BENTON CITY, Wash. — Fate has a funny way of changing the game, especially when you put your trust in it and intend to follow it — wherever it may lead you.
Shae Frichette studied theater, leaving her native South Carolina for Hollywood and a chance at life in the spotlight.
“I did it for three years, and I wasn’t making much…” she laments. “I took a year off to make some money, so I could focus on acting — but in that year I found a job in corporate training and did really well. I liked it, so I stuck with that.”
Around that time she met Greg Frichette, who had traveled from Washington for the Rose Bowl and hadn’t returned home. After they married, the future seemed clear.
“Greg said, ‘Let’s have a kid and move closer to our parents.’ I assumed he was referring to South Carolina, and he figured I knew he meant Washington.”
“We decided to flip a coin. Wherever it landed, we would both be fine. Heads was Washington and tails was South Carolina; and the coin landed on heads,” she laughed.
“I suggested we do best out of five.”
Farming backgrounds come to fruition
Both hailing from generations familiar with farming — Shae with row crops in South Carolina and Greg with wheat in the Palouse — the idea of their new Washington life slowly took shape.
“I went to Monster.com, where you could type in keywords of the role you wanted,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to a whole new state. I can do anything, but I want to do something that will give us goosebumps.’
“Eventually, we landed on wine. We’d grab a bottle of wine, sit on the patio and discuss what our wildest dreams were. It seemed every exciting conversation was over a bottle of wine, and then it came to us, ‘Why don’t we grow wine grapes and make wine?’ ”
The coin flip happened in 2010, Greg enrolled in the enology program online with Washington State University shortly thereafter, and within a year they were sourcing grapes for their dream project — with guidance from renowned grower Dick Boushey and respected winemaker Charlie Hoppes.
“Speaking with Dick Boushey, he suggested instead of becoming a grower first, who then makes a little bit of wine, that we get in touch with his buddy Charlie Hoppes and focus on the winemaking side,” she says. “We weren’t crazy about doing that. We were more familiar with agriculture from the ‘growing a crop’ standpoint.”
But they took the meeting anyway.
“Charlie asked us a lot of questions about us, what our goals were — not a whole lot about wine, but in the end he said, ‘If you guys want to go into wine, I’ll take you under my wing, I’ll show you the ropes.’ And that’s how we were able to get started so quickly. He was a great coach. We sourced the fruit, we traveled back and forth while Greg was doing the program — learning and doing at the same time.”
Entering second decade on Red Mountain
The Frichettes made the move to Washington in 2013 and into their own production facility on Red Mountain in 2016.
“It was important for us to come in and really integrate with the community — Greg grew up here. For him it was coming back home, and for me, I wanted it to feel like home right away.”
Prior to launching into this existence, Shae used her corporate background to hone in on exactly what the Frichette brand would be.
“Our vision was the same then as it is now, ‘Create a space offering premium wines, stellar customer service and beautiful views.’
“We started off making premium wines, and as we’ve refined our process, those wines have gotten even better. We’re working on the views. Every year we do something at the winery to meet that vision,” she says. “And we are very driven to creating stellar customer service experiences, starting with greeting someone within three seconds of them entering through the door.”
However, before making fine wine, one must know and appreciate it. What was Shae’s wine that made her?
“In my early twenties, I didn’t know diddly-squat about wine. I was drinking this stuff, I don’t even know if it was really wine. It was $3 a bottle, over where Arbor Mist was,” she admits.
“My co-workers and I would go to this Greek restaurant in L.A. called Alexis. The owner was always there. I think he was just tickled pink that we were regulars; we’d sit on the patio in the sun — and my girlfriends would order this Pinot Grigio. It was his house wine.
“I remember being out there, with them, and this lifestyle of working really hard — we all traveled for this company and gave so much to this company. So when we had this opportunity to go sit on this patio and have this Pinot Grigio, it was a picture out of a magazine. A group of young girls, having fun, having this wonderful Greek food and this beautiful light, crisp white wine.”
Sémillon, rosé but no Pinot Gris at Frichette
That unnamed Pinot Gris set her on the path to Red Mountain.
“I didn’t know anything about Pinot Grigio — this was made in a drier style — and I enjoyed it, and I think it’s because of the experience,” she says. “I started to fall in love with a different type of wine. That’s what transitioned me to being open to different things, to pick a bottle out at the store and give it a try.
“My girlfriends can’t believe I’m making wine now, ‘You were drinking this $2 sugar water… and now you make bold, red wine!?’ ”
Since landing on Red Mountain, the Frichettes have acquired more land (15 acres to be planted in 2024), grown production to 3,500 cases and launched a new line — Sashay. Shae makes wine alongside Greg, and she has a few other projects in mind.
“Everybody is fascinated with bubbly, and I’ve been wanting to make one for more than three years now,” she says. “It’s stretching myself to do something that I feel like I’m supposed to do — just like when I sat at that computer and I could type in anything.
“I want to keep that same sort of drive and mindset when it comes to making wine,” Shae adds. “I don’t want to sit back and do what’s safe. I want to do something exciting. Something that challenges me so that I can keep having fun doing what I do.”
Something that will likely give her goosebumps — no coin toss needed.
Allan Pfiffner says
Greg and Shae are great. We have been with them from the beginning as Cru members. Joanne and I belong only to their club because we believe in their business model and commitment to helping the community.