Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goodbye Jerry Wallace. Thanks For The Wine & The Memories

Jerry Wallace, who launched Hinzerling Winery in Prosser, Wash., in 1976, passed away January 6th at 90 years of age.

Wallace was Seattle police officer beginning in 1944. He worked as a special driver for the mayor, among other tasks until his retirement in 1972.

In 1972, he and his family moved to Prosser, Washington, where they planted one of the earliest commercial wine grape vineyards in the region. Hinzerling Vineyard was the first in the state to use drip irrigation. Wallace and his wife, Dee, also founded the Roza chapter of the Enological Society of the Pacific Northwest.

In 1976, Wallace and his son Mike launched Hinzerling Winery, making it one of the state's oldest wineries. The winery is best known for its Ports and dessert wines. The most recent wine that I reviewed from Hinzerling was Mike's Cream Sherry which is one of the best I've ever had.

In 2008, Jerry Wallace was nominated as a Legend of Washington Wine by the state wine industry. He is survived by his three children, Mike, Pam and Steve, as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

To end this blog entry I want to finish with a personal letter to Jerry's son Mike and the rest of the Wallace family:

To the family and friends of Jerry Wallace:

My wife and I met Jerry in 1987 at the Prosser winery while traveling through the valley on our Honeymoon. We were a couple of young kids from Idaho, just old enough to drink, and highly curious about wine. Like many other 21 year olds, we thought that Riesling was the only "good" wine, and had spent a large portion of our trip through Washington and British Columbia tasting and purchasing just that. When we walked through the door of Hinzerling and met this striking gentleman we knew we weren't in a winery like any other. First, the winery wasn't some fancy million dollar complex with art on the walls. It was an old garage with the lab counter also acting as the tasting room bar. Also, the guy who was running the tasting room was also the guy who actually had made the wine. Needless to say, we were mesmerized. We spent over an hour listening to his stories and his methods for making wine. He actually convinced us to taste a few wines we had never considered, including our first tastes of Cabernet Sauvignon.

We purchased two bottles of wine from Jerry that day. One bottle of Rouge to enjoy on our first anniversary, which was delicious by the way. The second bottle was a bottle of 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we still have in our wine cellar being stored for our 25th anniversary reception. Jerry was convinced that the bottle would be still good on our twenty fifth if we took good care of it, and we have. I'm not sure if it will win any awards or even be better than vinegar for the salad dressing, but the storage of that wine, and the thirst for wine knowledge that Jerry instilled in me that day has stayed with me for 23 years.

In two years we will open that bottle and serve it in some ceremonial way to our guests in the rememberence of Jerry. Mr. Wallace, thank you for sharing your love for wine and life with two dumb kids from Idaho.


Rich Breshears
Wine Columnist for Eastern Oregonian Newspaper, and wine blogger at onerichwineguy.blogspot.com

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