Danna Webster, KP News
Claude and Claudia Gahard stand behind the bar of their cozy tasting chalet at Trillium Creek Winery. Photo: Michelle M. Mondeck, KP News
Every bottle of wine has a story to tell. It is the adventure of grapes through the seasons with characters created by soil and climate. The right time and good seasons make a great wine. It is the task of the winemaker to get the story told. Claude Gahard is a winemaker and a great storyteller. Trillium Creek Winery is where his stories begin, and the setting is the Key Peninsula.
Gahard specializes in a dry, clear, crisp and delicious white wine from Muller Thurgau grapes. These grapes begin their story with the spring, when their leaves come out, and their flower pods blossom. In the summer, the grapes ripen and achieve a higher sugar content than acid. Gahard’s wife and partner, Claudia, says, “Grapes are ripe when the seeds turn brown.” The fall is the time for harvest, the crushing of grapes, and for fermentation to begin. Over winter the wine must sleep. “You don’t want to disturb it,” warns Claude.
Making wine became a hobby for the Gahards early in their marriage. While living near Walla Walla, they stocked their cupboards by gleaning potatoes, plums, and asparagus. When Claudia gleaned grapes in the Tri-Cities, they decided they should try to make wine. One of their first lessons was that the yeast Claudia used for baking bread was the wrong yeast for wine. They made plum, raspberry and concord wines and “started making wine that was pretty decent,” Claudia says.
Some of the concord seeds from Walla Walla are growing along the driveway of the winery. Claudia likes to grow things. She is good with “dirt stuff,” she says.
The Gahards left Eastern Washington before it became famous as wine country. When asked about their timing, Claude laughs and says, “Well, we started it.”
Gahard studied how-to books and claims his wine-making success is “text taught.” When the Gahards retired and Claude left his aviation career, they asked themselves what they should do next. The fact that friends at parties were choosing Claude’s wines over commercial wines influenced that decision. Claude’s answer was, “We need to do something. How about we get serious about making wine.” Claudia replied, “If we make wine, we have to grow grapes.” When they moved to the Key Peninsula, they began growing grapes and got serious about winemaking.
Along with his text taught expertise, Claude brings a discriminating palate that he attributes to his birthplace, Paris. He says Paris is the “standard of all good things and the center of all fine foods.” He left Paris when he was 10 and remembers fondly seeing the Statue of Liberty on his journey to a new home in Newark, New Jersey. However, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches washed down with milk offended his Parisian tastes.
He says “the grandeur of the Statue of Liberty and what she represents,” always stayed with him. Later, as a pilot for Continental Airlines, he often finished flights to Newark with a fly by that statue.
At the winery, Claudia’s gardens grow below the vineyard hills. There are paths to stroll, a bridge to cross, and a table where guests may picnic or rest awhile. At the entrance to the winery stands the tasting room and, next to it, the excavation for the barrel cellar.
Gahard says guests are welcome to come and watch the winery progress. It is a story unfolding. The door into the tasting room has been carefully chosen. It is not an ordinary door. It hints there may be story inside. The Gahards invite anyone to open the door and begin an adventure.
His career in aviation gave Gahard colorful story material, like flying pipeline into Alaska and landing on grass strips and cow pastures in the San Juans while delivering the mail. He looks to the winery for new stories to tell.
|Trillium Creek wine will be for sale this summer after the official grand opening of the tasting room, located in Home. Owners Claude and Claudia Gahard invite visitors to watch the progress toward the opening.