A new winemaking team is kicking off the 2023 harvest at The Walls winery and its sister brand PÁŠXA in Walla Walla, Washington. Founded in 2014, The Walls produces Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhône-style wines from its estate vineyards in the Rocks District, as well as French Creek Vineyard in Prosser, Washington. As the first grapes start coming into the cellar, Executive Winemaker Sally Johnson Blum and Associate Winemaker Suzie Harryman are diving in with enthusiasm.
“I’ve been intrigued by the wines of Washington state since my first visit to Walla Walla in 2018,” says Johnson Blum. “I’ve been blown away by The Walls’ state-of-the-art facility and vineyards.”
Johnson Blum brings her experience as a winemaker at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards and Pride Mountain Vineyards in California’s Wine Country, along with the work she has done as a winemaking consultant for Mullan Road Cellars, School House Vineyard and Tamber Bey Vineyards. Harryman joined the team at The Walls in 2020 after working multiple roles at Willamette Valley wineries, along with serving as assistant winemaker at Swiftwater Cellars in Cle Elum, Washington. She started in the winery at The Walls, went on to become the full-time enologist, and is now looking forward to this new role as associate winemaker, working alongside Johnson Blum. Ben Kaehler, previously at Lemelson Vineyards in Carlton, Oregon, is also joining The Walls as general manager.
As the 2023 vintage is making its way in, the winemakers have high hopes for the harvest. “It’s a great vintage so far, and we’re seeing things ripen sequentially,” says Johnson Blum. “This growing season has really been ideal. We’ve been thrown a lot of curveballs in winemaking, but we couldn’t ask for anything better this year.”
Both Johnson Blum and Harryman say they love to be hands-on; actually doing the work in the cellar. “It’s very exciting to be working with Suzie,” says Johnson Blum, noting the importance of inclusivity within the industry. The duo is thrilled to call themselves an all-female winemaking team.
Johnson Blum says her best advice for females interested in working in the wine industry is to build diverse skills, including technical knowledge, hands on practical and tasting experience, and developing management skills. “It’s different now than when I was starting out,” she says. “It was common for women to be pigeonholed in the lab, but now production oriented hands-on roles are more prevalent. Seek those out and embrace them.”
And as Harryman suggests, harness the energy and positivity within the industry and find support. “People want to see you do well and be successful.”
The Walls and PÁŠXA tasting room is located at 1015 W. Pine St. in Walla Walla and is open daily by appointment.