Greg Shelman became a wine connoisseur at 14 years old. He has the card from a Napa Valley winery to prove it. He couldn't drink, of course. But he held the corks up to his nostrils and was so enamored by the scent that he carried those corks around in his pocket for days.
Shelman is all grown up now and has salt-and-pepper hair, a wife and adult children, and a new tasting room at Kendall Yards for his Craftsman Winery.
His love of wine stayed with him through pharmacy school and then his downtown furniture business, Shelman Handcrafted. It's a skill that comes through in all of the woodwork in the tasting room. He constructed the bar, and the woodwork on the wall and ceiling. On an opposing yellow wall is the bright, painted-thread artwork by local artist Christina Rothe.
The name, Craftsman Winery, comes from his passion for craftsmanship and the attention to detail he believes are needed in creating both furniture and wine.
"I think we take way more credit as a winemaker than we're due," Shelman says. "[Winemaking] is thousands and thousands years old, by craftsmen paying attention to detail and trying to do things the right way."
Shelman returned to Washington State University in 2003 and was the first to graduate from its viticulture and enology program.
He does a traditional cold soak method, utilizes gravity instead of pumps to minimize oxygen, and possesses French oak barrels that are made with the same wood as the bar in the tasting room. On the shelf right now sits a pinot noir, a merlot/pinot noir blend, a syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon and the Mattawa red (a syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend).
Serving a pinot noir is already a standout, since most of these grapes in Washington are used for sparkling wine. But that detail is out-wined by the unique co-fermentation between merlot and pinot noir, of which Shelman only made 75 cases.
"This came about not by artistic design," he laughs.
Shelman didn't have enough merlot, so he made up the difference with the extra pinot he had. It's a blend that comes as a surprise to most who visit the tasting room, but it's a pleasant surprise.
"Jeremiah was a bullfrog, but he always had some mighty fine wine," he says, smiling. "That's what I hope to have: mighty fine wine." ♦
Craftsman Winery • 1194 W. Summit Pkwy. • Open Tue-Thu, 2-8 pm; Fri-Sat, 2-10 pm; Sun, 2-6 pm • craftsmanwinery.com • 328-3960