Every truly great wine scene can count among its ranks a few small, scrappy young winemakers whose bottles quietly outperform their modest origins. Joe Swick is no wine titan, but his wines—just 2,000 cases made last year—are some of the most impressive and enjoyable in the state.
"I got started with a cellar job at Owen Roe winery in 2003," he says. "I knew [winemaking] was something I wanted to do, but it wasn't something that came naturally to me. It took me 10 years and 15 harvests before I could wrap my head around it."
Swick, 37, is one of the few winemakers featured in this story who occasionally works with grapes from Washington, seeking out cold sites in the vast Yakima Valley AVA for forgotten plantings like verdelho, a little-known Portuguese grape that's beyond rare here.
Swick's no-sulfite bottlings are wine-geek candy, especially his wildly complex Hibernation pinot noir that's macerated on skins for six months.
Discerning sommeliers and wine drinkers are clamoring for Swick's bottles around the world—in New York, his wines are sold by the bottle at Chambers Street Wines, arguably the most important natural wine shop in America, and poured at landmark lower-Manhattan wine bar the Ten Bells.
Drink this: Hibernation pinot noir ($50). Swick's tiny-production sparkling wines ($22-$24) are delicious as well—if you see them, buy them.