Brad Binko only just started his winery, Eternal Wines in 2014, but he already has a second label, Drink Washington State Wines. Stop by his tasting room in downtown Walla Walla at 9 South 1st Avenue (just a couple of doors down from Sweet Basil Pizza) to taste his dazzling array of whites and reds. For those in the Tri-Cities, Brad will be doing a Meet the Winemaker event at 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar on Wednesday April 26th. Brad was kind enough to sit down with us in April for an in-depth interview.
WALLA WALLA WINE LIMO: Tell us a little about your background.
BRAD BINKO: I was born and raised in Buffalo. It’s a great place to be from. I’ve had some of the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted in Buffalo and it spoiled me for chicken wings going forward. Great beers too. My first job was bartending at the Buffalo airport; that was cool as I got to know a lot of new people and got some great experience in the beverage industry.
WWWL: You lived in Boston for a time, right?
BRAD: Yes, I lived there while I was going to Northeastern. Lived right around the corner from Fenway Park. That was great. I truly enjoyed living in a big city and taking the subway everywhere. Buffalo’s a city, but not a big city like Boston. I grew up a Red Sox and Celtics fan, so it was fun for me to be in that environment.
WWWL: At some point you relocated to South Carolina.
BRAD: Yes, Charleston, South Carolina. I basically headed south as far as I could until I ran into palm trees. So I stopped in Charleston. Loved it there, it’s gorgeous; that’s where I bought my first house and started putting down some roots. That’s where I really started working in fine dining and began to appreciate wine.
WWWL: Where were you working?
BRAD: I was working on Q Island, it’s a sanctuary. It was brand new, I worked there when it first opened. It was a 5-star, 4-diamond resort, so uber fancy. It was cool to meet the clientele and to work with such an incredible wine list. I’d never worked anywhere before where the wine list had bottles over $1,000 on it! You grew up on your wine knowledge pretty fast working there – you really had to. The guests were passionate about wine and they knew what they were buying, so you had to know what they were buying – especially if you’re going to charge a thousand dollars for it (laughs). For a time there I was bartending at the pool bar durijng the day and then at night bartending at the fine dining restaurant. The clientele there was amazing. I met Bill Gates there and the Prince of Saudi Arabia, just some really interesting people that I would probably never cross paths with.
WWWL: So how did you get exposed to wine in the first place?
BRAD: My dad has a pretty big wine cellar, so he’s the one who got me into it initially. When I bought my house in Charleston, he came down and set me up with 30 bottles from Total Wine. He got me a broad collection to start off with so I could learn about the different wines and learn what I liked. I still have two of those bottles today!
WWWL: At some point you decided to take the Sommelier exam.
BRAD: Yes, I was trying to figure out my next step and decided to go in that direction. I had a lot of free time to learn and study about wine because I had torn my ACL [playing basketball. I did a lot of research, spending a month on each country. I’d watch tourism videos to get a better understanding of what these different countries were like – I feel like you can’t understand a country’s wine if you don’t understand its culture and climate.
WWWL: So, in the back of your mind were you always thinking about making wine some day?
BRAD:: It’s always been there. My stepmom wanted me to go to college for winemaking right out of high school, so it’s definitely always been a thought.
WWWL: Did you have much in the way of formal wine education before you made your first wine?
BRAD: Not really other than an introductory class at the Court of Master Sommeliers. I started making wine in 2014, but I didn’t graduate from the Enology and Viticulture program at the community college here until last year.
WWWL: So you were making wine well before you actually finished the program?
BRAD: I was, I was. It was very interesting; a lot of times I’d go to class and they were teaching something that I had already done or something that I had to teach myself because I was probably the only person there who was actually making wine at a production level. I had a lot of help getting started. I worked for Victor De La Luz [Walla Faces] and he was great. I could ask him questions and he’d give me the background and educate me about everything I wanted to know.
WWWL: So, how’d you end up in Walla Walla from South Carolina?
BRAD: There’s not a lot of places that offer this degree, so you’re looking at pretty much California, Oregon and Washington. I didn’t want to live in California, so it was gonna be the Pacific Northwest.
I looked at schools in both states and I visited WSU and WWCC here and I fell in love with this spot here, Walla Walla. It was more hands on, it was more production, it was more what I was looking for.
WWWL: Tell us about the first wine you made.
BRAD: The first one was the 2014 Rocketman red. It got 89 points at Wine Enthusiast, so I was pretty damn happy about that!
WWWL: So how does that work? You call them up? You send them wine? You have a PR person call them?
BRAD: I am the PR person! Basically you get the wines out there and get people talking about your wines. I actually got a message that Wine Enthusiast wanted me to submit my wines – and when Wine Enthusiast asks you to submit your wines, you usually submit them (laughs)!
Check out Part Two of our interview with Brad Binko of Eternal Wines and Drink Washington State here!
WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU VISIT SOON!
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Cities we serve: Walla Walla, Milton Freewater (OR), Lowden, Touchet, Waitsburg, Wallula, Dayton, College Place, Pendleton (OR), Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, Burbank, Dixie, Prescott