Food & Drink

Young Palencia winery showing proven skills

Victor Palencia’s journey is the story of the American dream.

Born in 1985 in the state of Michoacán in Southwest Mexico, Palencia emigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old. His father wanted a better life for his family and came to the Yakima Valley, where he picked up a shovel and began working in the region’s mint fields. Eventually, the elder Palencia moved into orchard and vineyard work.

While most high-schoolers fill their after-school hours with activities such as participating in sports, working at fast-food restaurants or playing video games, Victor Palencia headed to the vineyards with his father to help support his family. This is where his love for wine began.

After graduating from Prosser High School in 2003, Palencia became the first in his family to go to college. He earned his wine-making degree from Walla Walla Community College, thanks in part to a scholarship from Leonetti Cellar. During his time in the Walla Walla Valley, he worked for such wineries as Saviah Cellars, Sleight of Hand Cellars, Basel Cellars and Zerba Cellars.

After graduation, he returned to Prosser, where he was hired as assistant winemaker at Willow Crest Winery. This landed Palencia in The New York Times, which wrote a feature on him because he was an underage winemaker who couldn’t legally taste what he produced.

Two years later, Palencia was hired as director of wine-making at J&S Crushing, a custom wine-making facility in Mattawa, where he also produces the wine for Jones of Washington and several other clients. In total, Palencia is responsible for more than a million cases of wine.

In September 2013, Palencia came full circle, opening Palencia Wine Company near Walla Walla Regional Airport (while keeping his day job in Mattawa) a few weeks after attending his 10-year high school reunion.

Palencia’s first releases have been nothing short of superb, following the success he has shown with Jones of Washington. Here are a few of his latest wines, which we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.