: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?

LD: This worries me. Racism, poor treatment of farm workers, bad immigration policies and the effects they are already having on our industry need our attention. The labor pool for vineyard work is small and shrinking fast. Mechanization of vineyard management and labor reforms are going to be serious topics of conversation.

WS: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?

LD: You know me, I’m always interested in what’s happening in the world of sparkling wine! As the climate changes, production of sparkling wine is going to be possible in new and different places that were previously considered to be too cool to work. Like England!

WS: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?

LD:  Find a great mentor, stay humble, listen, and learn then pay it forward. One of my favorite plants is called Monstera Deliciosa. It climbs up trees-the leaves that get the most sunlight develop holes in them called fenestrations, to allow extra sunlight and water to trickle down to the leaves below that don’t have as many resources. May we all be more like a Monstera!

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