Matías Kúsulas at the Helm as Head Winemaker

APRIL 2021 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDesert Wind Winery, an iconic winery destination in Prosser, Wash., has been purchased by well-established Washington vineyard and winery families Tom and Tami Merkle and Josh and Lisa Lawrence from the Fries family who started the winery 20 years ago.

Desert Wind Winery was launched in 2001 to showcase the exceptional fruit grown at Desert Wind Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, which the Merkles, Lawrences, and other investors purchased together in 2020 from the Fries family. The purchase of Desert Wind Winery brings the project full circle to encompass grape growing and wine production under the Desert Wind name.

The Desert Wind facility in Prosser is a destination unto itself. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Yakima River, its Southwest-inspired exterior features a tasting room, large event space, restaurant, spa, and overnight guest rooms, as well as a crush pad and wine production facility. Desert Wind is perhaps best known for its flagship red blend, Ruah.

Winemaking at Desert Wind will be directed by Matías Kúsulas, a Chilean native who moved to Washington state in 2016 after making wine all over the world for several years. Kúsulas holds multiple degrees in enology and related fields, and also serves as viticulturist for Desert Wind Vineyard, Conner Lee Vineyard, and Lawrence Vineyards.

“We are excited to add Desert Wind Winery to our portfolio with the Lawrences,” said Tom Merkle. “The addition of the winery to our Desert Wind Vineyard property will continue to build on the long tradition of producing remarkable estate wines at Desert Wind Winery.”

“Desert Wind Winery is an unparalleled destination in the Yakima Valley, and we are excited to expand the offerings there with an even greater emphasis on food and wine pairings, private events, and lodging experiences,” said Josh Lawrence. 

The Merkles and the Lawrences, along with business partners, are also proprietors of the legendary Conner Lee Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

Desert Wind Winery is open seven days a week at 11am. The Lawrence and Merkle families will be hosting an open house later this spring to welcome guestss and wine enthusiasts. More at

About Tom Merkle
Born in Seattle, Tom began his career with his father on family-owned orchards. He continued to work closely with his father until Boeing lured him away. After a brief stint at Boeing, Tom returned to his roots and accepted a management position in a prominent local vineyard/orchard company which was eventually purchased by Zirkle Fruit Company. Tom is Director of Vineyard Operations with Zirkle, owns Wautoma Springs Vineyard, and together with winemaker Jessica Munnell owns Wautoma Springs Winery.

About Josh & Lisa Lawrence
Born and raised in Royal City, Wash., Josh returned to run the family farm and orchards in 2002 with wife Lisa after launching a wine importing company based in Seattle while Lisa worked in marketing and public relations for a dotcom company. In 2003, Josh began planting Lawrence Vineyards on what is now the Royal Slope AVA, and together with Lisa in 2006 launched Gård Vintners to showcase their estate grown wine grapes. Gård now has three tasting rooms in Woodinville, Walla Walla, and Ellensburg, with a fourth to open soon in Royal City.