Larry and Joyce Oates run Sleeping Dog Wines, a boutique winery (Joyce refers to it as nano boutique) in Benton City, WA. They produce only 600 cases per year and rely heavily on a large pool of dedicated volunteers to help with everything from de-stemming to bottling and labeling. And the volunteers are rewarded handsomely, learning the intricacies of winemaking from the ground up, sampling to help Larry decide on the next blend and sharing meals prepared by Joyce that are legendary around here.
I visited their place twice, once when they were doing some bottling and again to walk the vineyard (and drink) with Larry and Aurora, the wine dog. I was amazed by Larry’s depth of knowledge about the nuances of the micro-climates in the vineyard. We are not talking about just selecting which rows, but about each nook, cranny and dip in the row.
Afterward they invited me to dinner at Bella, and brought along an arm load of wine as well. Indulging in that much fun in one day should be illegal. Thanks, Larry and Joyce.