Pepper Bridge Winery
We focus on making elegant, balanced wines from sustainably farmed Walla Walla Valley estate vineyards. Our Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards are recognized as two of the best — not only in the appellation — but also in the state. We are certified sustainable as well as Salmon-Safe and remain committed to the long-term viability of the winemaking industry in the Walla Walla Valley. We are family-owned and remain true to our own sense of style within our gravity-flow winery.
Located in the heart of Walla Walla, Washington.
- Sit, sip, and absorb the wine country view.
- Meeting / Conference Facilities:
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- Dog Friendly:
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Average Bottle Price
Jean-François supplemented his experience by earning degrees in both enology and viticulture. As part of his studies, he interned in Switzerland, Germany and the Napa Valley.
After graduating, he managed vineyards and made wine in Switzerland and Spain. Along with making wine in Spain, he was responsible for managing 500 acres of vineyards, designing a new winery and developing a market for the product.
His experience and reputation for meticulous winemaking brought him to the attention of Heitz Cellars in the Napa Valley, where he worked for four years. Pepper Bridge Winery then recruited him, so he moved to the Walla Walla Valley to become that winery's creative force. His success at Pepper Bridge (where he is still the winemaker, as well) allowed him the opportunity to join the Amavi partnership and to apply his winemaking skills to different grape varietals, particularly Syrah and Semillon.
"This is a great adventure," says Jean-François. "Walla Walla impressed me right away as an extremely unique grape-growing area. Distinctive climate, soils and geography make it different than anywhere else in the world, and now we have the chance to incorporate the latest winery design and techniques with the very high-quality grapes."
In addition to being winemaker, Jean-François plays a key role in the management of the winery's estate vineyards. He is also a founding member and current vice-president of the Walla Walla Valley's sustainable agriculture organization, VINEA.
At 74, Norm McKibben, a founding father of Walla Walla’s wine industry, is known to friends and colleagues as “Stormin’ Norman,” a reference to his endless energy and drive. He often sleeps just four hours a night, and thinks nothing of scheduling a sunrise vineyard tour.
In McKibben’s 25-plus years in Walla Walla, the valley has evolved from a smidgen on the wine map, with a mere 40 vineyard acres, to an acclaimed appellation, with more than 1,200 acres of premium grapes today.
Credit for that boom goes largely to McKibben, a visionary who came to the wine industry relatively late in life.
A trained engineer, McKibben worked for several decades in the construction industry. Not wanting to retire after his first career, he moved to Walla Walla to become an apple farmer—only to be seduced by a different fruit.
In 1989, realizing the region’s great grape-growing potential, McKibben planted his first vineyard, with help from his wife, Virginia, and their eldest son, Shane.
Two years later, McKibben added Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to land adjoining the family’s high-density plantings of exotic apples. The seeds of Pepper Bridge Vineyard were sown.
As his farming reach expanded, McKibben was drawn into the budding wine industry. He served a partner and director at Canoe Ridge Vineyards and Hogue Cellars, and worked closely with a number of Walla Walla’s leading vintners. By 1994, in partnership with Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Marty Clubb of L’Ecole No. 41, McKibben had increased his vineyard holdings to 200 acres.
Never one to sit still, Norman kept stormin’. His next ambition: creating his own winery. In 1998, Pepper Bridge Winery was born.
Today, Pepper Bridge Winery is a benchmark property in Walla Walla, and McKibben is an icon of the industry. He manages and consults for more than 600 acres of the top vineyard sites in Walla Walla—Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills and Les Collines—and is widely recognized as an innovator. At each of his vineyards, he has introduced state-of-the-art irrigation systems, soil moisture and temperature monitoring equipment, and sustainable farming techniques.
A forward-thinker, McKibben is a champion of sustainable viticulture. All three of his vineyards are certified sustainable by VINEA, the Walla Walla Valley’s Sustainable Trust, and LIVE, an Oregon-based sustainable viticulture organization. They are also certified Salmon Safe and are monitored by the IOBC, the international body responsible for setting sustainability standards.
In 1998, the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers honored McKibben as "Grape Grower of the Year." That same year, he was appointed chair of the Washington Wine Commission and served in that position until retiring from the organization 2001.
No disrespect to beer, the beverage he worked with for nearly half a lifetime. But wine is Ray Goff’s abiding passion.
Before joining Pepper Bridge Winery as a partner in 1998, Goff worked for 30 years at Anheuser-Busch Companies, as vice president of corporate purchasing and president of the company’s agricultural subsidiary. Yet even as he toured the world on behalf of beer—building China’s first brewery; globe-trotting in his search for the finest hops—Goff found time for wine tasting excursions, most of them to California. Until a stop in Washington changed everything.
On one of his many hops-buying trips, Goff found himself in Prosser, where he struck up a close friendship with hops-grower and winery owner, Mike Hogue. It was then that Goff first tasted Walla Walla wines. So long Napa and Sonoma. Goff’s annual tasting trips to California ceased.
His friendship with Hogue, his agricultural experience and his love of wine led to Goff’s involvement with Pepper Bridge. An industrial engineer, with a Master’s degree from Texas Tech University, he played a central role in the design and construction of the winery. He also helped launch Pepper Bridge Winery's sister winery, Amavi Cellars, where he serves as a managing partner, too.
Today, Ray and his wife, Diana, divide their time between their Walla Walla wineries and their ranch in north-central Montana.
Gloria started working at Pepper Bridge Winery in December 2012 as the Tasting Room Manager. Pepper Bridge Winery has always been a personal favorite of hers, and she has been both a Bridge Club member as well as a Vine Club member throughout the years. It was a very natural transition for her to come on as a part of our team.
She moved from Boise, Idaho, to Walla Walla to get her nursing degree, and since then has enjoyed several medical and administration jobs. Walla Walla was a great place for her to raise her family. Both of her children now have families of their own, and she really loves being Grandma to her sweet grandchildren at this point in her life.
Gloria loves to travel. Some of her favorite evenings are spent with good friends; cooking together, sipping good wine, and enjoying good conversation. She also likes to power walk, bicycle to work on warm days, and to read a good book. She loves the welcoming and supportive team she has joined in the Pepper Bridge Winery tasting room—and especially loves being able to enjoy the view on a daily basis!
Katie-2When she went off to college at Eastern Washington University in her hometown of Cheney, WA, Katie thought she wanted to focus on becoming an elementary school teacher. At the age of 21, however, she took a summer job at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, and her interests began to shift. After two years working in the tasting room and helping with events, she realized that a career in wine was the way for her to make a living!
Katie then attended Walla Walla Community College where she graduated with a degree in Enology and Viticulture. She then spent a short amount of time in Prosser, WA interning for Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Estates in the vineyard and winery. After her internship, she continued her education at Central Washington University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree. Majoring in Global Wine Studies with a Minor in Tourism Management, along with Wine Trade Professional Certificate, Katie has a well-rounded knowledge of many levels within our intricate industry. Drawn to wine production, she also volunteered in local vineyards and managed the only winery in Ellensburg, WA.
While she enjoyed her time in Ellensburg, Katie could not resist the magnetism of the Walla Walla Valley’s wine community. She made the move in April of 2010 to manage the tasting room for Castillo de Feliciana, where she enjoyed sharing knowledge and experiences with customers for four years.
At the end of 2013, we eagerly welcomed Aaron Smith to our team in the role of National Sales Manager.
Aaron most recently served as a regional sales manager for Vintage Wine Estates, where his major focus was on territory development within national and regional accounts. He brings more than a decade of industry experience, including stints as the wine director for a luxury hotel and the statewide sales manager for a small wine distributor. He is excited to apply his experience to developing Pepper Bridge Winery's presence across the United States and to promoting our emerging wine region. Born and raised in Washington state, he relishes the opportunity to return to his roots.
Practices & Techniques
The winery itself is a winemaker’s dream. It is a state-of-the-art, gravity-flow facility, complete with subterranean caves. In a gravity-flow winery such as this one, the grape pulp and juice are moved from the sorting table to the tanks to the barrels via gravity, rather than by pumps. This gentle treatment of the grapes prevents the shearing of seeds and the introduction of bitter tannins. Pumps are a choice rather than a constraint. As a result, all of our wines have elegant textures and exquisite flavor
Estate Vineyards / AVA
Pepper Bridge Vineyard is one of our two estate vineyards located in the Walla Walla Valley Appellation. The original 10 acres were planted in 1991. Since then, the vineyard has been expanded to almost 200 acres (170 acres as of January 2011). Pepper Bridge Vineyard has gained an outstanding reputation with winemakers throughout the state of Washington and especially the Walla Walla Valley. Tom Waliser has been the Vineyard Manager since its inception.
The irrigation and weather systems within the vineyard utilize cuting-edge technology. Weather data, temperature, humidity, wind and sun energy units are recorded around the clock, and the data is downloaded to computer via phone line. Over sixty moisture-measuring points are spread throughout the vineyard and moisture data is logged once an hour, 24 hours per day.
The soils in this vineyard are Walla Walla Silt Loam, which consists of wind-blown glacial loess that is young and full of minerals. This silt loam contains one-third sand and is very porous.
The most common trellis system in the vineyard is Vertical Shoot Positioning which trains the vines upward from the cordon (grape bearing wire) in a thin curtain that allows sunshine to reach the maximum number of leaves. The leaves are harvesting sunshine and producing sugar to allow the grapes to be picked for harvest in the fall to produce some great red wines.