LOWDEN, Wash. – One of the Walla Walla Valley’s original wineries has welcomed its second generation.
Jordan Dunn-Small, daughter of Rick and Darcey Small, has joined Woodward Canyon Winery, the valley’s second-oldest producer.
“It’s exciting to be coming in as the second generation to a business my parents started before I was born,” Dunn-Small said. “Having worked off and on at the winery growing up, I became interested in the wine business early on. It has long been my goal to continue what my parents have started by returning full time to Woodward Canyon.”
Woodward Canyon Winery started in ’81
Rick Small is a fifth-generation Walla Walla Valley resident whose father was a farmer. Small became interested in wine after graduating from Washington State University with a degree in agriculture. In 1977, Small planted a small block of Chardonnay in a rocky area of his father’s wheat field north of the tiny town of Lowden.
In 1980, Rick and Darcey Small married, and a year later, they launched Woodward Canyon. Success came quickly, with his wines earning top medals in regional competitions. In 1990, his 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon was ranked No. 10 in Wine Spectator – the first Washington wine to earn that recognition.
Dunn-Small, a graduate of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, has studied in Alsace, France, and worked at the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. For four years, she worked at Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla, managing the winery lab and coordinating packaging. While at Long Shadows, she worked for winemaker Gilles Nicault, a protege of Rick Small’s and former assistant winemaker at Woodward Canyon.
Part of Woodward Canyon Winery team
She has been on Woodward Canyon’s board of directors for several years and became a minority partner in 2011. After spending several months on maternity leave, she began working at Woodward Canyon in early February.
“She’s the succession plan,” Rick Small told Great Northwest Wine. “She understands that.”
Dunn-Small will be working in many areas of the winery, including the tasting room and with VIP tastings, managing the winery’s Reserve House restaurant, making sales trips and working with the winemaking team on special projects. Kevin Mott has been Woodward Canyon’s head winemaker for several years, as Rick Small has focused his efforts on the vineyard operations.
In addition to Woodward Canyon’s 42-acre estate vineyard in the northern Walla Walla Valley, the Smalls also are partners in acclaimed Champoux Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills, which is managed by grape grower Paul Champoux. The other winery partners are Powers in Kennewick, Andrew Will on Vashon Island and Quilceda Creek in Snohomish.
Woodward Canyon also relies heavily on Sagemoor Vineyards north of Pasco, as well as such wineries as DuBrul in the Yakima Valley, Charbonneau in Walla Walla County and Celilo in the Columbia Gorge.
Woodward Canyon makes about 17,000 cases of wine annually, with 25 percent of its grapes coming from the Walla Walla Valley. Part of that production is for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot under its popular Nelms Road label.