Marcus Rafanelli is a Seattle native, who had never been to Walla Walla before August of 2006. He has a B.S. in Biology from Boise State University and is a graduate of the Enology and Viticulture Program at the Walla Walla Community College. Marcus is also an active member of the Washington Wine Technical Group and holds a place on the Advisory Board of the WWCC EV Program, where in December of 2022 he was elected to Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board.
After graduating in 2008, he returned to the west side area where he made wine for a boutique Woodinville-based winery for six years. In 2014 he decided it was time to travel, while he was still young. Working at Two Hands in Australia for only three months and having never gone on an extended vacation, there were no regrets spending all his wages from that harvest and some of his savings on this trip, it was life changing! “We rented a camper van for 65 days and went on an 8000-mile road trip from Perth to Sydney. When I got back, I had 6 weeks in Seattle before heading to Europe in late August. Heather (my wife) and I backpacked around Europe for a month, and I started at Dr. Loosen on Sep 29th.” Loosen is a wine producer located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany.
After harvest, and searching for jobs, he reached out to Tim Donahue (former Director of the EV Program), and in August of 2016, Marcus took the role of Instructional Technician at WWCC and Cellarmaster at College Cellars. Tim knew that Marcus would eventually leave the school at some point, that time came with Tim’s blessing when Marcus applied for the L’Ecole job he holds today.
Marcus is one of the most sincere and genuine people I have met in the wine industry to date. He loves what he does, and he’s worked very hard to get there.
Lizzy Sherry: 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?
LS: How did you get into wine?
MR: I was working at a restaurant in Boise while studying Biology and Botany at BSU. The restaurant owner was big into staff wine education, so I got to participate in tastings and wine events. It was fun to try and pair wines with food and cheeses and from there I was hooked.
LS: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
MR: Myles Anderson and Stan Clarke. They both are responsible for getting me into the industry and getting me on the right path to be a winemaker. I also feel fortunate to work with and learn from Marty Clubb, he is a true wine legend. Also, lucky to work with Sadie Drury (EV Grad ’09) who grows our estate fruit.
LS: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
MR: We get to create something that is always evolving, and you only get to one chance a year to make it.
LS: What is your favorite part of your job?
MR: Sharing wines with friends and family over a nice meal.
LS: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?
MR: Long hours, low wages, no benefits. Getting back into Washington wine after traveling in 2014.
LS: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
MR: That we have such a unique growing region that we can properly ripen around 75 different grape varieties. We are still a young wine region, and we have lots of experimentation going on. We also have a collaborative spirit where we help our fellow wineries and vineyards.
LS: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
MR: Weather events are more extreme and sporadic, but there is not much we can do about it. Labor shortages are going to be tough to weather and need to give our winery and vineyard workers good living wages and benefits.
LS: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
MR: The toast levels in oak have been an interest to me since my trip to France in 2019. I am always running toasting trials at the winery to see what works best with our fruit.
LS: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
MR: Help keep the collaborative spirit of the industry going forward, get involved with different organizations (Walla Walla Wine Alliance, Washington Wine Growers, Washington Wine Commission, Washington Wine Institute, Association of Women in Washington Wine, Washington Wine Technical Group.) Be true to who you are and make what you feel best, do not try to be like everyone else.
LS: If you could change one thing about the wine industry, what would you change?
MR: There would be no more stuck ferments…..