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Kimberly Teske Fetrow / Imageworks
The vintners of Washington, Oregon and California are as
varied and complex as the quality wines they produce. They come
from different backgrounds and places, and bring their own perspec-
tives to the process. Some studied enology at the industry’s top univer-
sities, others learned in the field. What they all have in common is a
passion for the fruit and developing the best wines possible. • The
following profiles show a diverse group of veterans and newer players
who are helping to bring innovation and their own unique brands to
Tim Hall / Capture Photography
the West Coast wine scene.
Chris Figgins, the son of Gary
Figgins, who founded the
legendary Leonetti Cellar winery
in Walla Walla, carries on the
family tradition by overseeing
Figgins Family Estate Wines,
which has expanded to include
the Leonetti, Figgins and Toil
labels. He also runs the Figgins
Estate Vineyard (top right)
located in the Walla Walla Valley.
WASHINGTON A New Generation
Riding his sleek, carbon-fiber road bike along the back roads of Walla Walla,
Chris Figgins, part owner of Figgins Family Wine Estates, looks like a competitor
in the Tour de France.
Focusing on his breathing and the cadence of his pedaling, Figgins follows
the asphalt road as it winds through rolling hills planted with wheat, peas, alfalfa
and wine grapes, with the Blue Mountains rising in the distance. As he passes a
draw, he notices cold air flowing through it, giving him real-time data about the
microclimate and putting him in tune with the place where he crafts his wines.
“I’m constantly learning more about the Walla Walla Valley and how air moves
around in it,” he says. “From the saddle, I get a much better feel for temperature,
air flow and slope than I would from behind a pane of glass in a pickup truck.”
His attention to the nuances of the local landscape has proven critical in the
success of his personal wine, called Figgins, an estate-grown, single-vineyard
Bordeaux-style varietal blend from Walla Walla that was first released in 2011.
As the son of legendary Leonetti Cellar owner Gary Figgins, Chris could have
followed in his father’s footsteps by focusing only on Leonetti—the famous wine
that helped put Washington state on the nation’s wine map. Founded in 1977,
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