I interviewed Tyler Morrison, assistant winemaker at L’Ecole No 41. We discussed everything from what initiated him getting into the wine industry to what he enjoys most about working in the wine industry and then to his advice for future students getting into the wine industry.
Sophie Martin: 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?
Tyler Morrison: Graduated Class of 2018. Currently Assistant Winemaker at L’Ecole No 41 Winery. No social media but can always reach me at email@example.com or (509)525-0940 ext. 125.
SM: How did you get into wine?
TM: I started in wine at 18 right after graduating high school. My background is wheat farming. My family runs a farm just north of town and we would work there all year round, especially harvest times. I did enjoy that work but there were no opportunities and wanted to try a more craft form of agriculture.
SM: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
TM: I am fortunate to work with a lot of great industry professionals. I admire the ones that listen to new ideas and practices. Marty Clubb has done so much for WWCC and the wine industry nationally that of course he has to be on my list. He has a deeper understanding of this industry than most will ever get to know and continually does the right thing for people and the planet. Marcus Rafanelli is a great teacher and even better friend. He was my professor at WWCC and taught me everything. Now we get to work together and continue to teach with our internships and program outreach.
SM: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
TM: It’s fun making a product that you get to watch from the beginning and see how it ages and develops. Blending, aging, oak influence, fermentation temp, yeast selection, etc… All of these tools we have to make a wine unique makes it worth coming back every day.
SM: What is your favorite part of your job?
TM: Logistics- I like the puzzle that a winery can be. From harvest to blending to bottling, that dance of how to be most efficient is something I really enjoy.
SM: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
TM: There are everyday challenges in the wine industry. I feel I have to always be on top of things and learning because of some of the things that always pop up unexpectedly. From smoke taint to HVAC repairs this job is always throwing curveballs and the only solution is to keep coming back and learn from those mistakes.
SM: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
TM: I enjoy that Washington wine can stand up among others. Some of my favorite Washington wines are the ones that grow in the most desolate places. We have a unique geology with scablands, erosion and canyons. Being able to use this land is more sustainable and a great use of the land for soil retention.
SM: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
TM: Climate change is already affecting us here. I think we are adapting as best we can but long term we may need to introduce new training methods or new varieties to combat some sites. We do have a lot of variance in climates here especially in Walla Walla. I have loved the quality of our high elevation vineyard sites and wonder if more new plantings will try to follow.
The industry here in Washington has been very active in social change even before I began my career. We take a lot of pride here to be an equal opportunity employer that is committed to diversity and inclusion.
SM: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
TM: Sustainability is a key one that we are advancing towards. California is far ahead of Washington on this but we don’t have as many challenges as they do. Nevertheless we have to make these plans a reality. Our core values are do no harm, resource conservation, limit risks and sustainability. Being a good company that treats people and the planet right are something we strive for every day.
SM: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
TM: The industry is what you make it to be. Always be experimenting, trialing and learning. Make wines you want to make. There is no right or wrong way to make a wine.