New winery owner not sitting around

Noe Martinez poses for a portrait at his business, A Broken Chair Cellars.

Noe Martinez poses for a portrait at his business, A Broken Chair Cellars. Photo by Michael Lopez.

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WALLA WALLA — Well over a hundred different wineries participated in Fall Release this weekend, one of the three big wine-selling weekends of 2013.

Pouring this year was also one of the newest and smallest wineries taking part in its first Fall Release.

“We’re tiny, microscopic,” A Broken Chair Cellars owner and winemaker Noé Martinez said.

In May, A Broken Chair Cellars began selling off its first inventory of 500 cases of whites made from the 2012 harvest.

“The biggest reason I want to specialize in whites is because everyone is doing reds,” Martinez said Saturday from his tasting room at 17 N. Second Ave.

As with most new Walla Walla wineries, Martinez was already rooted in the Valley and making wines before he decided to branch off on his own.

An assistant winemaker for Cougar Crest Winery, the 24-year-old said he recognized that along with knowledge he needed connections to succeed.

Then almost on cue two couples walked into his tasting room to demonstrate how those connections work.

“We were sent here by Aaron of Whitehouse-Crawford. He spoke very highly of you,” one of the foursome said.

What followed pouring and talking was one of his first sales for the day.

As for knowledge, Martinez studied enology and viticulture at Walla Walla Community College.

In addition to connections and knowledge, Martinez also needed money and resources.

Having worked at Cougar Crest, Martinez said he was able to work out a deal with the owners to let him produce his own 500 cases, thus helping him cut back his startup costs.

But there were plenty of other costs that made up for the savings.

“Insurance and taxes. I just didn’t even imagine it. And the utilities,” he said.

Timing and the economy were also important.

“Three years ago it was doom and gloom. But in 2012 I felt things were going to get better. And in 2013 they did,” he said.

Although Martinez noted he believes people drink as much wine, if not more, in a recession, they just buy less expensive bottles.

Martinez’ first release wasn’t without its setbacks. He originally had plans to release his wine during the Spring Release.

“That was my goal, to make it by Spring Release. The (State Liquor Control) paperwork didn’t come through in time,” Martinez said.

Even more important than paperwork are grapes, and Martinez didn’t have any last year.

So he did like many startup wineries do and bought from other growers.

His 2012 wines are from grapes grown near Outlook and Horse Heaven Hills.

“My dream is I will have my own estate vineyard where my family will live and I can work at home,” he said.

Looking back at his first line of three wines — a chardonnay, rose of syrah and roussanne-viognier — Martinez said he might have done a couple things differently, including holding off on opening a tasting room and making just one wine.

“If I was going to do it over again, I would have made one wine and focused on distributing it,” he said. “I am really optimistic about this (tasting room) spot. I feel lucky to get this spot.”

What he wouldn’t change are his connections.

“I think some people make a serious mistake by not communicating and helping each other out,” Martinez said. “2013 has been a great year. I am really optimistic.”

Many tasting rooms will be open and have extended hours today for Fall Release. A Broken Chair Cellars will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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