Kelsey Albro Itämeri of itä wines 

What are your main goals when it comes to itä, and how would you describe the style of wine you make? 

At itä wines, I focus entirely on grapes from the eastern side of the Walla Walla Valley, up in the foothills of the Blue Mountains— basically from as close to my folks’ property as I can get! I think that this small part of Walla Walla is really special and just try to do right by the grapes when they come to the winery. It takes so much hard work to grow grapes, and it is my job to not mess up the beautiful fruit that I work with, so I have a really restrained, gentle winemaking style. The wines that I make tend to be lower alcohol, with higher acidity, and I use all neutral French oak (no new barrels or heavy oak influence) to let the character of the site really shine through.  

What are the most common misconceptions you hear about Walla Walla wine/the wine industry as a whole? 

Well some people don’t even know that grapes grow in Washington State, so that’s always a big educational moment for me! As for Walla Walla itself, I think that folks who visit are always surprised at how open and welcoming the wine industry is here– both to visitors and tourists and to folks who are moving here to work in the wine business. We’re not particularly intimidating.  

How have the Airport Incubators made a difference in the trajectory of the winery? 

The Airport Incubator program has had a huge impact on my business. I may not have had the courage to even start itä wines if it weren’t for the availability of an incubator space at the right time. The incubator spaces made it so that I could start a winery without a whopping amount of resources, and there’s a built-in community of people supporting the incubators, whether it’s customers who always come by to see what’s new, or the other wineries that are my neighbors. 

Where do you see itä going in the next five years? 

The incubator program is time-limited, with businesses staying in their space for a maximum of six years (to make room for the next new kid on the block!), so we’re working on a space out at my parents’ property for a tasting room and production facility. I have until 2026 to stay out at the Airport, but when you get into permitting and planning and financing and building, it feels like we’re already behind! That said, I’m so excited to be able to bring folks out to foothills so that they can see for themselves how special it is. 


Robert Gomez of Hoquetus Wine Co. 


Please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background in relation to winemaking! 

I am a musician turned bartender, turned sommelier/wine professional, turned winemaker. I studied enology/viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and have done previous harvests at Gramercy Cellars and Grosgrain Vineyards. 


What are your main goals when it comes to Hoquetus, and how would you describe the style of wine you make? 

The Hoquetus goal is deliciousness. And what I find to be delicious are wines of place with restrained alcohol, pronounced freshness, and with a very soft hand in the cellar. 


Both you and your wife come from very artistic backgrounds, both in relation to music and visual arts. How do those backgrounds tie into your work with Hoquetus? 

We can make really good playlists! But for real, making wine requires some creativity and ability to improvise. It’s a perpetual dance that is very humbling and unpredictable just like van touring in the United States.  


What’s the most exciting part about being in the Walla Walla wine industry right now? 

Although Walla Walla is well-established, there’s still a lot of room for growth and experimentation, and that’s pretty exciting. 


Where do you see Hoquetus going in the next five years? 

We will always be small and artisanal so production-wise we are at our goal. My hope is in five years we can get a larger space and some interesting vines in the ground and— maybe, just maybe— an espresso machine. 


Brad Binko of Eternal Wines/Drink Washington State 

Please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background in relation to winemaking!
Hello all, Brad Binko here owner and winemaker for Eternal Wines and Drink Washington State. The Eternal wines side is single vineyard small production lots. Most of our lots are only one ton of fruit, so two barrels of wine each, or 45 cases on average. Our Drink Washington State label focuses on AVAs in Washington and I like to switch between different AVAs throughout the years so our clients can understand more about the weather and winemaking in Washington.   

I went through the first couple levels of the Court Masters of Sommelier while living in Charleston, South Carolina, then moved to Walla Walla to pursue my dream of making wine. I am a graduate of the Walla Walla Community College Enology and Viticulture program and worked as an assistant winemaker before starting both labels in 2014. We had our first release in 2016 and are growing each year. Last year we picked 35 tons of grapes for our biggest harvest ever. 

What are your main goals when it comes to Eternal, and how would you describe the style of wine you make?
My goals are always to improve quality if possible. Secondarily, I am focusing on distribution for our bigger Eternal lots and the Drink Washington State label. My style for the reds is big, bold, and concentrated. These wines are made to age gracefully over the decades. The whites and rosé are delicate, fresh, and designed for earlier drinking. 

Tell me about your documentary on Carménère! How did this come about, what does the documentary capture, and how can readers view it?
I found out it’s harder to create a documentary than make wine about three months into this project. I went through three different producers and captured over 40 hours of interviews with winemakers and growers in Chile. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Bill Powers grant in 2017 and in 2018 went to Chile to study Carménère. While I was there I found out that our current vintage of Carménère won SIP Magazine’s Best of Northwest wine competition for Carménère. The video is 20 minutes and can be found on our webpages or YouTube. 

What kinds of events does Eternal host right now, and what are some of your goals in terms of community engagement going forward?
We host a lot of events during the year. We host 20 Beats & Bites dates a year, which is our food truck, concert, and DJ event. This runs May through the first week of September. We also host the annual PRIDE festival at the winery. This last year was our third annual, and we had over 700 people show for this event. On top of that we host numerous company parties, birthday parties, and late night DJ parties! The community is very important to us and even more so in a small town like Walla Walla.