The below interview is a part of our Alumni Series, featuring winemakers who graduated from the Walla Walla Community College V&E Program. Enjoy the conversation below between current V&E Student Salvador Jimenez and Robert Gomez of Hoquetus Wine Co.
Salvador Jimenez: How did you get into wine?
Robert Gomez: I got into wine through service. I was a professional musician before and like all touring musicians was required by law to have a bartending job. I started getting more and more passionate about wine as I went along my beverage-y path, started studying wine and eventually decided to pursue winemaking full-time.
SJ: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
RG: Don’t know where to begin, there are many! Regarding EV alums, I can’t help but think about how much I love what Elizabeth Bourcier has accomplished and what she continues to do at Cayuse and La Rata. Also, Keith Johnson at Devium is doing great things. And my former classmate Kelsey Itamari is also killing it right now at itä just to name a few.
SJ: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
RG: This industry is never not interesting so there’s never a dull moment! 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.
SJ: What is your favorite part of your job?
RG: My favorite part of the job is when I open a bottle of wine that people find delicious and pleasurable. I remember Christophe Baron from Cayuse saying he sold “pleasure” and that’s exactly what wine should be.
SJ: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
RG: Hoquetus was born at a very tumultuous time. Covid, wildfires, heat waves, economic uncertainty, you name it. There’s been no shortage of challenges that’s for sure, but Hoquetus is still going, and I hope, ready to meet the next challenge which by my watch should be any day now.
SJ: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
RG: What excites me the most is the future. More and more growers and producers are embracing different varieties, training methods and styles that are making things very dynamic and interesting. Washington is really finding its voice and is producing some of its best expressions right now!
SJ: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
RG: There’s no doubt climate change and social issues have had and will continue to have a profound effect on the industry. What worked previously is going to have to be reexamined as there will need to be substantial changes in not only grape growing and wine production but in how we approach sustainability. Sustainability which not only includes environmental factors but also important social factors as well including racial and sexual diversity and equality. All of us in the industry need to put in the work to make real positive change happen and to have an industry that not only better reflects our community but also looks to improve that community.
SJ: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
RG: I try not to follow trends too much, but I am definitely a fan of recent shifts to wines that are more about freshness, lower alcohol and less influence of oak as well as more transparency in grape growing and production.
SJ: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
RG: Never stop improving your palate and never stop being a student.