Will Winery reduces offerings
to concentrate on intense Bordeaux blends"
By Christina Kelly
Avalon Staff Writer
Chris Camarda, whose Andrew Will Winery produces some of the highest
scoring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends in Washington
state will be reducing his offerings in the next few years to concentrate
on blends from some of Washington's finest vineyards.
In the next two to three years, Camarda
plans to reduce his inventory from about 11 different varieties
to three or four. He will discontinue
bottling single vineyard varietals, such as Merlot and Cabernet
Sauvignon after the 2001 bottling. Instead, he plans to "zone in" on
the types of blends he prefers, such as his Sorella (Italian for
sister) and his Champoux Vineyard Red Wine.
don't want to make just one wine from each vineyard anymore," Camarda
said in a recent interview. "I want to put the emphasis on the
vineyard because that is what makes the wine special. The blends are
much more interesting to me. In the end, it's not a Merlot or a Cabernet
Sauvignon-it's the blend we develop from our sources."
The result will be fewer wines, but Camarda says the wines will
be better than ever, as he and his wife Annie focus on blending Merlot,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. He may add some
Syrah to the mix and plans to add his own fruit on 30 acres planted
in Zillah, WA.
Camarda started his winery on Vashon Island, near Seattle,
in 1989, he admitted he was "just making wine" because
he wanted to be in the industry after spending years working
in the culinary arts and managing restaurants in the Seattle
"Now, more than 10 years later, we can follow our road map,
see how we've evolved and how our wines developed," Camarda
said. "We're ready to zone in on what we've got, from the state's
best vineyards, rather than go through the vineyards every
year, trying to pick the best block of Cabernet or Merlot."
By producing only Bordeaux-style blends, Camarda will not be so
dependent on one particular grape for a wine. If Cabernet Sauvignon
grapes are not as good next year, he can focus on Merlot and other
varietals to blend with the Cabernet. He says it will require more
skill and free-up space in his ever-growing Vashon Island compound.
skills are highly praised, as is his wine. In the just published
sixth edition of Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, the
wine critic lists only four Washington wineries as "outstanding." Andrew
Will is one of the four, which includes Quilceda Creek, Leonetti
and DeLille Cellars.
Parker calls Camarda "one
of America's finest producers of Merlot. (His) wines have
virtually perfect tannins. They are present
but buffered by the loads of dominating sweet fruit.
"Furthermore, what is amazing about Chris Camarda's wines
is that they are concentrated, yet graceful," Parker continues. "Camarda's
(wines) blend power with elegance, concentration with finesse,
and super sweet fruit with definition. (He) is a brilliant
It is big praise for a man who plans to eliminate some of the
highly touted wines of the past. Yet, Camarda says the new focus
will produce even better wines.
If his 2000 Champoux Red Wine is any example, Camarda has little
to fear. The wine is fabulous, with 62 percent Cabernet Sauvignon,
19 percent Merlot and 19 percent Cabernet Franc. In a recent tasting,
this wine came across as rich and dense, with layers of plum, currant,
herb and blueberries. It has just enough oak to add to the wine,
rather than detract. Although drinkable now, it should be cellared
and after several years, you'll have a hidden treasure waiting
to impress your taste buds.
Andrew Will's Sorella, another Bordeaux-style blend that Camarda
calls his prototype, is also outstanding. The wine is wonderful
now, but with a few years in the cellar, will knock your socks
off, in a subtle way, of course.
Incidentally, Sorella, meaning sister in Italian, is a tribute
to Camarda's sister, who died from cancer in 1995. The label is
a portrait of his sister, painted by Seattle artist Randy Hayes.
Camarda can make this move because of his relationships with some
of Washington's best vineyards, which include Klipsun, Pepper Bridge,
Ciel du Cheval, Seven Hills and Sheridan. The fruit, under Camarda's
touch, produces subtle wines that never overwhelm with power, making
them very food friendly. He has captured the intensity of the fruit
without producing such bombs that explode and overtake a meal.
The change will enable Camarda to spend more time with his two
children, Will, 15, and Luci, 12. (The winery is named for Will
and the Camarda's nephew Andrew). Both children were adopted from
South Korea and have lived with the Camarda's since infancy. Camarda
says the kids are more involved with school activities and growing
more independent every day.
Since the winery is located on an island (and not open to the
public), life revolves around the state ferry system. While Annie
provides much of the Camarda transportation system for their children,
Chris says he hopes to have more time to help out. He recently
took his daughter to a concert in Seattle and said it was a great
The Camarda's live on several acres, surrounded by trees, flowers
and a recent acquisition from South Korea-a Changsung. The Changsung,
which looks like a totem pole, is a guardian spirit, in honor of
his children. Life on the compound includes a couple of dogs, critters
from the woods nearby, and a sitting area to enjoy in spring and
Single-vineyard wines from Andrew Will will still be available
for the next year or two. Barrel tasting reveals they will be as
great as those in the past. But Camarda wants his consumers to
experience his love of blends and those currently on the market
are just a taste of what is to come.
It is his attempt to express in the glass the spirit of a particular
season and a specific place. It is showmanship at its best. And
that thought makes Camarda smile.