Convergence Zone Cellars proves that
good things come in small packages
Owner/winemaker Scott Greenberg’s style is making higher
acidity, lower pH wines that pair well with food and age well.
By Dan Radil
Of all Washington winemakers, Scott Greenberg of Convergence Zone Cellars may be the state’s quintessential garagiste.
His production facility, barrel room, and tasting bar are all contained in a non-descript, garage-like building just steps from Greenberg’s home in a quiet residential area in the town of North Bend, WA.
With the exception of a wine barrel near the street with his home address, and a sandwich board at the end of the driveway on Saturday afternoons, one might not even know that a winery exists there.
But make no mistake; inside the building that serves as the winery “headquarters,” Greenberg oversees a small, but carefully planned operation producing serious, award-winning wines that are an absolute pleasure to taste.
THE PATH TO WINEMAKING
Greenberg came to Washington in 1974 via Minneapolis and Santa Barbara, California. He earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Urban Planning at the University of Washington and worked as City Planner for a number of Washington cities including Mercer Island, Burien, Kirkland, and Bothell before retiring in 2018.
Like many Washington winemakers, Greenberg approached his craft as kind of a side-job/hobby while still working during his first career. But rather than have an epiphany-like moment that took him down the winemaking path – perhaps while tasting a particular bottle of wine or during a visit to a European wine region – Greenberg’s journey was more of a gradual process over a number of years.
Greenberg says his wife Monica’s dad “was a big wine connoisseur and we learned about wine from him. We learned that wine doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle on the shelf to be the best bottle of wine on the shelf. Through that, we began to appreciate wine.”
“Shortly after getting married in the early 1980’s, we started going wine tasting in Eastern Washington,” Greenberg adds. “At the time I still had no interest in winemaking, but I was sharpening my palate about wines and styles of wines I liked and didn’t like, and eventually AVA’s I grew fond of.”
His first steps towards actual winemaking began at the couple’s Redmond home in 2004, initially with purchased kits and then with grapes that produced wines they shared primarily with family and friends. “I didn’t screw it up,” recalls Greenberg with a smile, “and that encouraged me to keep going.”
AN UNLIKELY MOTIVATOR MAKES THINGS SERIOUS
When the Greenbergs applied for their winery license, the original plan was to “make wine at our house, truly as a garagiste winery in our garage,” says Scott.
But a call from a Washington State Liquor Control Board inspector made the Greenbergs rethink their initial plans and adapt a new strategy.
“The inspector got me to think about things like: how am I going to keep my barrels cool?; how am I going to have climate control in my garage?; how am I going to remodel my home to get heavy things in and out (with a forklift)? We were good to go from a regulatory standpoint but not from a practical standpoint.”
“The plan didn’t make sense,” Greenberg says, “So I said, let’s try to find a space in Woodinville…where I can do everything correctly.” At the time he was essentially self-taught, so he also decided to enter the wine program at South Seattle Community College to expand on his winemaking skills.
His first vintages (2008 and 2009) were bottled under Patterson Cellars’ license in the Woodinville Warehouse District. He then subleased space from Patterson and branched off on his own with the official launch of Convergence Zone Cellars in the summer of 2010.
The opening of the winery’s present location in North Bend didn’t come until 2016, although Greenberg notes they had purchased the house and property two years earlier…and then only after plenty of careful planning, of course.
The goal was primarily to have adequate space for Monica to have a big garden and chickens (which she now has) and, perhaps secondarily, for Scott to return to his garage-making roots. A large lot located just outside of incorporated city limits was exactly what they needed.
“This gives us the best of both worlds,” Greenberg notes, “we’re in unincorporated King County, we’re a home occupation, and we’re so close to everything here. I can walk into downtown North Bend in less than a half-hour. The people here are great and everyone supports each other.”
STYLES AND SOURCES
“I make wines that I like to drink and I hope others like to drink them also,” Greenberg says of his winemaking philosophy. “I want to make higher acidity, lower pH wines that will pair well with food and age well. That’s always been my style.”
“My passion is red blends, which is where I see the art in winemaking,’ he adds. “They give me the ability to create something that tastes great every year even though the blends may be slightly different. Numbers don’t dictate my winemaking, they guide them.”
Greenberg feels his Storm Front label red blend best defines his winemaking style. The currently released 2015 vintage, a flat-out delicious combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, has earned a slew of accolades, including a Best Bordeaux Blend and Double Gold Medal from the Tri-Cities Wine Festival.
His vineyard sources, some of which have been ongoing for over 10 years, include Snipes Mountain AVA’s Upland Vineyard and Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, which produce his 100-percent white varietal Chenin Blanc and Pinot Gris wines, respectively.
Convergence Zone is also home to a second label, Fly Rod Cellars, which is headed by Scott’s son-in-law along with a mutual friend who serves as volunteer cellar master. Their goal is to make a different varietal from a different vineyard source every year.
THE SNOQUALMIE VALLEY EXPERIENCE
Convergence Zone Cellars is part of the “Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience,” a cooperative that includes up to seven other area wineries.
The wineries are located just minutes north of Interstate 90, and offer a great opportunity for those considering a wine-related day-trip or weekend getaway. The town of North Bend also provides plenty of retail shopping opportunities and a couple of overnight stay options, and several dining choices are also available in town and at the nearby Snoqualmie Casino.
But the highlight of a visit, at least for Washington wine enthusiasts, should be the experience of tasting wines in a rural, picturesque setting at the western base of the Cascade Mountains. Boutique-style wineries are the order of the day here, with Greenberg’s Convergence Zone Cellars leading the way.
Looking ahead, his focus is to “keep things manageable on my own” by limiting production to about 700 cases annually. At the same time, he’ll continue “to educate consumers about wine…to provide them with tech sheets and tell them how we make it.”
For Greenberg and Convergence Zone Cellars, making that wine within the parameters of a boutique winery in a garagiste-style setting simply confirms what many of those consumers already know: good things really do come in small packages.
Convergence Zone Cellars is located at 10808 428th Ave. S.E., North Bend, WA. Phone: (425) 233-5638. www.czcellars.com. Open on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dan Radil is a freelance wine writer and educator based in Bellingham, WA., and has been an avid follower and supporter of the Washington wine industry since the mid-1980s. He currently contributes to Wine Press Northwest and Bellingham Alive Magazine, is President of the Whatcom Beer & Wine Foundation, and produces a wine blog called: danthewineguy.com