Nestled in the foothills of Mt. Spokane, among the picturesque orchards and pumpkin farms on Green Bluff, is Townshend Cellars. From its humble beginnings in 1998 in Don Townshend's garage, the winery's tasting room is now located in a modern farmhouse-style building, while operations are overseen by Don's sons Brendon and Michael. Though neither brother has a formal education in winemaking, Michael says they couldn't help learning a lot about the industry as kids. "On-the-job training in wine making, it was a big part of how we grew up, so we knew a lot already," he says. "But we've officially been sole owners of the business for three years now."
Most of the winery's eight employees work with Brendon as part of the winemaking crew at the company's main production facility at 1222 N. Regal Street near Spokane Community College. Meanwhile, Michael and his wife, Vanessa, operate the winery's tasting room and secondary production facility at Green Bluff, as well as a Christmas tree farm on the same property.
With the tasting room closed due to COVID-19, the winery is offering curbside pickup as well as some new options. These include glass wine "growlers" dubbed "Wowlers" that can be purchased and refilled, as well as wine in kegs, which can be set up similarly to beer on draft.
"The tasting room was previously open three days a week for folks to taste and buy wine, or participate in wine club activities," Michael says. "Being closed is hard, but we're trying some fun new things while we wait to see how things improve and what's next with phased re-openings."
He notes the winery is also using this time to explore ways to reduce its environmental impact.
"The wine industry has a lot of issues with waste, specifically that which is created by bottling, packaging and shipping," he says. "But we'd like to do our part to be better stewards, raise awareness and work towards sustainable solutions." They're exploring alternative packaging such as using cans, boxes or light weight glass bottles, or even reusing bottles, as well as looking at creative ways for shipping wine.
Townshend Cellars specializes in red wines, and the most popular are the T3 bordeaux blend, the Vortex red blend, and the simply titled Red Table Wine. They also produce several white wines, as well as sparkling wines. The winery's grapes come from various vineyards in the Columbia Valley, and it also occasionally purchases excess juice or wine for use in blended products from other wineries.
"Because we make so many non-vintage blends, we're able to find a home for excess wine that other makers have on hand but can't use," Michael says. "Overall, we try to maintain a good balance of grape and bulk wine purchases, to ensure our product stays consistent."
In partnering with other wineries, he says Townshend Cellars is able to maintain a higher volume of production, and sell its wine at an affordable price.
"We're not the fanciest wine, so you're more likely to find us in a grocery store than a restaurant," he says. "But we're ok with that, because our goal has always been to make great quality wine at a great value, and that's what we hope to continue with."
Goes Well With...
When it comes to food pairing suggestions, both Michael and Brendon Townshend try not to impose strict guidelines.
"I've heard our T3 pairs well with steak and potatoes, while the cabernet franc goes well with grilled meats," says Michael. "But I don't believe you have to stick to set pairings, and I personally enjoy sipping our sparkling wines while eating potato chips."
Brendon Townshend agrees, adding that pairings are closely tied to individual tastes.
"Whether or not the wine matches the dish is really up to the person cooking, as they know what flavors they're seeking," he says.