Food & Drink

Pepper Bridge wines stand out

It’s hard to remember a time before Pepper Bridge Winery became one of the Walla Walla Valley’s top wineries.

Yet Norm McKibben launched the operation in 1998, making it the 18th winery in the valley. Soon after, he brought in partner Ray Goff, a veteran of Anheuser-Busch, and they hired Swiss-born winemaker Jean-François Pellet, who later also became a partner.

Pellet’s wines quickly gained acclaim as among the best and most collectible in Washington and beyond.

The winery’s (and vineyard’s) name dates back to the days of the Oregon Trail, when a key crossing over the Walla Walla River was owned by the Pepper family. Stagecoaches and covered wagons crossed a bridge there. Today, Peppers Bridge Road runs north-south near the Washington-Oregon border south of Walla Walla.

After Pepper Bridge was established, a second label was created called Amavi, which has since evolved into its own winery, with all the wines made by Pellet.

In addition to the estate Pepper Bridge Vineyard, McKibben also is a partner in Seven Hills Vineyard with the owners of Leonetti Cellar and L’Ecole No. 41.

Pepper Bridge and Amavi have separate tasting rooms in the southern Walla Walla Valley, and they share a tasting room in Woodinville, not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Here are a few examples we’ve tasted in recent weeks.