Keyser brings world-class experience and skill from one of Napa’s most notable wineries
Orondo, WA • Rocky Pond Estate Winery, the Washington producer crafting wines from their spectacular sustainably farmed riverside and lakeside vineyards in the Columbia River Valley, is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Keyser has been hired as their new winemaker. The timing of this appointment comes at a defining moment, with Rocky Pond perfectly poised to take their portfolio of premium Washington wines to new heights.
“We are beyond thrilled to have Elizabeth join our team,” stated owners David & Michelle Dufenhorst. “Her remarkable talent and enthusiasm will help propel Rocky Pond and the region onto the national stage. We have full confidence that her appointment is the next step in transforming Rocky Pond into the top Eastern Washington wine destination. We believe in the potential of this special region and Elizabeth shares in our vision.”
Keyser brings with her a level of expertise befitting of a tenured Napa Valley winemaker. She recently held the title of Assistant Winemaker at HALL Family Wines, where she crafted wines for the famed California producer’s three-brand portfolio (HALL, Walt, and Baca). Before this, Keyser had key winemaking positions with California’s Cliff Lede in Yountville, A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, Oregon, and Hardy’s Tintara in the McLaren Vale region of Australia and obtained her master’s degree with a concentration in enology from Cornell University. Her deep understanding of multiple varietals and styles ensures that she will be the ideal fit with Rocky Pond’s varied portfolio of premium wines.
This talented winemaker is no stranger to the intricacies of making wine in an emerging AVA such as the Columbia Valley. Having earned her stripes early on in New York’s Finger Lakes, she is inspired by the community spirit and forward thinking that is often found in up-and-coming wine regions. “I look at this as a challenge to think creatively and perhaps step out of some preconceived notions about Washington wine,” says Keyser. “Making wine in an up-and-coming region is an incomparable opportunity to push boundaries.”
Though similarly captivated by the rustic charm of downtown Chelan on her first visit, it wasn’t just the place itself that encouraged her to relocate — it was also the people. “David and Michelle have this pioneering vision and the team that they’ve pulled together is such a rockstar cast of characters — I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Notably among this vanguard team is Keyser’s good friend and mentor Steve Leveque, who has consulted for the Dufenhorsts since 2020. Leveque’s winemaking resume is impressive, resplendent with Napa icons such as Chalk Hill, Opus One, Mondavi, and HALL, where he and Keyser first crossed paths. His addition to the Rocky Pond team was a significant investment in the winery’s future. Now reunited with Keyser, the two will continue Rocky Pond’s mission to create world-class award-winning wines from their estate vineyards.
“Steve and I approach winemaking from a similar perspective,” explains Keyser. “We both have an innate curiosity and want to push boundaries. Steve is not a by-the-book winemaker, and it’s fascinating to work with someone with his combination of experience and innovation. Our dynamic is perfectly balanced and it’s beyond exciting to collaborate with him again.” Keyser foresees Rocky Pond entering not only the national spotlight but also the international conversation about fine wines: “Rocky Pond has the opportunity to be the standard-bearer for inspiring and compelling wines from Washington.” This belief puts her squarely in line with Leveque and the Dufenhorst’s vision to tirelessly work to drive quality, while always paying tribute to vineyard expression and terroir.
Keyser joins the team officially on February 1st, 2022 and will hit the ground running. This will be a busy and exciting start to the year for Rocky Pond, with the imminent launch of their two newest red and white prestige wines, Tumbled Granite, and dynamic new offerings from their hospitality program.
Also effective on Feb. 1, Rocky Pond’s former winemaker Shane Collins will take on a new role as Director of Viticulture for Rocky Pond Holdings, which owns and operates Rocky Pond Winery’s three estate vineyards. Shane’s knowledge of the terroir and vineyard experience is crucial in elevating the wine quality for Rocky Pond and the wineries that purchase their fruit. Shane will also spearhead a new venture called Cascade Valley Custom Crush. The Dufenhorsts are grateful to Shane for his significant contributions over the last five years and look forward to working closely with him in his new and critically important role.
About Rocky Pond Estate Winery:
Rocky Pond Estate Winery was established in 2013 by David and Michelle Dufenhorst. The winery itself takes its name from the tumbled granite stones found on their estate vineyards located in one of the most awe-inspiring regions of the Columbia River Valley. The Dufenhorsts knew upon first seeing their Columbia River site that it was both an ideal location for world-class grape-growing and a future home for their family. Regionally, Rocky Pond Estate Winery is making a name for itself as a high-quality Washington winery that is focused on producing Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines that showcase the truly unique terroir of their sustainably farmed riverside estate vineyards deeply rooted in the soils of the