Brad Binko has been very busy this past year. Brad manages two labels, Drink Washington State and Eternal Wines, and chooses colorful, hip labels for his wines that are are all pretty serious values. Binko is a former certified sommelier that chose to live in Walla Walla because of the community college’s strong reputation in producing great winemakers. As a recent graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program, Brad has done a ton of work in the past year, including has opened his new tasting room in the past year (located in downtown Walla Walla) and has made some pretty impressive new bottlings. I recently had the chance to sit down with him and chat wine. Brad is an awesome guy to chat wine with and I think you will really enjoy hearing his story. Here is my interview with Brad Binko, owner and head winemaker of Drink Washington State and Eternal Wines.
WWB: How did you first decide to start Drink Washington State and Eternal Wines?
BB: When I sold my marketing and promotions company in Las Vegas I wasn’t sure what my next move would be so I moved back to Charleston SC. While there I was able to get back into F&B and work on advancing my wine knowledge even further. For the next 2 years I worked as a sommelier for a couple places while I continued my Masters of Sommelier education. After passing the level 2 (certified) exam I was beginning to feel the need to do more. I had almost attended Brock University for winemaking out of high school. My step-mother was really pushing me in that direction, but of course at 18 we know everything! I later than almost went to UC Davis when I first moved to Las Vegas, however I started my company shortly after and couldn’t leave. I spent a lot of time researching possible landing spots and after a short trip to Walla Walla I knew where I wanted to call my next home. So finally the 3rd time was the charm as I enrolled at the WWCC Enology and Viticulture program. I knew that I wanted to start a winery and had the means to start one. One of the hardest parts was actually coming up with the names!
WWB: How does your experience as a sommelier and your wine education make you a better winemaker?
BB: It helps greatly, being able to recall different varietals and how they show in different areas with different winemaking techniques is huge. Its like cooking, if you don’t know what garlic salt will do to the flavor of your dish you are less likely to use it. However if you have tasted it before you can make an educated assumption of how it will affect your current dish. It also helps me describe the flavors and break down my wines with guests in the tasting room. My goal is to not only make great wines but to educate the consumer on why it tastes like this, what the history of the grape is and why I choose to make it that way.
WWB: Your 2014 Drink Washington State ‘ Enjoy Walla Walla’ Carmenere (WWB, 90) was an awesome effort that is a terrific value. Can you talk about this great varietal and what kind of aromatic and flavor profiles you notice from Washington Carmenere?
BB: Carmenere is an amazing grape. I am starting to see (in Washington) an increase in wineries labeling their wines as Carmenere rather than blending it away in a Bordeaux blend. It is also also an opportunity for a great teaching moment, most people that come into my tasting room don’t even know what it is. This allows me or my tasting room staff to explain that it is the lost Bordeaux varietal and that now its spiritual home is in Chile. Carmenere is known for its great aromatic compounds that show white and black pepper and jalapeño notes which mines has as well. My Drink Washington State line is designed to showcase the best of our AVA’s while not making you take out a second mortgage. I’ve actually had several winemakers and winery owners come to me and ask me to raise the prices because they think Im selling them at such a good price.
WWB: Another outstanding value wine, your 2014 Drink Washington State ‘Groovin on Wahluke Slope’ Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 89) showed wonderful poise and richness. Can you talk about this great wine and what you are anticipating for your next releases with the 2015 vintage?
BB: This lot is my largest lot I have bottled under either label, 10 barrels or 250 cases. It is funny to me because I’ll go tasting and hear other places say this is our reserve lot we only produced 400 cases of it….To me that’s not a reserve wine that’s a huge lot! This allows me to spend equal time with all my lots so tech. they are all reserve lots in this case. My goal for DWS is to make wines that can age however they need to be ready to drink upon release. That is why this isn’t a huge tannin driven wine, instead you get nice fruit on the nose and palate, dusty tannins on the long finish. The great part about my DWS line is that there are no rules! Being able to source from all over Washington and blend whatever I want is of great appeal to me. I will release the next vintage when I sell out however the blends may be different and or vineyards. DWS allows me to be completely free, unlike with Eternal Wines where my focus is single vineyard single varietal, super small lots.
WWB: When you are not drinking Washington wines, what are some of your favorite wines of the world and favorite producers.
BB: Im a sucker for Napa Valley Cab! I love the rich and bold flavors of Heitz, Nickel and Nickel, Robert Sinskey, ect. My first love was Pinot Noir though and still love going down to the Willamette for a couple days and tasting through great wines from Ken Wright, White Rose and Adelsheim to name a few. Now that I am actually thinking about it though there really aren’t too many wine and regions I do not like tasting. One of the best parts about studying for my Certified Sommelier exam was diving into a foreign region. I would eat foods that are common in that area, and taste them with local wines. I would research history of the area, normal temperatures if and when wars happened and how they sell themselves now. It is really amazing when you can travel to another region without even leaving your home!