Valley, Washington – On a gently sloping sunny hill a bit outside of town, an unusual crop is beginning to take shape: row after row of wine grapes are leaning on trellises across the field growing the foundation for Fools Prairie Vineyard.
Elizabeth Nevins Law and her husband, Leonard Law, own and manage the vineyard which was just a dream as Leonard’s army career took the couple to many different locations around the country and the world.
“We were stationed in Italy right before we came back to Spokane,” said Elizabeth. “We always dreamed of growing wine on that plot of land.”
A small test planting showed the area had potential to grow grapes used for champagne-style wines.
Encouraged by the early growing results, Leonard enrolled in the enology and viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College, while Elizabeth stayed in Spokane.
“It was the best way to get started,” said Elizabeth. “He went to school, and I held down the fort in Spokane.”
Then, two years ago, Elizabeth joined Leonard in Walla Walla where she also enrolled in the viticulture program. He has graduated and is now the cellar master and vineyard technician for the program, and she will graduate in June.
By now Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are growing at Fools Prairie, and with a little luck there may be a small harvest this fall.
Wine growing is agriculture, so it has not been without its challenges.
A late frost killed off all the blooms one spring, and during fall wild turkeys helped themselves to the grapes. Hungry deer stopped by, too.
“We tried different things to deter the deer, but finally put up an electrical deer fence,” Leonard said. “I’m not sure what we are going to do about the turkeys.”
The couple put a camper and a porta potty on the property and make the trek from Walla Walla as often as possible. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon vineyard dogs Traeger and Porter live their best dog life running along the rows and riding along on the tractor.
It takes somewhere between two and five years from planting until grapes can be harvested.
“We have high hopes for at least a small harvest this fall,” Leonard said.