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Marie-Eve Interviewed for EnoBytes.com "Women in Wine" Series

"My training in Burgundy has prepared me to deal with the unique growing conditions of the Columbia Valley... a firm believer that great wines are made in the vineyard..." - Marie-Eve Gilla

Pamela Heiligenthal, Enobytes.com, March 9, 2015




Women in Wine: Interview with Marie-Eve Gilla

Posted 09 March 2015.

Marie-Eve Gilla, Forgeron Cellars: A French Farmer in Downtown Walla Walla

Born and raised in Paris, Marie-Eve Gilla always wanted to be a farmer.  She came to the United States in 1991, after completing her Diplome National d’Oenologie (Masters) from the University of Dijon. 

Marie-Eve had already gained national recognition for her Bordeaux-blends prior to moving to Walla Walla in 2001 to become Founding Winemaker and part-owner of Forgeron Cellars.

Marie-Eve keeps a close eye on weather patterns and temperatures, just like all farmers do.  “My training in Burgundy has prepared me to deal with the unique growing conditions of the Columbia Valley, such as 2011’s cool and wet ripening season. “ A firm believer that great wines are made in the vineyard, Marie-Eve spends hours visiting sites around the State, checking on each growers fruit like it was her own.  “If you know what’s going on in the vineyard, you will know what to expect at harvest,” she says.  Marie-Eve especially likes the fruit that comes from older vineyards– there’s that farmer mentality coming out again.  Or maybe it’s more like Farmer/Mad Scientist, judging from the 10-years worth of harvest and production spread sheets piled on the conference table.

As winemaker at Forgeron Cellars, a full-production facility located at 3rd & Birch in downtown Walla Walla, Marie-Eve started this interview by saying she always wanted to be a farmer, and somehow, she has managed to do just that in Walla Walla.

Did the first bottle of wine you made match your expectations? I started slow, first harvest worker then cellar master, assistant winemaker and finally winemaker. Technically, the first vintage of wine I was responsible for making with my hands from start to finish was 1998 and one of these wines was my 1998 Gordon Brothers Tradition which won National Recognition from the press in a blind tasting in San Francisco against other WA wines, CA and French wines. So yes, my first wines matched my expectations and it was great to gather such recognition for my work (I’d been working in the NW since 1991 at various wineries).

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in winemaking since you started in the industry? Extreme growth in the number of wineries, challenging economy and a couple of unusual vintages have all been quite challenging the last 10 years.

Growth: There were around 80 wineries when I came in 91 in WA State, and now around 700, or is it 800? Lots of these wineries do not have their own production facility and are owned by savvy business people who contract the making of their wines and devote their time to marketing. These owners have been successful in sales and promotion in other activities and are marketing their products very well. This trend has affected many small brick and mortar family wineries where winemaking is an art and an expression and selling is not at the forefront of the business. These traditional wineries have to adapt or die.

Economy: most businesses in America and the world have suffered the last couple of years but things are looking up now!

Unusual vintages: cooler vintages in 2010 and 2011 have kept Washingtonian winemakers on their toes! However unusual these years have been, they are still a far cry from the challenges I used to face in burgundy so this is more a welcome diversion for me.

Where do you think the Washington wine industry will be 10 years from now? The best is yet to come! As we discover new sites and focus on the symbiosis between terroirs and varietals, we are getting better at matching the best conditions to obtain better grapes. We are shifting from an orchard derived viticulture to a knowledge based viticulture with over 20 years of active viticultural experience. We are getting a better understanding of air drainage, average daily temperatures, soil drainage… for each site. We are following in the path of established viticultural regions which will lead to an even brighter future. Also compounding these benefits is the fact that our vines are getting older and there is nothing more exciting than a thirty years old vineyard established in the proper site and self regulating to produce the best grapes a winemaker can dream of!

Is winemaking an art or a science? Or both? If you ask a winemaker who did not go to winemaking school, they’ll tell you it’s an art. Woodward Canyon, Leonetti and many others were very successful without schooling. These days with increased competition, I believe that both art and science are needed to establish a consistent style and understand how to achieve and maintain that style.

Do you have any favorite food pairings to go with your Barbera, Petit Verdot and Roussanne?

Barbera: Salmon with a Barbera reduction cream sauce and also pork loin or grilled sausage

Petit Verdot: Peppercorn steak

Roussanne: Nothing for me but if I must Dungeness crab or crab salad.

You source grapes from a number of different locations including Yakima, Columbia and Walla-Walla. What does each vineyard bring to your blending regimen? I studied viticulture prior to winemaking so vineyards are like a religion to me. Each site has its own character, Yakima Valley is cooler and I love it for my whites and my Syrahs, and I can fin older, established vineyards there. The Walhuke slope has both very hot (Stonetree) and cooler vineyards (Weinbau) and it gives me beautiful masculine reds and generous whites. Alder Ridge on Horse Heaven Hills has the potential to ripen Zinfandel which is very special. Finally, Walla Walla is still getting established and I find newer vineyards there that show incredible potential, the area gets more precipitations and the growing season seems condensed, so the fruit is bigger and softer.  Having different growing conditions allows me to consistently make complex and generous wines whether we are facing an extremely hot or cold vintage by blending the sites that did best for the vintage.

What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today? It is still a men’s world, not because women are less skilled, but because the demands for marketing and travelling are so extensive. Know before you get involved that it will be an ongoing choice between staying close to your family or garnering success, recognition and exposure by travelling and showing the wares of your art.

What’s your favorite grape to work with and why? Chardonnay because it can produce the best wines (Burgundy) but does not receive the care, attention and love it deserves in other growing areas.  Additionally, whites do not lie as they cannot be hidden behind oak, they are very precise and reflect their maker more than any other grapes.

If you had the opportunity to work in another wine region, which one would it be? A cool region where I could make beautiful and racy whites as well as well as cerebral reds, how about Burgundy? But then I’d miss the plentitude of WA state opportunities. 

What else can you tell me about yourself? I am scared of dogs but still rescued a beautiful black lab when I worked at Gordon Brothers as she was so desperate and mellow. She has been an incredible companion, taught me about fear, happiness, and everything in between. I love horses and horseback riding although I always struggle with balance and staying in rhythm.

Pamela Heiligenthal, Enobytes.com, March 9, 2015

History of Canoe Ridge Winery tells of Forgeron Cellars' Founding

Once one of Washington state’s most important brands, Canoe Ridge Vineyard celebrates its 20th anniversary & its contribution to winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley, including Forgeron Cellars.

"Walla Walla Winemaker Teams Up With a Superhero"

Forgeron Cellars' Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla’s latest adventure has her making wine for a superhero—or at least he plays one on TV.  Actor Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen on the hit show Arrow) and longtime friend & Walla Walla native Andrew Harding started Nocking Point Wines in 2013.

Marie-Eve Featured in 2014-2015's "Essential Guide Spokane-Coeur D'Alene-Walla Walla"

"In the Walla Walla wine industry, a woman's place is in the cellar, in the vineyard, and in the CEO's chair."

Andy Perdue, Great Northwest Wine, 2014

June 4 - binNotes.com Interviews Marie-Eve for "Terroirist Tuesday"

"A winemaker’s story is a true hero’s journey –  involving obstacles, an occasional mentor, and the ultimate reward - in this case, wine. Details may vary, but never the storyline."

EVERY Saturday - Winery Tours @ Forgeron's Walla Walla Winery & Tasting Room

More Than a Tasting Room - EVERY SATURDAY @ 1pm, join the Cru @ Forgeron Cellars Winery & Tasting Room in Downtown Walla Walla for a Winery Tour & Tasting!

Forgeron Cellars is May's "Winery of the Month" @ Cameo Heights Mansion

Cameo Heights Mansion was recently named TripAdvisor's "Traveler's Choice 2013" as Top 25 B&Bs in the U.S.

Wine Enthusiast Names Walla Walla a "10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2014"

Names Walla Walla the "epicenter of Washington wine tourism" & lists Forgeron Cellars as "Where to Taste" & a "top local producer"...

Touring & Tasting Magazine Explores Washington Reds

In the words of one esteemed winemaker, "I don't think there is very good agreement on what 'big' is." Touring & Tasting asked 5 Washington State winemakers, including Marie-Eve Gilla, Forgeron Cellars, to shed some light on the subject.

EVERY Saturday - PAC-12 Football @ Forgeron Cellars Woodinville!!

EVERY Saturday from 12.30 to 4.30, enjoy the PAC-12 "Game of the Week" on Forgeron Cellars' outdoor patio big screen!

Marie-Eve announces NEW Walla Walla Tasting Room Hours

Beginning July 1st, our WALLA WALLA TASTING ROOM will be Open THURSDAY-MONDAY, 11:00AM-5:30PM; Closed TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY.

2011 Chardonnay a Summer "Wine Pick" - 425Magazine.com

"Forgeron Cellars, 2011 Chardonnay, — $27. French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla forges a Burgundian beauty — poised, polished, pleasantly light — the perfect wine for seafood, chicken, or pasta at your next patio party."

L.M. Archer, FWS, 425Magazine.com, July/August 2013

"6 Steps for Starting a Wine Tasting Group" - WA Wine Report

When asked, “What’s the best way to learn about wine?” Answering “Drink more!” can be an expensive way to learn what you like or don’t like. Ryan Messer suggests “Start a wine tasting group”.

Paul Gregutt finds Forgeron Merlots Absolutely "Improve with Age"

Take a wine of a certain age, open it, & taste it over a 2-day period. Not many can pass that test as this [2003 Merlot] did..."

Paul Gregutt, Unfined & Unfiltered - PaulGregutt.com, July 14 2013

Wine Advocate rates Forgeron Cellars "Outstanding"

"...The wines are outstanding across the board & show great textures, integrated acidity..."

The Wine Advocate, June 2013

Feds put new rules on wineries' use of social media

"...companies that advertise beverages on social networking sites, blogs, mobile applications & video sharing sites...will have to include mandatory statements on their profile or brand pages & refrain from making prohibited statements, such as false health claims."

Marie-Eve invited to join the prestigious "Les Dames d'Escoffier, International", Seattle Chapter!!

Les Dames d'Ecoffier International is unlike any other organization in the world - it is an invitational, philanthropic group of women leaders in food, beverage, & hospitality whose missions is supporting women through education, advocacy, & philanthropy.

WA Wine Report shares 7 Steps for Wine Touring with Children

Wine touring with children can be done, & with a little pre-planning, it can even be enjoyable for all.

Ryan Messer, Washington Wine Report, March 14 2013

Hedges Family Estates shares "Rules for Attending Wine Festivals"

"Don't pinch your fingers & say, "Just a little."  Dump it if you don't want to finish it, but I'm going to pour as much as I damn well please..."

February 21-March 24 - The Herbfarm in Woodinville adds 2011 Ambiance to March's "Super Cattle in Seattle" Theme Menu

"Super Cattle in Seattle ~ The Best of the Bovines" is the theme of The Herbfarm's 9-course dinners paired with the crisp, bright, slightly spicy 2011 Ambiance White Rhone Blend.

Marie-Eve Gilla represents Forgeron Cellars & the WA State Wine Commission on Quebec, Canada.

For many in the Montreal area, this showcase was their first introduction to Washington wines.

Sean Sullivan pairs 2010 Lt Harvest Riesling & Theo Chocolate for Q13 News

"...For me, the 2010 Forgeron Cellars Late Harvest Riesling...worked beautifully with the chocolate covered caramels..."

Sean P. Sullivan, WA Wine Report for Q13 Fox News

 

The Herbfarm in Woodinville adds 2010 Late Harvest Riesling to January's "Truffle Treasure" Theme Menu

An Exploration of the Mysterious Truffle With Particular Emphasis on the Indigenous Truffles of the Pacific Northwest - The wild native truffles of Oregon, Washington & British Columbia will seduce you!

Silver Label
Forgeron Wine Now Available in Quebec, Canada!

In Quebec, Fans of Forgeron can now visit their local "Societe des Alcohol du Quebec" stores for some of Marie-Eve's Vins d'inspiration française...

Yellow Label
Forgeron Cellars Wines now available in Pennsylvania!

Fans of Forgeron in Pennsylvania can now visit their local Pennsylvania Liquor Store Outlet for a selection of Marie-Eve's exquisitely made wines.

September Forgeron is "Winery of the Month" at South Fork Grill

Great food deserves great wine - enjoy Forgeron Cellars & the cuisine of South Fork Grill throughout September as a perfect pair.