Sniff, Sip, Swirl: Let’s Talk About Northwest Wines grows its following

By on January 6, 2022
 Kieran Murry and his wife, Sherri, enjoy an outdoor tasting at Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash. The Murrys launched the Facebook page “Let’s Talk About Northwest Wines” on Aug. 1, 2020, and it has grown to more than 12,200 followers.

One of the myths of our time is that those of us of a certain age — say past 45 — are technophobes. Closer to the truth is that we love technology: But we want it to serve us, not turn us into servants.

As evidence, I’d offer a 16-month-old Facebook page created by a couple who are, by actuarial tables, well into the second half of their lives, Kieran and Sherri Murry. 

On Aug. 1, 2020, the two of them launched a page titled “Let’s Talk About Northwest Wines.” 

Simply put, they were looking to connect with some like-minded folks who loved traveling in their RVs, tasting wines and visiting wineries and who, they thought, would enjoy “trading their ideas and their wine stories.”

In a matter of a few weeks, a few hundred folks from the Northwest had liked the page and begun following it. Within a few months, it had grown to a few thousand. By mid-November of this year, that number had reached 11,700 people, all tied together by their love of Northwest wines and travel.

“It just blew up,” Kieran marveled as he talked about the phenomenon that developed as the months went by. Its reach now is far beyond just folks who like to drive their RVs off to explore Northwest wine regions and taste wines.

“There’s so many industry people in the group,” he added. 

Many of those watching the page are winemakers, winery owners, restaurateurs and others in the hospitality industry. Others are wine writers and photographers with ties to the industry. 

But a major share are simply wine buffs who want to swap information and advice about wineries to visit on a weekend trip, outstanding wines, where a good wine shop can be found, or are asking for advice on a restaurant with a formidable wine list.

There’s all that and more, plus a dose of wine-related humor, such as: 

“Wine: Because you had to deal with people today.”

“Of course size matters. No one wants a small glass of wine.”

And, “Always keep a bottle of wine in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of wine in the fridge.”

Murry says one of the most rewarding parts of the page has been getting to know many winery folks who regularly offer him and his fellow RVers who may join him and Sherri on a multi-day trip to an RV park with ready access to an array of wineries.

His background seems unlikely for a wine lover. He grew up in Helena, Mont., the son of a well-known labor leader, then joined the U.S. Air Force 34 years ago, carving out a career at McChord Air Force Base and building ties in the Puget Sound area, where he and Sherri live.

About seven years ago, he decided he wanted to start a networking group “similar to a Chamber of Commerce,” but he had found chambers, “too stuffy.”

His networking launched inauspiciously in a Puyallup coffee shop. For eight weeks, no one else showed up. Finally, two others came in during the ninth week. As the group built up over six or seven years, it reached about 500 members, then slipped to about 300 since the COVID-19 epidemic began. 

Along the way, he and Sherri decided to buy a travel agency and began to use their network of contacts to sell trips to friends and acquaintances. A 50th-birthday cruise on which they signed up for a dinner pairing food with wine was the catalyst for a new interest. 

“I knew nothing about wines,” he admits. “It was a total accident.” But it inspired him to link his networking expertise with this late-blooming enthusiasm for wine. A visit to the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area and tasting the wines of Fidelítas — owned by storied Washington winemaker Charlie Hoppes — cemented the Murrys’ enthusiasm for pursuing their new interest. After learning there were about 1,000 wineries in Washington state, they were convinced a new networking group was a possibility.

The result was Let’s Talk About Northwest Wine, which is focused around RVs and wine tasting. 

A recurring question from wine industry people they have met since has been, “How are you going to monetize it?” That hasn’t proved simple. Negotiating the dense state forest of rules, laws and the bureaucracy charged with overseeing those who profit from wine has been daunting.

Only nonprofits can benefit financially by selling memberships for wine-related events, he learned, and it turns out that’s a very small group indeed. Apparently only about a half dozen are properly licensed from what he’s been able to discover. So, he’s working to establish a nonprofit, which can pay employees a salary and connect wineries and traveling wine lovers.

By this spring, he hopes to launch with all the proper permits and licenses. In the meantime, there’s their Facebook page to tend — which offers lots of free advice from friendly folks who are having a great time.

WINE WORD: Christmas cake

What better time of year than December is there to talk about the wine term Christmas cake? As a wine descriptor, it is generally agreed to mean almost the same thing as fruitcake — a wine that has everything in it — although a bit higher form of praise, according to the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. 

It refers to a wine that smells, tastes and generally has the complexity of flavors and aromas of this holiday season treat. For those who love a good fruitcake, the heady scent of dried fruit, nuts, spices and perhaps a trace of vanilla is an easily understood and lavish compliment. Christmas cake is even higher praise.

In our season renowned for lavish treats, what could be a more appropriate description for a wine that has it all?

About Ken Robertson

Ken Robertson, associate editor of Great Northwest Wine magazine, is the retired editor of the Tri-City Herald. He has been sipping Northwest wines and writing about them since 1976.

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