What happens when you cross a garage with a barn and use it to make wine? For Kevin Correll and Bonni Ruchty, it translates into Barrage Cellars, a boutique storefront they own in Woodinville’s wine district.
Correll said he counseled his college-bound daughter to find something she will love doing, and it won’t feel like work. Then, considering his own words, he decided he should practice what he’d preached.
“My friend made beer, and the science behind it interested me,” Correll said. “I loved wine, so I started reading up and bought some grapes, then turned them into pretty good wines.”
Correll then began attending winemaker dinners and continued making wines in his converted barn-garage. Next, he volunteered with an acclaimed grower to learn the dynamics of cultivating grapes.
“Just like anything else, the hardest part of launching a great product is starting out with really good ingredients,” said Correll. “I was lucky to be able to source from great vintners, and when you start out with really good fruit, you’re already halfway there.”
Barrage Cellars bottled its debut vintage in 2008, a 100 percent varietal Cabernet Franc, defying an industry tendency to blend grapes and earning the new winemakers instant notoriety.
The first year, the wine received a Double Gold award in the Cabernet Franc category during the prestigious annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Since, it has received much local and national attention and a score of 92 with noted wine critic Robert Parker.
“Our Cab Franc varietal has consistently been our highest-scoring wine,” said Correll, indicating the measurement also validates his business strategy to do something different. “I’m not against blending, but I’m probably the only vineyard in Washington that does 100 percent varietals across the portfolio.”
Alas, the quick rise of the Barrage label also came with a price. The first name selected for their award-winning Cabernet Franc label was challenged by another vintner, leaving the owners with only three options: relabel the entire inventory, sell it off all at once, or pay royalties.
“It was scary, because we had inventory and customers, and we weren’t sure what to do,” Ruchty recalled. “We decided on relabeling, then had to figure out how to make a $35 wine bottle not look cheap.”
According to Correll, a stroke of brilliance from their graphic designer saved the day. “We were tossing around ideas, and out of the blue, he suggested the name Cease and Desist,” he said. “It stuck, and we’ve now incorporated the relabel into the main label design.”
The experience taught the winemakers to approach business problems with an open mind and led them to ultimately build a popular go-to brand for wine stewards, retail enthusiasts, and Barrage Cellars Wine Club members alike.
Correll’s advice for others in business is, “Follow your passion, and keep learning,” adding with a laugh, “and be sure to hire a smart graphic designer.”