The longships are coming!
Longship Cellars produces handcrafted wines with a nod to Norwegian heritage
Christy Olsen Field
Taste of Norway Editor
In the sun-drenched Columbia Valley of central Washington state, Longship Cellars is stirring up the wine industry with its complex wines with a playful nod to the family’s Norwegian heritage.
Longship Cellars is based in Richland, Wash., and co-owned by Kyle Welch (winemaker), his wife, Cassie (general manager), and his parents, Don and Shawn Welch (wearers of many hats).
Their wines, especially the bold and intricate Spanish-style reds and growing collection of whites and blends, are catching the attention of wine aficionados. Since 2016, Longship Cellars has garnered an impressive collection of accolades, with Gold and Double Gold awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, SavorNW Wine Awards, Tri-Cities Wine Festival, and more.
Welch took an unconventional path to winemaking.
“When I was in the Navy, I would come home to visit my parents in eastern Washington, and we would go wine tasting in the region, with new tasting rooms opening all the time. I got really interested in wine and good food, and hosted people over for dinner. It was the sensory experience of wine that drew me in,” said Welch.
After the leaving the Navy, Welch enrolled in a business degree program but wasn’t excited about it.
“One day my mom called me and said that Washington State University was moving its Viticulture and Enology program to its Tri-Cities campus,” said Welch.
That phone call changed everything for Welch. He shifted his academic plans (even though most of his business credits didn’t transfer) and transferred to WSU Tri-Cities. In the hands-on program, Welch learned the science and art of turning grapes into award-winning wines. He graduated in 2011.
He started his career at Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Prosser, Wash. In 2013, the owner knew Welch was interested in making Spanish-style wines like Tempranillo and Grenache and offered to sell some grapes to Welch to make wine at their facility. It was enough to make 10 barrels of wine, which they originally intended to be for personal consumption with family and friends. But the results were so good that the Welch family decided to go all in and open their own winery.
When searching for a name for their fledgling winery, Welch found inspiration in the family’s Norwegian roots. “A lot of people use their last names for their winery. My family is Norwegian and a little Swedish, and I decided to go through Scandinavian lore for inspiration, and came across the Viking longship,” said Welch.
“My aunt showed me the family tree when I was a teenager, and it goes back several generations,” said Welch. The family farm is near Drammen, 40 minutes southwest of Oslo. Welch’s Norwegian ancestors came in the first wave of Norwegian immigration in the mid-1800s.
“A lot of my family has visited Norway to see the family farm,” said Welch. “I haven’t been to Norway yet, but it’s on my list!”
The Longship name also pays homage to Welch’s time in the U.S. Navy.
In 2016, the Welch family opened a tasting room on the River Walk along the Columbia River in Richland, Wash.
Longship Cellars sources its grapes from several notable vineyards in eastern Washington, including Numeral Mountain near Entiat, Wash.
“We’re still a pretty new winery, and experimenting all the time. It’s exciting,” said Welch.
Longship Cellars wines can be purchased at their tasting room, a few wine shops in Washington state, and through their website: www.longshipcellars.com. (Please note that some states do not allow wine shipment. Contact Longship Cellars for more information.)
Christy Olsen Field became the Taste of Norway Editor in April 2019. An enthusiastic home cook and baker, she lives north of Seattle with her husband and two young sons. She is a grantwriter for small nonprofits in the Seattle area. Write to her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 3, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.