Steve Wells lives in Walla Walla and is the owner and winemaker at Time and Direction. We will be talking about their specific path and the role that the EV program at WWCC helped them on their personal journey.
Francis Kulaga: 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?
Steve Wells: Graduated May of 2016, currently employed at Kontos Cellars as tasting room associate and owner/winemaker at Time & Direction. @timeanddirectionwines on IG. firstname.lastname@example.org
FK: How did you get into wine?
SW: I started out waiting tables in NYC but knew absolutely nothing about wine. I was aware of the existence of merlot and chardonnay and that was about it. I quickly realized that selling a more expensive bottle of wine got you a bigger tip so my initial interest in wine was purely financial. Then I started to really like it and began teaching new servers about wine through weekly classes at the restaurant where I worked. Then I began to move into management positions and then eventually took over beverage programs and found my way to becoming a certified sommelier.
FK: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
SW: My mentor Laura Fiorvanti, MS was a huge help. I really love our wine community in Walla Walla. Everyone is so giving and helpful with their time and knowledge and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
FK: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
SW: Being in complete and total control of all aspects of the creative process has been extremely freeing for me. Not that I’m a huge control freak but not having to answer to anyone is pretty amazing.
FK: What is your favorite part of your job?
SW: Being able to open up a bottle to share with people but then to also look at that bottle and say “I made that.” It feels pretty great when people appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice you go through as well.
FK: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
SW: Is “global pandemic” too much of an easy out? The biggest challenge is probably learning to take things as they come and be adaptable to change. Harvest time is a time in a constant state of flux. It takes a lot of patience and the ability to throw out your entire plan for something and start over when something might not work out the way you thought.
FK: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
SW: The creativity and willingness to try different things. There are a lot of winemakers trying different varieties and techniques that aren’t the tried and true standards and a lot of us have the freedom to do that and not be tried down to some of the conventions that other wine regions might have to adhere to.
FK: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
SW: The old boys club mentality of the old guard needs to go away. We need to realize that younger generations are starting to drink and they aren’t necessarily going for wine and certainly not bottles that are stuffy and cost three figures per bottle.
FKl: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
SW: As a rule, I don’t like to follow trends. I once had a distributor friend of mine insist that I needed to make orange wine because I could sell a lot of it and make tons of money. I flat out told him that sounded like the most soulless thing I could ever possibly do. I make wines that I like and if other people happen to like them too, then that’s great. If they don’t, no big deal.
FK: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
SW: This may sound cliched, but stay true to yourself. Listen to what your gut tells you and do that. Accept outside advice humbly but then feel good about discarding it just as easily. You’re going to get lots of unsolicited advice and if it doesn’t follow your vision, don’t do it.