Winemaker Javier Alfonso Helps Spanish Vines Take Root in Washington

Javier Alfonso
Winemaker and Owner, Pomum Cellars and Idilico | Woodinville, WA

Although he was born in Sunnyside, Washington, to an American and a Spaniard, Alfonso was raised in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain until returning to Washington for college.

The Spanish side of his family has owned vineyards for generations, although they sold all of their Tempranillo grapes, never venturing into winemaking. “My Spanish family always thought that making wine was too complicated and did not realize that in actuality growing quality fruit is where most of the work and art lies,” said Alfonso. He worked with grapes in his youth but wasn’t interested in pursuing grape growing or winemaking as a career.

That changed when he met his wife, Shylah, at the University of Washington, and they began exploring Washington wine together, eventually beginning to make wine in their home in 2000. They founded Pomum Cellars in 2004 and moved production to Woodinville.

Pomum is known for their blends based on Bordeaux varietals, Syrah, and Riesling. While Alfonso is passionate about those grapes, he knew he wanted to find a way to bring his Spanish roots to Washington. “I’ve always known from my growing in Ribera del Duero that Spanish varieties and specifically those suited to the center of Spain where the continental climate is very similar to that of eastern Washington would perform well here.  Around 2005 we began partnering with renowned Dineen (Zillah) and Upland (Sunnyside) vineyards to plant various clones of Tempranillo and a grape called Graciano. In 2009 we expanded our selection to include Albarino, Garnacha (Grenache) and Monastrell (Mourvedre), and we decided to spin off Idilico, a new brand dedicated exclusively to wines from Spanish grapes grown in Washington State.”

The Alfonso’s recently purchased a vineyard, which will allow Javier to follow in his family footsteps, taking the wine all the way through the process. For him, Washington is a wonderful place to make wine because the possibilities are endless. “I think Washington can create world class wine out of many varieties, not just Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah but also Riesling, Chardonnay, Grenache, Mourvedre, and, I believe eventually, Tempranillo, Graciano and others to be discovered.”

by Cara Strickland
photo courtesy of Richard Duval Images