Chris Gorman, Gorman Winery
Interviewed by Ethan Chung | Photos by Caylee Betts & Jeff Hobson
425: Do you remember the moment you thought, “Wine should be my life. I love wine.”
Chris Gorman: Probably at my first job after college. I was a warehouse manager of an Italian wine importer. I tasted a Ciglutti Barbaresco, I think the vintage was 1985. I was hooked.
425: You’ve traveled extensively in your wine studies. What place is most special to you and why?
CG: I’ve been everywhere in Italy and most wine regions of Spain and Germany. They are all special. I dig the people the most, they really make the experience. I do have a soft spot for Tuscany.
425: In one sentence, do your best to give us your perspective on Washington’s wine industry.
CG: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-not
425: You just returned from Napa. Why were you there? Work? Pleasure?hin’ yet.” Bachman-Turner Overdrive. That might be two sentences.
CG: Both. We attended a big equipment show and I spent a small fortune on a brilliant piece of equipment. My assistant winemaker Ben (Paplow) and I met with Opus’ winemaker and had about three hours with winemaking legend John Kongsgaard. I’m a Chardonnay fan.
425: You were a competitor (and winner) in Barking Frog’s Iron Vintner Challenge. If you had to cook one dish and serve it with your wines, what would it be?
CG: I’d keep it simple … with lots of fat and flavor. Maybe a prime ribeye with some buttery garlic mash potatoes and a good sauce. Hard to argue with that and a glass of hearty red.
425: Give us some dining recommendations on the Eastside.
CG: There are so many. I’d say in Woodinville we eat a lot of pho from Pho Hao, the best pho I’ve ever had. The Hollywood Tavern has been an awesome addition for comfort food, from the folks at Skillet. I could give you 20 more.
425: Do you have a favorite wine in your portfolio? What makes it special?
CG: I don’t think I do, different wines for different occasions. Zachary’s Ladder is the namesake of my son, so that one is always special.
425: You’ve described Gorman winery as “experimental.” What does that mean?
CG: We never settle. Every year we try new things and stick to the processes and practices that we have perfected. I think a great winemaker never feels he or she has made the perfect wine. That’s next vintage! We have focused a lot on barrel fermentation of reds. Since most of our red grapes come from Red Mountain, we start with an awesome amount of fruit and structure. We have been tweaking our ferments over the last 10 years to capture all that delicious fruit and soften some of that structure. We are evolving.
425: Your wines have gotten some incredible accolades. Are those things really important to you, or are you more concerned with how you feel the wines turn out and how your customers enjoy your wines?
CG: A high grade never makes my wine taste any better to me. It just means it’s going to sell faster. The press has been very good to us and we welcome it. One good thing about the high scores and articles is it allows people who may have not heard of us to take note. We have never really advertised, so the buzz is a great vehicle for introducing our wines to new people. At that point, I hope our wine makes them a believer.
425: Gorman Winery is quite the tiny operation. Just yourself and an assistant winemaker. Tell us about the good and the bad of running such a modest show.
CG: We are small, but tough. The production side is just Ben Paplow and I, with help from some great volunteers on a few big days. We crushed about 100 tons last year and we were tired. It is great to still be hands-on, I’ll never give that up. The downside is that it’s a rough job, most people see winemakers at events, dinners and auctions, but most of the time we are wearing rubber boots and killing grapes. I still have no complaints.
Check out the Gorman Winery tasting room at 144th Ave. N.E. No. C500, Woodinville.