Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson: Their love of old-world
French winemaking led to the creation of Avennia Winery
The winery now operates tasting rooms in Woodinville and on Red Mountain
and is planning to open a third tasting room in Walla Walla this fall.
By Mark Storer
Using native yeasts for both red and white wine, classically based French varietals, and with a love for France’s wine making and craftsmanship, Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson teamed up to form Avennia Winery. The partners have worked together using what they call “old world craftsmanship” in the new world wine region of Washington State.
Taucher is Avennia’s managing partner and Peterson is his winemaking partner. After working for Microsoft in the l980s and 90s, Taucher left to do consulting work and spend more time with his family. “When my youngest son went off to college, I’d kind of grown weary of the start-up consulting side of things, and I felt the best way to satisfy my itch was to start a business,” he said.
He and his wife, Colleen, had loved the wine world and had collected wine, and gotten to know Washington winemakers. Taucher started taking classes at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle College. “As part of that, I landed a job as a crush intern at Delille Cellars in 2009, and Chris was my boss there,” he said. Peterson was the production winemaker at DeLille. “One of the classes I was taking was a wine business class, and we had to write a business plan to set up a winery. Chris was curious about what I was doing, and I think I’d demonstrated a rather serious intent.”
Inspired to create impactful wines, Peterson told Taucher that he was interested in being part of it. “Chris said there were a few minor flaws in my plan,” Taucher said. One of those flaws was that Taucher wasn’t going to be able to make the wines he wanted by working as a crush intern at DeLille. “The second one was that I wasn’t going be able to do this without a connection to great vineyards,” Taucher added.
Peterson joined Taucher, and in 2010, they began to work on their wines. Getting fruit from Sagemoor, Red Willow and Boushey Vineyards, their first release was in 2012. “We’ve built an exciting business, and gotten some amazing customers and friends,” Taucher said. “It’s always a thrill getting to see someone express their talents, and I think that’s what Chris has done.”
Peterson said that he and Taucher are producing about 7,500 cases of wine a year (across three labels) in Woodinville, where they operate a tasting room as well as the winery itself, which is just up the street. Even in the 11,000 square-foot winery, space is at a premium with 10 concrete tanks, and five concrete “eggs” as well as fermentation tanks and barrels. In August of 2021, Avennia purchased Tapteil Vineyard on Red Mountain and renamed it Avennia Estate Vineyard.
“We hadn’t focused on Red Mountain AVA specific wines in the past, so the opportunity to add this prominent Washington AVA to our line=up was exciting,“ said Taucher. “We’ve spent time working with Dick Boushey, who is our vineyard manager, and we’ve planted out another five or six acres there. Over time, we expect that those wines will become a bigger part of our portfolio.”
Avennia produces several different lines of wines, each expressing different fruit from different vineyards. The two flagship wines are Sestina, a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend, which they release in the spring, and Arnaut, which is 100% Boushey vineyard Syrah, released each Fall. They also produce a wine they call Justine, a Southern Rhone GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend from Upland, Boushey and Red Mountain fruit.
Valery is Avennia’s Right Bank blend, which is Boushey Vineyard Merlot blended with Cabernet Franc from the Champoux Vineyard, Taucher said. Avennia produces a number of other wines as well, including a Rhone-style white blend, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosé, among others.
“We also launched a second label called Lydian in 2018, an affordable wine that serves as an introduction to our winemaking style,” said Peterson. “The Lydian wines are made from many of the same vineyard sources used in the overall Avennia line-up. We make a GSM in the Lydian line that really showcases that Washington fruit.”
Taucher and Peterson have also begun a new project called Liminal. The wines come from a unique vineyard on Red Mountain called WeatherEye, where vineyard manager Ryan Johnson has spent time exploring the 360-acre site and planted mostly Rhone varieties, some at elevations around 1,200 feet above sea level. Johnson also planted some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc as well. “We launched the first vintage of Liminal wines in 2020,” said Taucher. “The wines have been well received by customers and critics, and we produce 800 to 900 cases per year.” Liminal’s focus is on the unique viticulture of WeatherEye, and the partners’ artisan style of winemaking.
“The goal is to express a real sense of place,” said Peterson. “This fruit is exceptional, and we’re really excited about what we can do with Liminal.”
In keeping with their old-world winemaking style, Peterson said that he uses all French Oak to age the wines. “We do a little bit of concrete fermentation, and some concrete aging on the Rhone side,” said Peterson. “We’re not really much more than 50% new on some of the small block Cabernets, and the Rhones even less.” Using neutral oak, Peterson said, is the best way to express the fruit’s properties. “If you have great fruit, it works very well,” he said. “The Boushey fruit, for instance, is just beautiful with just minimal oak support.”
Like a lot of Washington wineries, it is Avennia’s wine club that allows Taucher and Peterson some flexibility in experimentation and trying new things, in the old style, with their wines. “I love getting emails from members who just opened a seven or eight-year old Sestina,” said Taucher.
Avennia currently has two tasting room locations, one in Woodinville and the other at the estate vineyard on Red Mountain. Peterson said they’re about ready to open a third tasting room in Walla Walla as well. For Taucher and Peterson, the team they’ve hired is a close-knit group. “We’re wine nerds,” said Peterson. “Our staff has learned about wine from traveling around the world and studying it. We value the knowledge they bring to the table.”
“A lot of our team came to us as crush interns, and if we don’t break them, we get to know them pretty well and understand their interest and passion for the wine business,” said Taucher.
Taucher and Peterson are bullish on the future of Washington wine and see great opportunities on the national and international scene for themselves and other producers in the state. “We have access to great fruit, and we’re happy with the wines we’re making,” said Taucher. “Chris has real talent and his focus on great vineyard sources, and old-world winemaking is showing what we can produce here,” he said.
Avennia’s Woodinville Tasting Room is located at 19255 Woodinville-Snohomish Rd. N.E., Suite. 1. Phone: (425) 482-4364. The winery’s Red Mountain Estate Tasting Room is located at 20206 E.583 PR. N.E, Benton City, WA. Phone: (509) 588-6870. The Walla Walla location, slated to open mid-to-late September, will be located at 3 S. First Ave. If you are unable to visit one of the three tasting rooms,
Avennia’s current release wines can be purchased by visiting: www.store/avennia.com/wines.
One of the best ways to experience the variety of Avennia’s wines is to join the winery’s wine club. The club offers quarterly releases with four levels to choose from depending on the quantity of wine desired. Wine club members receive a host of benefits, including 5 to 20% discounts (varies by level) on all orders year-round, complimentary tastings at all tasting room locations, discounted or complimentary tickets to events, shipping discounts, and priority access to wines. In some cases, wines are available exclusively to club members.
To join Avennia’s wine club, visit: www.avennia.com/memberships.