Every Friday, we’re shining a light on a different farmer in Washington State. We hope you enjoy getting to know those who grow our grapes. They work around the clock to make our hours happy. This week, get to know Jared Funk, Viticulturist over at Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.
Washington Wine: How did you get into wine, and why Washington wine?
Jared Funk: When I was 3 years old, my parents started Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla. This allowed me to grow up around a winery and vineyards in Washington – whether it was helping sort fruit with my grandparents or helping to harvest our small vineyard at the winery when I was 6 years old. I realized during my teenage years that it was something I was passionate about and decided to pursue a formal education and career in enology and viticulture.
WW: What does work look like for you? What vineyard, winery, or type of work do you do most?
JF: Working as a viticulturist, my day generally involves getting my eyes on the different properties and blocks that we manage looking for pest pressure and tracking phenology dates. There are also a lot of odd jobs that need to get done in regards to biodiversity areas, keeping weeds under control, and various other things that keep the vineyards happy and healthy.
WW: What do you like most about wine work, and what’s most difficult about working in wine?
JF: My favorite thing about wine and viticulture work might happen to also be the most difficult thing as well. It can be summed up as “The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know.” I love that the learning never stops. There is always room for improvement and deeper understanding in both the vineyards and the winery. It keeps things challenging and exciting. The other difficult thing in this industry is how much patience it takes. For example, if you plant a vineyard this year, it may be 5 years before you can enjoy a bottle of wine from that vineyard.
WW: What’s one thing you love to do that has nothing to do with wine?
JF: Outside of the vine and wine world, I love to spend my time outdoors. Fly fishing and archery hunting are two passions of mine that unfortunately align with some busy times in this industry, but I still try to make time for. Hiking, rafting, camping, and foraging for mushrooms are other interests of mine in the great outdoors. In the winter, I watch a lot of basketball (Go Zags, Go Blazers!).
WW: What’s wine or grape excites you most? Or, what is one of your favorite or first Washington wines you had?
JF: I am really excited to see the Walla Walla Valley AVA continue to thrive and grow even more. It has been amazing to see it flourish the last couple decades, and my favorite part is the diversity of world class wines. Whether it is some of the best Merlot in the world coming from Sevein (Ferguson, Margarets, Seven Hills Vineyards), or the incredibly unique and equally amazing Syrah coming from the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. I may be biased.. but the Walla Walla Valley is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in another 20 years.
WW: How would you describe Washington wine in one word?
JF: Flourishing. It is already in an amazing place, and it is only getting better.
WW: Are there any changes that you see happening in Washington that excites you? Is there anything you wish would change in Washington?
JF: I am excited to see more emphasis on farming grapes in a sustainable manner. It is already beginning, and certifications like LIVE are doing a great job at helping vineyards get to that spot. As far as agriculture goes, I think that viticulture is one of the leading sectors in sustainable agriculture and a lot of winegrowers in Washington are a big factor in that.
This column is open to all grape farmers in Washington State. Are you a farmer, or do you work with one who you think would like to be featured in our Friday Farmer column? Reach out to Bretty Rawson, Digital Programs Manager at Washington Wine, at [email protected]. We’d love to shine a light on you, and all the work you do, to make Washington Wine what it is today.