Before it was Trillium Creek Winery, it was a tiny ad in the Tacoma newspaper that read: Three parcels of land totaling nearly 12 acres of blackberries, trees and possibilities.
Claude Gahard had been making raspberry and blackberry wines for 20 years before moving to the Key Peninsula in 1992. In 2000, just prior to planting their Pinot Noir vineyard, his wife Claudia told him: “You’re French, let’s make wine …”
They did. It was educational and fun, and soon turned into a labor of love lifestyle.
“It was luck and divine guidance,” said Claudia Gahard. “We didn’t know they (the grapes) needed to be planted on a hillside.”
In the years before the first crop was harvested, the couple had designed and built their dream French farmhouse.
The two-bedroom home, complete with a den/office, features open-beam ceilings, hardwood floors, a brick fireplace and stainless steel appliances.
The happy-go-lucky duo added an Alsatian cottage tasting room, a rockery, a shop and a large underground wine cellar to the Home-area property.
Gahard continued his career as a commercial pilot while his wife worked on the property between his junkets with Continental Airlines, until he retired after 18 years of service.
Gahard said he met with Gerard Bentren from Bainbridge Island Winery for grape-growing and wine-making tips and contracted with Paul Burgess vineyards to purchase bulk Syrah, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties from Eastern Washington.
The winery buys between 30,000 and 50,000 pounds of grapes every year to make low sulfite (50 parts per million) wines. “There are no headaches and no hangovers,” Claudia Gahard added, “but you can’t store them on the top of your refrigerator.”
She said the two of them are solid business partners. “Claude takes care of the inside and I take care of the outside.”
They met in a grocery store in Oak Harbor, where Claudia worked in public relations. She said the chemistry between them was “instant.” They will celebrate 35 years of marriage in September.
The Gahards have recently put the winery up for sale with Wilson Properties.
The couple plan to build a bed and breakfast winery in Lake Chelan after their granddaughter graduates from high school in two years. When it happens, they plan on being open during the summer months.
“I will deliver to my best customers,” Claude Gahard said.
Gahard said about half of his present customers have become good friends, most of whom prefer wines made in the French style.
“This is a people business. It’s all about personal relationships,” he said. During tastings, he emphasizes wine and food pairings, in the French tradition.
“No matter how you feel when you come in, you leave happy,” Claudia Gahard said.
For information, call (253) 884-5746.