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A woman. A passion. A dream fulfilled.
As a young girl growing up in western Washington, Lori Kennedy’s grandfather Carlo, who immigrated from Reggio Calabria, Italy, as a teenager, introduced the culture and appreciation of wine to a child that little did he know would turn the fondness of the complementary element of meal time into a successful entrepreneurial venture.
Don Carlo Vineyards is a team of two individuals and the dedicated help of family during harvest that once established in 2007, has been bottling estate wines that have quickly garnered attention from regional and international wine award festivals.
Always having an appreciation and interest in farming and working with what the earth can provide, it wasn’t until Lori and her husband Tim Kennedy purchased property in Milton-Freewater in 2006 and Tim retired from his successful business Tim’s Cascade Snacks in 2005 (honestly, some of the best potato chips I’ve ever had) that Lori’s wine-making pursuit materialized and began to become a deserving part of the well-respected and blossoming Walla Walla Valley wine community that I am fortunate to have in my backyard.
Always keeping a watchful eye out for anything simply luxurious, I first came to learn about Don Carlo Vineyard wines while listening to an interview on the radio in which they announced their tasting room would be opening at the historic Marcus Whitman hotel in Walla Walla in the spring of 2011. Already having a fondness for the exquisite luxurious decor and historically rich hotel (Dwight Eisenhower, Louis Armstrong, Shirley Temple and Lyndon B. Johnson have all rested their heads on pillows at the Marcus Whitman), I made a note to myself to stop in during the annual Spring Release weekend.
So it was with a handful of family and friends that I first tasted a Don Carlo Estate Chardonnay, and it was at that moment that I became smitten. With a buttery, light, subtle fruity taste, their Chardonnay which is fermented in stainless steel barrels, was added to my “must-have” on hand. And with a very reasonable price point, the criteria of “simply luxurious” had been met (refined living on an everyday income).
Since my first Don Carlo experience, an Estate Cabernet Franc has been added to their offerings (however, it was so well-received when released this past spring that I’m patiently waiting for their next vintage when more becomes available) along with their Estate Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and and Cabernet Franc Rosé.
~Don Carlo Vineyard wine being enjoyed on the set of The Big Bang Theory~
It’s not just any business idea that can come to fruition in only five short years and gain the attention of not only those in the Pacific Northwest region, but The Big Bang Theory fans as well (yes, Sheldon was seen drinking Don Carlo Vineyard’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon in a recent episode. Lori shared that often people come into the tasting room and simply ask for “whatever Sheldon was drinking!”). Lori and Tim demonstrate that dreams take time as one educates themselves about their subject matter, creates a sound business plan and cultivates genuine relationships with fellow wine lovers, buyers and others in the industry.
With a mission to create quality, affordable wines that consistently impress their consumer, they refuse to compromise, exclusively using estate wines which differentiates them from many of the more than 80 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley.
~Lori and Tim Kennedy~
It was upon being invited by Lori to visit the Don Carlo vineyard last weekend that I observed a woman who has a genuine passion for creating something she is profoundly proud of, who is willing to work beyond expectation to see where and what her land can produce, and a husband who is eagerly supporting his partner as she dives into a time consuming endeavor that nonetheless leaves her fulfilled and ultimately beaming.
Wanting to get to know the duo behind the delicious, savory wines, I couldn’t help but ask a few simple, yet revealing questions:
~Easiest way to lose track of time . . . drinking wine with friends
~Favorite book . . . Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbra Kingsolver
~Guilty pleasure . . . taking time off
~Favorite quote . . . “Girls should stand up tall and say ’I am a farmer’, you should have pride in being a farmer.” -Margaret Troedson, Pendleton, Oregon April 8, 2012
~Favorite movies . . . Bottle Shock or old classics such as Anna Karenina
~Best advice . . . “Be patient, be kind.”
~What advice would you give to others on how to discover their passion?
I think it is important to explore your life and discover your passion. It may take years as one grows and experiences things. I thought I wanted to be an successful engineer in my younger years, turns out I really wanted to farm, grow something, produce something, be a part of the cycle of life. Educate yourself to become good at your passion. I knew nothing, zero actually about viticulture and the science of winemaking. I set out to get the best education possible to do this in order to be good at my passion. It may take a lifetime but I do not think it is wasted time.
As a testament of her own advice, her passion began with a jovial, generous grandfather who provided for his family not only sustenance, but vivid, beautiful moments that with time revealed itself as a label on a wine bottle that proudly displays a vintage image of a man who epitomizes the American dream that began in Italy and journeyed to the silver screen in Hollywood. As homage to his inspiration, Lori and Tim’s next wine will be a super Tuscan blend named Big Papa. Stay tuned.
~Don Carlo Vineyards & Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend~
~Don Carlo Vineyard barrels of merlot and cabernet. Oh the fabulous smell of wine and oak! A wine lovers bliss.~
~If you’re in the Walla Walla Valley this weekend (December 6-8), be sure to stop by the Don Carlo Vineyard tasting room located at 6 West Rose St, Walla Walla, Washington (The Marcus Whitman Hotel). Open for tasting Thursday (2-6), Friday (12-6) and Saturday (12-6). They will be offering a barrel tasting of their coveted Estate Cabernet Franc 2010 and selling their newly released 2009 Estate Merlot along with 2010 Chardonnay and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.
~Where you can find Don Carlo Vineyard wines to enjoy or take home~
Walla Walla, WA
-The Marcus Whitman (wine shop and restaurant)
-Virgil’s at Cimmiyotti’s
-Market of Choice
-Jake’s Famous Crawfish Restaurant
-Pearl Wine Market
Images: courtesy of Don Carlo Vineyards and barrels, sign, Lori and Tim in barrel room captured by simply luxurious