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Posted on Nov 14, 2014

New-found passion grounds local winemaker

There may have been a time when Quincy native Megan Couture could have described herself as errant.

Errant means to wander without cause or reason. By her own admission, Couture spent nearly 10 years wandering about, her travels taking her through Europe or around the country, working in various capacities. She never really found a job she loved, she said recently.

But not anymore.

The fledgling winemaker has found her passion and is making a name for herself back home in Quincy. In August, each of her wines was awarded a medal in the North Central Washington Wine Awards. Forty area wineries entered some 240 wines in the annual event.

“It’s fun to see young people develop and find their passion,” said Idle Hour owner Gene Rosenberger, who’s known Couture since she was a child. “She’s going to do a great job.”

Last month, Couture, owner of Errant Cellars, moved her operation to a building across from the Idle Hour on B Street Southeast. Friends and family gathered in late October for an open house at the new Errant Cellars tasting room, open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

The facility also has a lab, office and production area. Couture hopes to add an outdoor wine-tasting space this summer.
In one corner of the tasting room sit Couture’s five medals – a gold and four silvers – from the NCW Wine Awards. Her first year that she participated in the event, Couture received an award for every wine she entered. Gold medal honors were given to Couture’s 2012 Cabernet Franc, which was made with grapes from Jones Vineyard just west of town. A judge’s comments stated Couture is “off to a great start with this Cab Franc.”

“It offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, cedar, plum, black pepper and minerality,” the judge wrote of the award-winning Cab Franc. “It is all backed with ample structure to pair well with grilled meats or lasagna.”

Couture also earned medals for her 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Syrah, 2012 Henry’s Red and 2013 Patio White. Henry’s Red is named for her grandfather, Henry “Dan” Neumann of Quincy.

Before the awards event, many people didn’t even know she was making wine, said Couture, who works at Blakal Packing while making wines part time for the time being. Now many people are asking her, “How have I not heard of you?” she said.

Couture, who jumped into winemaking with only a barrel in 2011, produced 32 cases of wine in 2013. This last year, she bottled 200 cases. She recently finished crushing 750 tons of grapes and expects to bottle at least 500 cases by 2016.

She describes her winemaking style as “low intervention,” relying on good grapes from great vineyards. She especially enjoys making blends.

“I think that might become something I focus on more,” she said.

The science and art of winemaking has captivated Couture, and she feels fortunate to be someone who gets to turn a passion into a career.

“It’s this fun mix of science and art,” she said of her craft. “Just the wine itself is alive and it changes on its own.”
And winemaking is hard work. It’s not all drinking and hanging out, Couture said.

“I don’t think you could do it if you didn’t love it,” she said.

With several experienced and well-known winemakers in the area, Couture has received much support from her neighbors, including Freddy Arrendondo at Cave B and her mentor, Pete Beaumont of Beaumont Cellars. Couture worked for Beaumont for three years.

Beaumont said he was most impressed by Couture’s dedication to learning about winemaking.

“That’s what impressed me about her was that she was so passionate about it,” he said.

Couture has a “great palate for wine” and, over time, she will develop her own style, Beaumont said.

“I have confidence she will build from there,” he said.

“If she stays with her principles, I think she’s going to do a really good job,” Rosenberger agreed.

Couture, who grew up in Quincy, has watched the small community over the years step up to rally behind its neighbors.

“It’s overwhelming to be on the receiving part of that amazing support,” she said.


— By Jill FitzSimmons,

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