Gateway: News

Trillium Creek Winery brings a taste of France to Home

Claude and Claudia Gahard moved out to the Key Peninsula in 1992 and started Trillium Creek Winery. The couple splits the labor, with Claude handling the winemaking and giving visitors tastings and Claudia doing all the “outside work” of maintaining the grapes and leading vineyard tours along with Champ — or Champagne — a rescued 13-year-old golden retriever-bloodhound mix who is her constant and faithful companion and the winery’s mascot.
Claude and Claudia Gahard moved out to the Key Peninsula in 1992 and started Trillium Creek Winery. The couple splits the labor, with Claude handling the winemaking and giving visitors tastings and Claudia doing all the “outside work” of maintaining the grapes and leading vineyard tours along with Champ — or Champagne — a rescued 13-year-old golden retriever-bloodhound mix who is her constant and faithful companion and the winery’s mascot. jbessex@gateline.com

Home is where the heart is, and this is especially true for Claude and Claudia Gahard — owners and operators of Trillium Creek Winery — who have been pouring their hearts into their home and their wine for the past 16 years.

Wine is personal for Claude, who was born and raised in Paris and has been drinking red wine since he was 6 months old.

“I make wine for me,” Claude said. “I like all the wines I make.”

Claude, 74, and Claudia, 77, are looking to sell their winery and retire to move closer to their children in Chelan.

“I’m tired,” Claudia said. “I want to sell (the winery) and have someone young do this.”

The couple splits the labor, with Claude handling the winemaking and giving visitors tastings and Claudia doing all the “outside work” of maintaining the grapes and leading vineyard tours along with Champ — or Champagne — a rescued 13-year-old golden retriever-bloodhound mix who is her constant and faithful companion and the winery’s mascot.

The couple first bought the 13-acre property in 1989, clearing room in the trees and blackberries for a 2,190-square-foot Alsatian-style house built by Claude and Claudia. Wanting more light to shine on the property, the couple cleared tall trees from west-facing hills a few years later and decided to plant grapes to continue almost 30-year hobby of winemaking.

They established their winery in 2000 and named it Trillium Creek Winery after the Trillium flowers — a protected species — that grow along the property’s creek. The winery now grows about five acres of pinot noir, for its estate wine, which grows perfectly in the local climate, and buys 30,000 pounds of grapes every fall from a grower in Eastern Washington to produce chardonnay, merlot, syrah, riesling and cabernet sauvignon wines at Trillium Creek.

Everything on the property is grown without the use of insecticides or pesticides; the winery was named the 2008 Wildlife Steward Farm of the Year from the Pierce Conservation District.

“Conservation is very important to use,” Claude said. “When you use insecticide you throw off nature’s balance.”

I do everything I can in my work to showcase the fruit. I do everything I can to preserve the flavor of the grape.

Claude Gahard

In addition to the grape wines — which Claude makes himself — Claudia makes “hot tub wines,” or sweet wines out of different fruits including blackberries, Asian pears, quince and ginger.

The biggest difference between Claude’s wines and the wines available in grocery stores is the amount of sulfites added. Claude produces traditional low-sulfite French and Italian style wines with 50 parts per million sulfite. Typical American wines have 350 parts sulfite per million.

“You will never get a headache and you will never get a hangover from these wines,” Claudia said firmly.

Because of the low sulfites, the wines must be kept cool and dark in a cellar or cooler to avoid the blooming of the fermentation yeast in the wine, spoiling the flavor.

Another process that sets Trillium Creek Winery apart from other wineries is its refusal to blend grapes to create a certain flavor: all wines are 100 percent of the specific grape on the label.

“I do everything I can in my work to showcase the fruit,” Claude said. “I do everything I can to preserve the flavor of the grape.”

There’s a ton of interest in the winery, but it’s people with the love of wine and a love of the industry, but they don’t have the money. I also have investors, but they also have jobs. It’s a matter of connecting the two...We have an international search (for a buyer).

Robyn Denson, real estate agent

Included in the sale of Trillium Creek Winery is the house, a 450-square-foot tasting room, a 1,500-square-foot wine cellar, a 1,500-square-foot shop, a two-car garage and all the wine production equipment and supplies, selling for $799,000.

Robyn Denson is the real estate agent with Keller Williams West Sound who is working with Claude and Claudia to sell the winery.

“There’s a ton of interest in the winery, but it’s people with the love of wine and a love of the industry, but they don’t have the money,” Denson said. “I also have investors, but they also have jobs. It’s a matter of connecting the two...We have an international search (for a buyer).”

The winery remains open as the search for a buyer continues, with vineyard tours and tastings available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday year-round, with bottles of wine available to purchase beginning at $30.

“(Claude) makes this wine for himself,” Claudia explained. “If you like it, that’s nice, but if you don’t, he doesn’t mind.”

Claude confirmed his wife’s statement to be true; he is the biggest fan of his wines, though some regular customers might challenge him for that title.

“You have to approach these wines with an open mind,” he said. “It’s not a beverage we use to get drunk. If you want to get intoxicated, drink whiskey... People drink wine for different reasons.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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