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Keeping Balance: Growing Wine in the Vineyard

Our ethos has always been that great wine begins in the vineyard. This is why we embrace sustainable practices and do many tasks by hand, on the farm. To further showcase the terroir of our vineyards in our wine, we enhanced our winemaking team in 2020.
We promoted David Rodriguez, Viticulturalist and long-term employee and retained Justin Neufeld, who has his own acclaimed label, JB Neufeld. Expect great things from this duo...the new releases and barrel samples are spectacular. Here’s a bit more about them, their winemaking philosophies and what you can expect in the future from Dineen Vineyards.

Justin Neufeld and Pat Dineen discuss fermentation of Cabernet Franc  David Rodriguez takes a barrel sample

Justin Neufeld studied molecular biology at the UW in 2003 before landing his first winery job in a lab. Since, he’s honed his skills in winemaking at several brands, including his own label. He is a native of Yakima and brings great knowledge of the valley and an outside-in perspective on what makes Dineen Vineyards special.

David Rodriguez is a man of letters. He trained as a lawyer before being swept away by romance of wine. He subsequently trained in Argentina and WSU. He started as an Intern at Dineen, became our Viticulturist and now Winemaker. David brings an intimate knowledge of Dineen Vineyard’s varietals and microclimates.

What do you think your respective skills, experience & philosophies as winemakers bring to Dineen Vineyards estate wines?
Justin brings deep experience in making wine in the Yakima Valley, including with Dineen fruit for his own label. He has learned how to allow fruit to do its thing; how to guide it and take it in a direction that maximizes it’s potential and achieves balance in the wine.
David’s first job in Washington State was with Dineen Vineyards.  He knows the vineyard intimately, including flavor profile row by row. This provides a unique perspective on how to achieve the goal of making wines that showcase the site.  
How would you define the winemaking philosophy at Dineen Vineyards?

Winemaking at Dineen Vineyards is about crafting the best wines with best fruit possible. This starts in the vineyard. We are close to the vines every day and can make decisions in the cellar based on how we see the fruit developing. Most wineries don’t have this tight connection. This is a huge benefit as you can only make great wine with good raw materials. We are “Wine Growers”.

What do you think is special about Dineen Vineyards fruit? What potential does this bring?

We are lucky to have one of the best and most balanced sites in Washington. Our vineyards are very healthy due to the consistency of our management practices. We achieve quality by being thorough and rigorous. As a result, we have long term-term and esteemed clientele for grapes. 
More specifically, the site really lends itself towards Bordeaux varietals, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and we are able to grow other varietals to a very high standard of quality as well. 
What did the 2020 growing season bring to Washington and Dineen Estate? 

This year brought lower than normal yields, mainly due to smaller clusters and weights. The fruit quality is excellent with nice acidity & concentrated fruit. Expect a good balance of ripe flavors and tannins. All of this results in wines from this vintage having the potential to age very well.
What do you like about the industry and Washington Wine industry specifically?  

Washington is a frontier for the global wine industry; a good blend of classic old and new world. In the glass, this translates into riper fruit (new world) and natural acidity and earthiness (old world). In Washington, we are able to grow a broad spectrum of varietals really well and with different characteristics. In fact, in one vineyard the same varietal change significantly due to exposure to the sun, air flow, etc.

How does making wine in Washington inspire you?

The ability to keep it all in balance – balancing the potential of the fruit with good winemaking practices. We want the fruit to express the uniqueness of the site. We don’t need to mask the fruit with heavy handed inputs such as oak. We can let the fruit do what it needs to do. We don’t need to hide it.