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Wineman’s Toast | La Toscana needs some TLC

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Warren Moyles surveys his La Toscana vineyard near Dryden.

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(Update: Since first posted online in June, four individuals have so far responded to this call for help and have agreed to work together to prune, spray, retrain and harvest this year’s La Toscana vines. Our hopes are to make this a learning vineyard where we can all share knowledge and have some grapes to make wine with in the end. — R.S.)

 

Remember La Toscana Winery? The tiny Italian-style winery started by Warren Moyles in 2001 was one of the first in North Central Washington.

Moyles learned winemaking while working as a teacher and administrator for U.S. Armed Forces schools in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. He and his wife, Julie, planted a vineyard in 1998 and added additions to their Dryden home for a small Tuscany-flavored small bed and breakfast and tasting room. La Toscana wines won many awards and developed a small cult following among visitors who would stop in by appointment.

Moyles stopped making wine five or six years ago and closed the winery. Advancing Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll. He announced his retirement in 2010 by holding a festive dinner party at the Beecher Hill Inn. About 50 people who had helped him or been steady customers over the years were treated to a multi-course wine dinner.

Over the next two years, the wine production equipment was sold off. The liquor license was allowed to lapse. Now in his mid-80s, the Parkinson’s has worsened and other health problems have cropped up, making it impossible to continue to run the bed and breakfast.

The small half-acre vineyard around the house, however, is still producing grapes. The vines have been maintained and the crop picked by other local vintners the past few years. This past winter was a hard one and many vines were killed. For various reasons, the other vintners bowed out this year. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger and Riesling vines are in pretty good shape. The Merlot was hit pretty hard. The vines are putting out lots of new shoots, but there won’t be much of a Merlot crop this year.

The Moyles could use some help. They asked me to help them find someone to maintain the vineyard this year in exchange for what it may produce. I’ve been spraying, watering and doing a little summer pruning. But the crop is way more than I can use for my own amateur wine production and I’ve been traveling quite a bit. The Moyles think it’s a good opportunity for an amateur who wants to learn about growing grapes and caring for a vineyard. I agree. Another local winery may want to add production.

I was glad they came to me and happy to help out if I can. I started making wine as an amateur in 2003 after helping Warren pick and crush grapes that year. Over the next few years, he shared his knowledge about growing grapes, developing contacts to purchase grapes and making wine. I planted a small vineyard of my own and continue to make 20 to 30 gallons of wine a year from grapes I produce and a few hundred pounds I purchase from other sources.

I consider him a sage in my own wine making endeavors. He’s been that for many others too over the years, always willing to share his knowledge and passion for wine. He’s been called the Godfather of the local wine industry for good reason. He is a lifelong teacher and school administrator, after all, and has always been eager to teach.

If you’re interested or know someone who might be interested in sharing the work and the crop, write me at rick.steigmeyer@gmail.com. Or, the Moyles at wmoyles@nwi.net.