Matt Reilly is a WWCC EV Alumni and co-founder/co-winemaker at Prospice in Walla Walla, WA. This is our conversation on how an architect swaps out blueprints for punch downs while chasing balance, in the bottle.
Dorian Williams: Could you update some basic information, like the date of graduation from the EV program, current employer/position, social media handles, and preferred contact details?
Matt Reilly: Class of 2016
@prospicewines – Instagram
DW: OK so how did you get into wine?
MR: My parents were always huge wine consumers, collectors, aficionados, so wine was always present and a topic of conversation. When I moved to Spokane in 2007, I quickly found myself falling off the deep end into all things wine. I visited Barrister Winery and joined my first wine club, started going to tasting events at every opportunity, and traveling to Walla Walla all in my first year in WA. By 2011 I knew that I wanted to make the transition from architecture into wine.
DW: Is there someone in the EV world that you admire, including fellow EV alums?
MR: Brandon Moss. He is a good friend and I worked for him at Gramercy for 2 1/2 years. He is the same age as me, has accomplished so much, and had a focused drive towards wine from an early stage. He started at Gramercy right out of school and worked hand in hand with Greg Harrington to build Gramercy into a highly regarded/respected winery, not to mention one of my favorites. Beyond that, there are so many people in the wine industry, like ourselves, who have left behind successful careers to pursue their passion in wine. I admire and respect them all for taking the plunge.
DW: What’s special to you about working in the wine industry?
MR: I love crafting and making something tangible that can be shared with others. In architecture school we always talked about the “art of making” and to me this is a very pure form of that.
DW: What is your favorite part of your job?
MR: The camaraderie we have with other wineries in the industry. We share customers, share wine, share stories, and have a good time catching up with good food and drinks. Tasting wine is always a plus and harvest is exhilarating, but I find that I feed off customer interactions. Whether in the tasting room or out in the market, I pull a lot of energy and enjoyment from sharing wine, talking about wine, and sharing our story.
DW: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while in the industry?
MR: Time. Launching a business in this industry requires a lot of time and attention around the clock and it can be difficult to find balance.
DW: What do you think differentiates and excites you about Washington wine?
MR: We have an incredible climate for producing so many wines at a world class level. The fact that we work with so many varieties can be dumbfounding to winemakers from other regions, but we have so many micro-climates that suit themselves to an array of varieties. And there are surely still more areas and micro-climates that are untapped and waiting to be explored.
DW: How do you foresee climate change or social issues affecting the local industry in the next few years?
MR: The world around us is constantly evolving and you must stay nimble and have the ability to adapt. Consumers are taking a growing interest in the where, how, and why behind the products they are purchasing. You need to be thoughtful about what you are doing, stay true to who you are, and be open about it. Authenticity is key.
The climate aspect is interesting and difficult. It is unquestionable that the climate is changing. In an industry that is agriculture based, we are at the whim of Mother Nature, and we will have to be attentive, thoughtful, and on top of growing practices every year. You must be able to assess and adapt on the fly. You can’t be stuck in the mentality of “that’s the way we have always done things”. We have already seen some instances of this in past vintages, but ability to adapt to climate change, and difficult weather patterns associated with it, will begin to separate good wine makers from the rest.
DW: What are some up-and-coming trends in wine that you’re following?
MR: Bubbles and sustainability. We love bubbles but we will only make it when we can find the right sourcing. It seems some people are bending over backwards to get on the bubble trend. They are force carbonating wine or are jumping into Pet Nat in a somewhat haphazard way. We would like to make a traditional method sparkling wine with beautiful chardonnay fruit from the Gorge or the Willamette Valley but will continue to be patient with that desire and not force it.
DW: What advice can you share with future EV graduates?
MR: Be patient. Be thoughtful. Make a plan and execute on that plan with an attention to detail and with focus and purpose.