WOODINVILLE, Wash. — The Auction of Washington Wines, one of the top five charitable wine auctions in the U.S., has named Ashley Trout of Vital Wines and Brook & Bull Cellars in Walla Walla as an Emerging Leader Award recipient for 2023.
This year marks the 36th annual Auction of Washington Wines, and the presentation to Trout will be part of the second annual TOAST! Honoree Celebration on Thursday, Aug. 10 at Château Ste. Michelle.
The festive Winemaker Picnic & Barrel Auction is Friday, Aug. 11 on the winery’s campus, followed by the auction’s signature Gala on Saturday, Aug. 12. The Gala Online Auction begins Tuesday, Aug. 8 and runs through Aug. 12. Money raised helps support Seattle Children’s, the Washington State University viticulture and enology program and grant partner Vital Wines in the Walla Walla Valley.
Each of this year’s TOAST! recipients will be announced this week on GreatNorthwestWine.com.
Previously announced honorees for the 2023 Auction of Washington Wines include longtime Costco executive Annette Alvarez-Peters (Honorary Chair), Ben Smith and Gaye McNutt of Cadence Winery (Honorary Vintners) and Miguel Rodriguez of Weinbau Vineyard (Honorary Grower). Co-chairs are Cam & Linda Myhrvold and Ian & Laura MacNeil.
“The mission of the auction is to uplift the Washington wine industry through celebrated events that give back to the industry and community,” says Jamie Peha, executive director of the Auction of Washington Wines since 2019. “With the Washington wine industry as our North Star, the auction can add value to the industry by recognizing past and present icons, emerging leaders and all aspects of the industry including vineyard workers and champions of the industry.”
Trout grew up in the District of Columbia, yet she got an early start on her career in the Walla Walla Valley wine industry with a part-time cellar job as an 18-year-old student at Whitman College.
That entry-level position turned into eight years of working for a young winery launched by a former Mount Rainier climbing guide — Chuck Reininger. She would go on to gain additional experience at nearby Tamarack Cellars, Waters Winery and TERO Estates.
In 2004, Trout began to double up on her winemaking each year by working Southern Hemisphere harvests in Argentina’s Mendoza region, world-famous for its Malbec. Trout spent time in the cellars at Alta Vista, Tamari, Tapiz and Mendel, crushing across eight vintages.
Those globe-trotting experiences inspired her to launch the cleverly named Flying Trout Wines in 2006, a label that focused on Malbec. She sold the brand in 2010, but stayed on as the winemaker for five more years.
Her talent as a winemaker and devotion to helping others prompted her to create Vital Wines in 2016. Vital is a community-driven, nonprofit project that donates 100% of its profits to help vineyard and cellar workers in the Walla Walla Valley get more access to healthcare.
An inspiration for Vital Wines dates back to a devastating rock-climbing accident Trout suffered in Japan during her early days as a member of the Walla Walla Valley wine industry. She ended up hospitalized for 42 days overseas and without health insurance.
News of her Vital Wines initiative quickly gained national media attention and led to an invitation for Trout to pour at a 2017 pre-Oscars gifting suite event at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
Trout’s commercial brand is Brook & Bull Cellars — another understated link to her surname — which she launched at the same time as Vital Wines.
Her husband, Brian Rudin, recently joined Echolands in Walla Walla as winemaker after spending nearly a decade as the founding winemaker for Duckhorn’s Canvasback brand in Washington state.
Trout explains, “Their two children are too young to yet be winemakers.”
Auction to reveal all Toast! recipients this week
Last year, the Auction of Washington Wines created the TOAST! program, which helps cast a spotlight on a number of those who have been key to elevating and innovating the state’s wine industry, according to Laura Kleinhofs, business manager for the Auction of Washington Wines.
“When we conceived of TOAST!, it was important that we recognize established industry leaders, but we also wanted to have a category where we would recognize those “up and comers,” those people who may not be generally recognized,” Kleinhofs says. “We feel that the well-established folks get the bulk of recognition — locally and nationally — and we didn’t want the next generation, those newer to the industry, to feel that they weren’t being seen. That’s why the category of “Emerging Leader” was originally conceived.”
Recipients of 2022 Emerging Leader awards were Sadie Drury of North Slope Management in the Walla Walla Valley, Shae Frichette of Frichette Winery on Red Mountain, Andrew Januik of Novelty Hill/Januik in Woodinville and Lacey Lybecker of Cairdeas Winery in Manson.
“Last year, we had so many nominations for that category, we decided it made sense to honor more than one, especially since the rest of the categories arguably are geared towards those who have been in the industry for a longer time,” Kleinhofs said. “This year, it was again the most popular category, receiving the most nominations, and with so many to choose from we again decided it made sense to honor four people.”
This year also marks the launch of the Allen Shoup Memorial Fellowship, which will award one journalist each year with a two-week research project in Washington wine country. Shoup, who founded world-renowned Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla, was the CEO of Stimson Lane and backed the establishment of the Auction of Washington Wines.
Honor roll of 2023 TOAST! recipients
Monday, July 10
9 a.m. — Lifetime Achievement Award: Ted Baseler, retired President/CEO, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Noon — Award of Distinction: Marty Clubb, owner/managing winemaker, L’Ecole N° 41, Lowden
2:30 p.m. — Healthy Land, Healthy Communities: Hedges Family Estate, Red Mountain
Tuesday, July 11
8:30 a.m. — Emerging Leader: Becca De Kleine, GM/director of winemaking, Four Feathers Wine Services, Prosser
11:30 a.m. — Emerging Leader: Devyani Isabel Gupta, winemaker/viticulturist, Valdemar Estates, Walla Walla
1:30 p.m. — Emerging Leader: Michelle Moyer, professor, Washington State University, Prosser
3 p.m. — Emerging Leader: Ashley Trout, winemaker, Vital Wines/Brook & Bull Cellars, Walla Walla
Wednesday, July 12 – final day
9 a.m. — Vine to Wine: Eduardo Zaragoza, vineyard manager of Shaw Vineyards, Red Mountain
Noon — Wine Industry Champion: Andy Perdue, journalist, Richland
2:30 p.m. — Auction of Washington Wines Star: Gary McLean, President of GMMD Consulting, Seattle