Doug Simmons, owner, and winemaker of Eleganté Cellars produces high quality, carefully handcrafted wines. His small lots showcase his wine making style, which is producing richer, smoother elegant wines for all to enjoy.
Cheryl Greentree (CG): 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?
Doug Simmons (DS): I graduated from WWCC, June 2006. I’m the winemaker and Principal of Eleganté Cellars. Founded and built Eleganté Cellars in the Spring of 2007. Doug can be contacted at the following: email@example.com or (509) 525-9129, winery telephone number.
CG: How did you get into wine?
DS: After 28 years of teaching Chemistry, Geometry, Physical Science, etc. at DeSales Catholic
High School in 2004, I retired with the idea that I would work part-time for a winery in Walla Walla during my spare time. Instead, I went back to college in 2004 at Walla Walla Community College and earned my AA degree in Viticulture and Enology. During this endeavor I caught the wine bug and decide to make my first wine in 2006 with the help and assistance of Five Star Cellars. I then contemplated, founded, designed, and built Eleganté Cellar in 2007, located in the Airport district.
CG: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
DS: I really admire Gary Figgins, founder, and winemaker of Leonetti Cellars. He helped start the wine industry in the Walla Walla Valley in 1970’s
CG: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
DS: I love sharing, visiting, and pouring, my fine wine with my guests at Eleganté Cellars. Also, it is a nice challenge each year to try to make great wines from a new crop of grapes.
CG: What is your favorite part of your job?
DS: I love meeting and pouring my elegant wine for our customers. It is great fun to hear their stories, backgrounds, and experiences. Our visitors arrive mainly form the Pacific Northwest but include many people from all over the United States and an occasional international traveler. I keep learning more and more about our great United States, its good, common people, their families, lives, and their relationships with fine wine.
CG: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
DS: Winemaking, operating and managing an active and dynamic winery is financially challenging. In the State of Washington alone, we have over 1,000 wineries. In the Walla Walla area, we have over 130 wineries. There is a lot of competition for wine buyers. Getting their attention and then encouraging them to travel to the Walla Walla Valley and visit Elegante’ Cellars is a monumental task.
CG: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
DS: Washington State can grow world class wine grapes, especially the European varietals. With these exceptional wine grapes, Washington State wineries have the ability, year after year, to make outstanding wines and in some years to make super, great, shake your bones, fine wine. Walla Walla Valley wines stand out, because of the special and unique soils, growing conditions, climates, and lots of love, have tremendous character, depth, smoothness, richness and breathe, just like a gorgeous, exhilarating sunset on a beautiful summer day.
CG: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
DS: With short term temperatures increasing and warmer Winter average temperatures rising, I foresee a few more warmer climate grape varietals being planted. My biggest concern with the warmer temperatures and tremendously mild harvest conditions that we have had over the last ten to fifteen years, is that we are getting lulled into believing that conditions will always be this way. In reality, the Walla Walla Valley can have some rough, cold damaging Winters and some early freezing weather in the Fall and late into Spring. We need to be prepared and plan ahead.
CG: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
DS: I believe we are moving toward more sophisticated, subtle, and complicated wines with a little lower alcohol level, a little less bite and greater depth of character.
CG: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
DS: Keep in mind, the important thing to understand is that your education in grapes and wines is just starting. Remember to really listen to others around you, your co-workers, other winemakers, growers, field hands, bosses, new wine drinkers, friends and even beer drinkers. Great ideas do sometimes come out of the mouths of babies. I always feel that I can learn something useful from anyone and everyone. Treat people with respect and dignity. Make the wine customer feel important, worthwhile, welcome and one of the family. Finally, work hard, give 100%, think ahead, lead by example, be positive, enjoy others success, be responsible, be honest, be friendly and thankful for the blessing that come your way.