Woodinville, WA, just outside of Seattle, has become a location for Washington winemakers to produce their juice. Perched just above the estate of Chateau St. Michelle is the tiny wine production facility that is home to JM Cellars with winemaker/owner John Bigelow. John went from making wine in his basement to just recently picking fruit from JM Cellars very own vineyard he planted in Walla Walla. Despite the growth and popularity that JM Cellars has enjoyed, John Bigelow insists on keeping his production small and artisan. Sometimes John makes special bottlings only to release to club members.
We found John during crush 2011 which he confessed was one of the most difficult vintages he’s had so far. 2011 was much cooler than other years making wine growers in Eastern Washington worried about ripeness levels. To make matters worse, it rained right around harvest time which makes the grapes loose their concentration before getting crushed into the juice that produces wine. Still, John is hopeful and looks patiently onward for good things to come out of it.
In this video, you’ll see Bigelow doing a pumpover on Merlot; it smelled thick of blackberry pie! In the picture above, Madeline Puckette is picking leaves out of Klipsum Vineyards cabernet sauvignon grapes.
JM Cellars Transcript
John Bigelow: I really want to do something that I am super passionate about and I want to do it the rest of my life. I don’t want to have to retire, I am not interested in playing golf when I’m 80 years old, I want to do something that I’m really intrigued with.
Wines go through phases, when I first started off I didn’t understand those phases, I didn’t really get the whole patience part of it.
I was in the high tech game at the time, I worked for IBM first and then a company called Sequent Computers where everything is instantaneous. When you do something in high tech you know immediately was that right or wrong and you react to it. In the wine business that is the worst thing you can do.
Madeline Puckette: So it’s been like about a month since we last met up.
John Bigelow: I’m a little more relaxed now.
Madeline Puckette: heheh, you were moving quick.
John Bigelow: What a harvest. It was probably, in 15 years making wine, the hardest harvest I’ve seen. But like all things in life, when you work really hard sometimes it turns out to be the best and this could be a phenominal vintage for the State of Washington.
I’ve got a wine called Tre, Peggy and I have three sons, and there are three grapes in this wine that are blended together. So it’s cab, merlot and syrah. With all those components I can actually enhance the finish of a wine or enchance the color or a wine or enhance a flavor component in the wine by adding another component to the wine in the blend. Each of the boys knows what grape they are in the blend.
Madeline Puckette: I wonder what grape I would be? What grape do you think I am?
John Bigelow: awe. You are absolutely carmenere. Spicy and black pepper. chim chim!