J. BookwalterLiterally, the best of Washington wine
The Bookwalter family roots are deep in agriculture and the Washington wine and viticulture industry. With several of the top vineyard sources in the state and a commitment to excellence in winemaking, Bookwalter winery is positioned to fulfill the growing demand for ultra premium wines from Washington State.
The family agricultural endeavors go back to the 18th century in Europe and have continued since with Jerrold Bookwalter. Jerry graduated from UC Davis in 1963 with a dual degree in Agriculture Economics and Pomology and quickly employed his degree and farming experience in San Jose, California. After managing large corporate farms in the San Joaquin Valley and owning his own farm in Atwater, California, Jerry successfully managed the largest Vinifera planting of grapes in Washington State at Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus vineyards since early 1976 until 1982 when he started his own agricultural management company and grape brokering business.
Jerry produced his first wines: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc & Johannisberg Riesling in 1983. By 1984, Jerry began production of the red wines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. By 1985, Jerry’s wife, Jean, took over the operations of the business. Jean’s business skills and Jerry’s innovation, winemaking and vineyard management skills kept the winery operating during the challenging early years in the Washington Wine Industry.
John Bookwalter, the son of Jean and Jerry Bookwalter joined the family winery in October of 1997 after 10 years of a successful career in beverage sales and marketing with Pepsi, Gallo, WinterBrook Beverage Group and the Coors Brewing Company. John is the 10th American generation of Bookwalters to be involved in and around agriculture and has focused his attention primarily on the production of ultra premium red wines.
To produce the top red wines in Washington State, John teamed up with world-class winemaking and vineyard consultant Zelma Long in 2000. Zelma Long had just retired from her illustrious corporate career that spanned nearly 30 years in the wine industry and passed through such Wineries as Mondavi and Simi Wineries in California. Success was immediate with their first vine to wine efforts as both the 2000 Columbia Valley Merlot and 2000 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines were released to rave reviews. The next two vintages brought two top 100 wines of the year rankings, several 90 point plus Parker ratings and another Wine Spectator “Wine of the Week” acknowledgement.
Jerry Bookwalter graduated from University of California-Davis in 1963, farmed for 13 years in the San Joaquin valley then moved his young family to Washington State in 1976 to join what was then a very fledgling wine industry. Jerry has managed vineyards in Washington State since 1976 and still to this day manages the famed Conner-Lee vineyard which is the largest source of grapes for J. Bookwalter.
In 1997, John joined the family business, bringing 10 years of sales and marketing experience from the likes of E & J Gallo, Winterbrook Beverage Group and the Coors Brewing Company. John purchased the Winery from the family in 2008 and now largely focuses his efforts on production, sales and marketing and the overall strategic vision of the company.
In his 16+ years with the business, John has made sweeping changes from the winemaking style and product packaging to an updated building, a Studio tasting room in Woodinville and a restaurant in Richland. Wine making is the perfect blend of science and art,” John has said. “You can’t produce a great wine without the use of both.” And that’s exactly what he loves about it — the rewarding feeling of being involved in everything from growing the fruit and creating the wine to marketing and selling the final product.
Winemaking Consultant – Zelma Long
Zelma enlisted as a consultant winemaker in 2000 through the 2008 vintage. Co-owner of Zelphi wines, which operates in both Napa and South Africa, she was the first woman to serve as CEO of a major California winery (Simi) and is considered one of the pioneers responsible for the growth of the modern California wine industry.
Zelma helped John design the red wines, fulfilling the expectations and level of success he had hoped for while enriching his knowledge and respect for viticulture and winemaking. She and John led J. Bookwalter for nearly a decade with highly rated wines from the Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Advocate amongst other publications.
Winemaking Consultant – Claude Gros
After nine exceptional vintages with Zelma Long as our consultant winemaker, John Bookwalter continues to pursue his passion for working with a continuum of world class wine professionals.
Beginning in 2009, John aligned himself with a “tour de force” consultant winemaker, Claude Gros. Hailing from the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region of France. Claude has been praised by the likes of Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson and today fashions some of the most exciting wines produced throughout the old and new world. Claude’s impact was nearly immediate with J. Bookwalter receiving their highest scores ever from the highly acclaimed 2009 vintage. Claude’s perspective, innovative and time-tested approach to winemaking will continue to contribute a great deal to an already very rich history of grape growing and winemaking at J. Bookwalter.