Our Winemakers

 

As winemakers, we’re proud of the diversity we have to offer and the unified quality we have achieved.

Some of us have grown up here, others have come to make the valley our home all of us love the dramatic beauty of the land. More people join us in the tasting room every year and as they leave they’re already planning a return trip. It’s your turn to get to know us.

DENIS ATAM  |  SCOTT BENSONBOB BRODERICK  |  SHANE COLLINS  |  GUY EVANS  |  ANGELA JACOBS
JONNY KLUDT  |  KARL KOESTER  |  LARRY LEHMBECKER  |  JOHN LITTLE  |  CHARLIE LYBECKER
CRAIG MITRAKUL  |  LYNN MUNNEKE  |  DEAN & HEATHER NEFF  |  KATY PERRY
JUDY PHELPS  |  RAY SANDIDGE  |  RON VENTIMIGLIA

 


 

Denis Atam

  • There’s something charming about a man who is living his lifelong dream. The quiet and playful way Denis Atam approaches his wine is far from passionless but certainly free of the anxiety of a young winemaker. Denis is making the German wine he and his wife Irmi grew up with and it is from their intrinsic knowledge, their studies and their dreams that their wine leaps. As a scientist at heart, Denis sees components in the grapes he grows and coaxes flavors from them in the German tradition.

 


 

Scott Benson

  • Ever easy to laugh, Scott’s demeanor does not betray the overworked life of a winemaker. Yet follow him as he casually strides through Benson Winery’s immaculate barrel room and it is apparent Scott works tirelessly.
  • With a viticulture and enology degree in hand and an industrial engineering career behind him, Scott has his winemaking down to a no-nonsense science. His attention to detail never sways and he logs endless hours to see that each vine, grape, barrel and bottle meet the high standards of Benson wine.

 


 

Bob Broderick

  • Favorite wine description heard in the tasting room: “A steel fist in a velvet glove”
  • Favorite wine event: Winterfest
  • Bob’s 30 years of experience in wine marketing and retailing naturally lead to growing grapes and making wine.  When in the early 1990’s Mary and Bob decided to plant grapes in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley they had no idea what they were getting into. But that’s what winemaking is about sometimes: Guts, Gusto and Gumption.
  • Through experiments came experience and today Chelan Estate Winery produces much loved estate Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier and delightful red and white blends.

 


 

Shane Collins

  • In the movie version, Shane will be played by Dabny Coleman.
  • Wine tool he wishes existed: A probe that I could put in the same wine that could tell me every data point and tech info on a wine without solutions and calibrations. Any easy dip and answer system.
  • On a June morning at 5 am, you can find Shane in the vineyards looking East toward the sunrise. There’s a kinetic serenity to the lake with an ever-changing reflection of pink and golden light. Shane stops and takes it all in. The wine you drink at Tsillan Cellars will reflect that moment.
  • Though school and experience have taught him how to produce wine, Shane’s childhood in his family’s Manson orchard has enabled him to labor on the crush pad and have enough energy left over to finesse in the barrel room. Even so, it’s the conversation between the winemaker and the land that goes into a Tsillan Cellars bottle.

 


 

Guy Evans

  • Favorite Summer Sipper: Camino with a warm summer night
  • Favorite Fall Sipper: Estate Pinot Noir with salmon everything
  • Favorite Winter Sipper: Estate Syrah with Sunshine Farm grass fed beef tenderloin
  • Favorite Spring Sipper: Pinot Noir Rose with burgers on the grill
  • In the Movie version, Guy will be played by Jimmy Stewart.
  • Place him behind a camera, seat him at a piano or stick him on a picking ladder and Guy will redefine the word “shine”. His pursuits outside of winemaking have driven him toward the world of wine at warp speed.
  • Both self-taught and through classes at UC Davis, Guy is always improving upon “shine”. Though his vision has never wavered, his focus has become sharper over the years and the result is a portfolio of great bottles of Tunnel Hill wine that live up to his reputation.

 


 

Angela Jacobs

  • The best part of Angela’s day in the winery: Makin' shit happen!
  • In the movie version of my so called life? Drew Barrymore
  • Angela’s Crush Mantra: Chaos Theory / Chaos Theory
  • Take a well-educated, talented, driven winemaker, put her on roller derby skates and cue up P!nk. Enter Angela Jacobs. A woman who has followed harvest around the world, made wine internationally and learned the basics of the business from the best.
  • In 2007, Angela started up her first winery in Seattle and found immediate success without a stitch of marketing. At WineGirl Wines, she has quicker access to the grapes and can move with the speed and agility of a roller derby girl. Every harvest, Angela snatches up small yield harvests and turns them into award-winning wines that sell out before you can blink.

 


 

Jonny Kludt

  • Jonny knew how to drive a tractor before he could drive car. Lake Chelan Valley wine began in part because of the Kludt family’s decision to plant wine grapes instead of orchard. Jonny’s winemaking at Wapato Point Cellars lives up to the boldness of that choice.
  • Like any orchardist’s son, Jonny isn’t afraid of a challenge and he certainly isn’t afraid of hard work. On off hours, you’ll find him in one kitchen or another cooking with friends and tasting something new.

 


 

Karl Koester

  • Winemaking Tool I wish Existed: “Vineyard Robots”
  • In the movie version played by “Jack Black”
  • Winemaking as a hobby rarely turns into a profession. Winemaking is labor intensive and it doesn’t offer an instant reward. Karl made the leap easily. As the owner of a contracting company, he was used to hard work and his background in physics and chemistry allowed him to easily jump into the
  • Karl’s dedication to Four Lakes, his family vineyard and winery, draws him out into the vineyard every autumn day to taste fruit and check the brix. His dedication to the joy of sharing a bottle with friends and honoring the rhythm of the seasons is reflected in the way he approaches each barrel.

 


 

Larry Lehmbecker

  • Mantra during Crush: “No problem”
  • Favorite winemaking tool: “My nose”
  • In the movie version, Larry would be played by “Peter O’Toole”
  • Conversations with Larry Lembecker often revolve around innovation, functionality and new ideas. When Larry finds an idea interesting, he lifts his chin, cocks his head and looks off into the distance. A millisecond later, he folds his arms and nods. Then he smiles and that’s the sign that he’s just decided to make the idea a reality.
  • When he set his sights on winemaking, Larry used the same skills he uses in his law practice to study commercial wine making and enology text books from UC Davis. His goal was clear: make great, affordable wine – the kind he’d enjoy with his friends at a dinner party. And, with a nod and a smile, he’s done just that.

 


 

John Little

  • If you weren’t winemaking, what would you be doing? Traveling.
  • Favorite Summer Sipper: Sunset on the river with pork
  • Favorite Fall Sipper: Wacky White with fish
  • Favorite Winter Sipper: Loony Red with roast beef
  • Favorite Spring Sipper: Barbera with lamb
  • A farmer at heart, John makes wine with the grounded sense of an orchardist and the passion of an explorer. Winemaking for John starts in his vineyard. In the winery, he uses the same measured approach he uses in his carpentry. Possibly, it comes from his years as an apple farmer or his childhood memories of a grandfather’s fruit wine, but the combination of farmer and winemaker suit John to a tee.
  • Though intent on quality, John keeps a sense of play and artistry. He maintains a starry-eyed wonder throughout the nuances of winemaking and holds a pride that his land can produce such joyful bottles of Rio Vista wine. Never without the input of his wife Jan, John’s wine sits on the table with all the confidence that love, passion and skill can provide.

 


 

Charlie Lybecker

  • Charlie is an old time winemaker. Not in age or history, but in approach. He makes wine based on how he wants it to taste, not how it is going to sell. It sells, by-the-by very well. From his single varietals that allow different vineyards to mingle, to his blends that let the best features of the grape to shine, Charlie has an expert hand that makes wine with intention.

 


 

Craig Mitrakul

  • Craig Mitrakul began working in the wine industry after receiving his Master’s Degree in Food Science with an emphasis in Enology from Cornell University and his Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science from Rutgers University.  Craig’s career began back east in Lodi, New York at Lamoureaux Landing Wine Cellars.  
  • He and his wife, Danielle, made the move out west when Craig took on the role of Assistant Winemaker at Ponzi Vineyards in Beaverton, Oregon.  Craig then went to work at the highly acclaimed Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, Washington as Assistant Winemaker and joined Ryan Patrick Vineyards, as Head Winemaker, in 2004.  Craig made the move to Karma Vineyards in 2011.  Craig is one of Washington State’s most desirable winemakers, producing award-winning wines while maximizing efficiency within the winery.

 


 

Lynn Munneke

  • Crush Mantra  “Keep calm and drink a glass of wine”
  • If you weren’t in viniculture, what would you be doing? Growing and pressing olives for oil.
  • Favorite winemaking tool: My pruning shears
  • Most of what Lynn loves doing in life takes place out of doors. She scans the valley from hiking trails high above the lake and watches the breeze shift direction from the fairway on the golf course. In the Spring, her pruning shears come out and Lynn sets her mind to keeping the vines of Chelan Ridge Winery in check.
  • Come fall, she brings her grapes in from the vineyard and that’s when her love of the outdoors and the valley she’s lived in for over two decades shines. A graduate of the Washington State University Enology and Viticulture certificate programs, Lynn, with her husband Henry, has spent over 10-years dedicated to their vineyard and in a bottle of Chelan Ridge, you’ll find its flavor, her attention and the seasons uncorked.

 


 

Dean & Heather Neff

  • It’s spring in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley at Nefarious when Lucy starts shedding and the daffodils come out.
  • It’s summer in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley at Nefarious when Lucy starts scratching the car doors and the bird squaker starts up in the cherry block across the street.
  • It’s autumn in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley at Nefarious when Lucy gets picked up by the Humane Society and we've got enough beer around here for a small army.
  • It’s winter in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley at Nefarious when Lucy gets to come inside and we stop answering the phone.


Dean Neff, Red Winemaker

  • In the movie version, Dean will be played by Ryan Reynolds’s abs (according to Heather)
  • Dean is tall. It is unclear if that is the advantage Dean has when it comes to winemaking or if it is just his talent, but ever since he and Heather started making Pinot Noir in Oregon, he’s been setting the bar pretty high.
  • Perhaps it is his years working with winemakers in the Willamette Valley, or his intrinsic knowledge of the land on which his grapes grow, but Dean makes red wine with an old world sensibility and to the new world’s delight. Which is why most bottles of Nefarious never make it to market outside of the tasting room.

Heather Neff, White Winemaker

  • In the movie-version, Heather will be played by Sigourney Weaver.
  • There are truths in this world. A. The earth is round. B. Dean is tall. C. White wine is harder to make than red wine.
  • Having grown up on a golf course, Heather Neff has long understood the importance of committing to the Crucial Moment. When making white wine, Heather’s timing and tempo look effortless. As soon as she tastes the grapes out of the bin, she sees the goal and then works backward from there.
  • Rather than follow the course of fermentation, Heather plots it. Using the skills learned from enology courses in Oregon and drawing upon her years working alongside Dean, she’s consistently made a name for Nefarious Cellars with clear, clean whites that hit the mark every time.

 


 

Katy Perry

  • Favorite Summer Sipper: Sauv Blanc
  • Favorite Fall Sipper: IPA (takes a lot of beer to make good wine)
  • Favorite Winter Sipper: Malbec
  • Favorite Spring Sipper: Rosado
  • Mantra to get through harvest: Don’t need one, we look forward to it.
  • On any given afternoon you’ll find Katy Perry walking the rows of Tildio’s vineyard inspecting each cordon and reading the vines. She looks at the underside of the leaves, the canes and their nodes. Other times, you’ll find her at the lab counter, notebook open, marking the progress of the wine in the barrels. Katy controls the chaos of fermentation with the watchful eye of a veteran winemaker.
  • Her craft is rooted both in her Enology and Viticulture degree from UC Davis and the two decades plus of working at wineries in California and Australia. Tildio acclaim comes from her deep love of life and the way it moves from vineyard to winery to bottle.

 


 

Judy Phelps

  • Event Judy looks forward to most: Crush
  • If Hard Row to Hoe were in Australia it would be named: Going Down. Down Under.
  • The forces of nature got together and decided to vote Judy Phelps into the club. Unfortunately, she declined due to lack of time. She’s too busy making wine and when she isn’t making wine, she’s swimming open water or riding her Norwegian Fjord horses.
  • Judy holds a Master of Science degree in Zoology and in a distant life, worked for Pfizer in R&D. After completing the winemaking certificate program at UC Davis in 2006, Judy started making wine with the drive of a wine-loving scientist. Her endless crafting engendered a faithful following and has earned Hard Row to Hoe critical acclaim.

 


 

Ray Sandidge

  • Favorite Wine Making Tool: “My Palate”
  • In the movie version, who would play you? “John Wayne”
  • Ray’s passion of winemaking and his drive for knowledge have served him well over the past 30-years. What Ray didn’t know about growing grapes and making wine, he sought out answers from the best. It’s been a 3-decade journey of experimenting and succeeding and the evidence is in every bottle of his wine.
  • Dedicated to the marriage between the vineyard and cellar, Ray makes wine with international and national acclaim. At the heart of his craft is his instinct and the result is wine that acts like a dinner companion.

 


 

Ron Ventimiglia

  • The best part of the day in the vineyard: Lunch, especially outside on a warm day.
  • Favorite winemaking tool: Horizontal Bladder press
  • A causal conversation with Ron will span the subjects of family, life’s simple pleasures and the art of soup. Though he has made wine for 20 years, Ron’s conversation touches lightly onto the subject of wine. For him, wine goes hand in hand with life. It’s his sincerity and soft-spoken charm that gives one the feeling that Ron’s not chasing a legend.
  • Indeed, the wine he has made is the stuff of lore. As the winemaking consultant for Manson’s once-upon-a-time Big Pine, bottles of his wine are kept cherished like memories of a first love. Maybe it’s his Sicilian ancestry, or maybe it’s his casual demeanor, but tasting wine with Ron reminds you of what it’s all about: good soup, good conversation and wonderful Ventimiglia wine.

Newsletter Signup

Enter your name and email address to subscribe.

 

Socialize: Twitter | Facebook
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
PO Box 777, Chelan, WA 98816