For Quincy winemaker Megan Couture,
years of roaming have finally come to an end.

She’s the owner, winemaker, tasting room manager, the janitor
and the bookkeeper at Errant Cellars, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

By Sebastian Moraga

Megan Couture runs a one-woman show at Errant Cellars, and that’s the way she likes it.

After years of wandering through life, Megan Couture found herself working for a winemaker in the Quincy, WA., area and wanting, eventually, to start her own winery.  She found a spot in downtown Quincy, and from there, she has spent 10 years making her dream of making her own wine come true.

Errant Cellars, the name of the winery she started, is a nod to that peripatetic past, filled with stops and starts.

“Errant means to wander without cause or reason,” Couture said “When I was trying to decide on a name for the winery, I came across that word and it seemed really fitting. It fit what I had done for a lot of years — roaming around. And it fit how grapes traveled.” A decade is the longest Couture has ever done anything as an adult, and with Errant Cellars fresh off a remodeling and an expansion, she does not see herself going anywhere.

The added storage space she gained in the expansion has allowed Megan to have a place to keep her wines in barrels longer, which is something she always wanted to do.  “Not all wines are meant to be kept for a large number of years, but I do like to keep my bigger reds in for longer,” she said.

In addition, the commercial kitchen she added has allowed her to team up with a local catering business called “This ‘n’ That.”

There are at least five wineries nearby, although Couture’s is only one of two tasting rooms within the Quincy city limits. To Couture, who started out working for Pete Beaumont’s Beaumont Cellars before breaking out on her own, the closeness is not only geographical.

“It’s really helpful that all the wineries in the Quincy area work so well together,” she said, describing their philosophy as “what’s good for one of us is good for all of us.”  The symbiotic relationship makes it more pleasant to go to work, says Couture, whose winery is the quintessential one-woman-show.

“I’m still the winemaker, and the tasting room manager and the janitor and the bookkeeper,” she explained.  If it were a cutthroat environment, she added, it would not be nearly as fun. Instead, wineries in the area have formed a loose alliance of sorts, and it’s not unusual for one winery to recommend the wines of another.

Errant Cellars, operating under Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, takes advantage of its large front patio to serve guests at tables socially distanced at six feet apart.

It’s still a struggle, she says, to get the word out about Errant Cellars, so that camaraderie helps.

On the other hand, there’s a certain bit of freedom that comes with being a solo venture. Like when she tried to make dessert wines for the first time. She had no need to consult with anyone before crushing those grapes.

“It’s my winery, it’s my work,” she said, “so I can do that.” That freedom also extends to the standards of Errant Cellars wine. The standards that matter when making the wine are hers and not the public’s.   “I have a friend who’s been in the industry for 40 years and he tells me all the time, ‘you can’t just make wine that you like to drink.’ Every time, I laugh and I say, ‘Actually, I can.’”

Still, no winemaker is an island unto herself, so she tries to get out there and travel with her husband, Rob, visiting tasting rooms all over the place.  “A friend of mine who is a winemaker told me, ‘You’ve got to get out there and taste, or you’ll get tunnel vision,’” Couture said. ‘You will forget why you do it and why you love it.’ That was good advice.”

As a result, she takes at least one weekend a month in the summer to get away with Rob and check out what her colleagues are doing, either nearby or as far as Walla Walla and Canada.

During harvest time, though, when she’s immersed in all things wine for days on end, she gets away in a slightly different fashion.

“I’m like, ‘all I want is a beer,’” she said with a chuckle.

Couture gets her fruit from a handful of AVAs in Central Washington. She has no plans to start growing her own grapes.  “There are so many great growing regions in this state, and personally, I like to pull from the different regions for different types of grapes,” she said.

What do many wineries have besides wine? A winery dog, of course. Here, Megan Couture and her husband Rob cool out under the Errant Cellars Winery sign while unsuccessfully trying to coax Daisy, a chocolate lab, to pose for the camera.

Asked what was her winery’s flagship bottle, Couture said that Errant has become known for its blends, including Patio White and Henry’s Red. Henry was Couture’s grandfather, and this is the first year that the bottle’s namesake is not around to taste the wine named after him.

“He passed away last November,” Couture said. “He loved coming down here and telling everyone about his wine. He would come down every year when we bottled it and watch it be bottled.”

They bottled the latest Henry’s Red the last week in May of this year, and a certain gentleman’s absence was palpable.

“It was kind of a tough one,” Couture said of that day. “He loved to tell people that his granddaughter was a winemaker and that there was a wine named after him. He was not a huge wine drinker, but he did love the Henry’s Red.”

Henry’s Red is a blend of 50 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Syrah and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. Patio White is a blend of Riesling and Sémillon, and one of the winery’s most popular sellers, but ironically, one of Couture’s least favorites to drink.

“It’s the sweetest wine I make, so it’s not my favorite. I still know how I want it to taste, and it’s not like I think it’s disgusting or anything,” she said with a laugh.

Over the years, Megan Couture has won many medals for her wines, including (left to right) her 2014 Malbec, which won a silver medal at the Wenatchee Food & Wine Festival; her 2014 Sangiovese, which won gold medals at both the Wenatchee Festival and at the Seattle Wine Awards; her 2016 Cabernet Franc, which won a double gold medal and best in class award in Wenatchee; her 2012 Cabernet Franc, which won a gold medal in Wenatchee; and her 2013 Syrah, which won silver medals in both Wenatchee and Seattle. Not bad for a one-woman operation.

Errant makes a Sangiovese, a Cabernet Franc, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec, a Syrah and a Carménère. Besides Patio White and Henry’s Red, Couture makes six other blends:

— Wanderer’s White, a blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne and Viognier.

— 2017 Rosé, a blend of Merlot and Tempranillo2018 Rosé, a blend of Malbec and Tempranillo

— 2015 Raven’s Red, half Cab Franc and half Merlot

— 2015 8/05 Red, a blend of 45 percent Syrah, 45 percent Malbec and 10 percent Merlot

— 2015 Couture Reserve, half Sangiovese and half Cabernet Sauvignon.

For Couture, winemaking is more than a job. And she gets reminders of that whenever she sees her wine out in public.

Even after 10 years, it’s still a bit overwhelming for her to see people she has never met checking out her wine at farmers markets, or posting online about her wine. “I put so much of myself into making this wine, and to be able to share that with people, it’s incredible.”

And as for that wandering spirit that led to the naming of the winery?  It’s dormant, and happy to be dormant. An errant soul has found her place, making Errant wine.

“It feels good because there’s always more to learn about winemaking,” she said. “It’s never boring.”

Errant Cellars is located at 15 B St. S.E., Quincy, WA 98848.  As are all wineries in Grant County, Errant Cellars is operating under Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s guidelines to re-open the state’s economy.  Phase 2 allows wineries to operate at 50% capacity and to serve wine at tables spaced six feet apart (no tasting at the wine bar).  Also, seating at tables is limited to no more than five people.   Current tasting room hours are Thursday through Sunday l p.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment.  To make an appointment, call. (509) 794-2030