Efeste Cellars grows from side project to full winery

Efeste Wine Cellars, pronounced F-S-T, first opened their doors to the public in December 2007. The name comes from the last names of the winery’s three founding partners: Daniel Ferrelli, Patrick Smith and Kevin Taylor.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 4:09pm
  • Life

Efeste Winery winemaker Brennon Leighton.

Efeste Wine Cellars, pronounced F-S-T, first opened their doors to the public in December 2007. The name comes from the last names of the winery’s three founding partners: Daniel Ferrelli, Patrick Smith and Kevin Taylor.

The tradition of wine making traces back several generations in the Ferrelli family. As a second-generation Italian, Daniel kept the tradition going by making wine as a hobby in his garage. When Taylor married into the Ferrelli family, Daniel took his son-in-law under his wing. The pair shared a common passion for wine.

The three owners commissioned winemaker, Brennon Leighton, previously of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and consultants Chris Upchurch and Jay Soloff of DeLille Cellars.

The Reporter sat down with Smith and Leighton to learn more about the winery.

Reporter: How has Efeste Wine Cellars grown since it first opened in 2007?

Smith: It began with Daniel, Kevin and I wanting to make some wine as a side project. A couple of us were going to throw some money together and make a couple of barrels of wine for our own consumption. As the weeks went by we thought, man could we sell this stuff?

Then I met Jay Soloff of DeLille. He had a lot to do with talking to me about how we were going to set this thing up and ideas for how we would market and move forward. Then Jay introduced me to Chris Upchurch and he came on board.

We knew the business side of things, but we had no clue about this industry and what it took to make it work. From there, the families really got involved. It’s been a big group project. The synergy between the families is great and it’s fun for me to be a part of that.

Reporter: How would you describe Efeste wines?

Leighton: We make both red and white wines. Australian wines are kind of their (the partners) first love, but I wouldn’t say Efeste makes Australian wines. What we really make are Washington wines.

We think Washington wines are incredible wines that are undiscovered by the rest of the world. So I would say we’re trying to make the best Washington wines we can.

Reporter: How would you describe the winery’s success?

Smith: The best way to put it is that things have gone well and things always seem to go a little better than we expect. We’re always anticipating a challenge every step of the way because we don’t take this for granted. So far we’ve enjoyed some real nice successes. Whenever we pass some type of milestone we look back and say, wow that went really good. It has surpassed any of our expectations.

Reporter: What is Efestes wine philosophy?

Leighton: As the winemaker, my philosophy is to focus on concentration and elegance in the same breath. We’re making wines that have a unique and complex quality to them and are enjoyable. What we’re really doing here is trying to produce some of the best wines in the world just as any winemaker would want to do.

Reporter: Why are so many wineries drawn to Woodinville?

Leighton: Back in 1976 the biggest and most powerful winery in Washington (Chateau St. Michelle) moved to Woodinville and basically defined Woodinville as a wine making place. Chateau Ste. Michelle loves to promote Washington wines in general and the success of Washington wines is their success as well, so it’s pretty natural for other wineries to build around them. Columbia Winery came soon after them and DeLille and other wineries followed.

Reporter: What makes Woodinville so unique?

Smith: There isn’t any competition. We’re competing more with the rest of the world then with each other. For that reason we learned early on that everyone’s so helpful and supportive of other wineries. Whether it’s help with equipment or advice, everybody is all about making Washington wine – and more specifically Woodinville wine — great! Efeste is bringing something to the table to make Woodinville wine just that much better. I’ve always been so grateful towards all the veterans and long-time people in Woodinville.

Reporter: What wines are currently available to the general public?

Leighton: For our whites we have the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2007 Riesling. For reds we have our 2005 Cabernet (also known as Big Papa), a 2005 Syrah, and a 2005 Cabernet/Syrah Blend.

Reporter: Where can people find a bottle of Efeste wine?

Smith: You can find our wine in places all over the Eastside. Places like the Purple Café, Barking Frog, Redmond Fine Wine and Cigars, Seattle Wine Company and Village Wines all carry it.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4602.

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