WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- One winemaker in Walla Walla is winning big awards at a small age. Josh McDaniels was named winemaker of the year by Small Lots, Big Wines and recently got the people's choice award at Seattle Uncorked.
"I'm 22 years-old now. I started the winery in high school," says Josh McDaniels, winemaker and co-owner of Sweet Valley Winery.
McDaniels isn't from a winemaking family, but got started as a teen, helping out in the cellars of local wineries. He says, "I volunteered as much as I could so I knew, since I wasn't getting paid for it, I knew I liked it." Once he got a good idea of the basics, his interest grew. "When I was 16, I planted a little vineyard in my parent's back yard."
Then, McDaniels decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur. "I brought my dad my life savings, at the time, in an envelope and told him I was serious about it. So, he and my uncle and I started the winery," he explains.
Now, six years later, McDaniels has gone to viticulture school, now produces thousands of cases a year, and he's finally legal to drink. He says his age is both a blessing and a curse. "The wine snobbery of the whole industry, sometimes is very skeptical of my age. How can I make good wine if I'm only 22? I haven't even drank it for a year legally. But, I also get people really interested in it and have a lot of respect for me doing it."
McDaniels hopes to continue his Sweet Valley wines, but also expand his new Righteous label to 6,000 cases a year. The tasting room is in downtown Walla Walla, visit his website for more information.