DANIEL WAMPFLER, Head Winemaker
Winemaking is an intricate amalgamation of science and art that requires both a head and heart for the job, and Abeja’s Daniel Wampfler understands the dance between the two as well as anyone in the business. With a mind for chemistry that allowed him to develop technical skills at an early age, Dan honed his heart for the craft in the vineyards and cellars of Eastern Washington.Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan’s dad encouraged his son’s aptitude for science. The two of them began brewing beer together while Dan was still in high school, piquing an interest in fermentation science. Dan attended Michigan State University with plans to study chemistry but soon began to wonder if a career in a white lab coat suited him. A chance meeting with a professor leading wine grape research at Michigan State led to his decision to study enology. He earned a bachelor’s of science in 2001 and a master’s degree in 2003.
Following graduation, Dan joined Ste. Michelle Wine Estates as a research enologist. His academic background coupled with years in the vineyards, cellar and lab at Michigan State allowed him to step beyond the lab to the cellar and also assist with all aspects of winemaking at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 400,000-case Canoe Ridge Estate Winery. In 2006, the company promoted him to assistant winemaker at Columbia Crest. The new position as a member of a winemaking team responsible for crushing, fermenting, aging, blending and bottling 14,000 tons of red grapes expanded his appreciation for the vineyards of the Columbia Valley.
Then came an unexpected call in 2008 from Walla Walla’s Mike Dunham inviting him to lead winemaking at the family-owned operation. During his eight years as winemaker there, Dan worked alongside the winery’s growers and managed all aspects of winemaking for both Dunham Cellars and actor Kyle MacLachlan’s Pursued by Bear, while also serving as Commissioner for the Washington Wine Commission from 2012-2018.
When Dan’s phone unexpectedly rang again, it was Abeja’s Ken Harrison calling and inviting him to lead winemaking at one of Walla Walla’s most prestigious wineries in one of wine country’s most pristine settings. He joined Abeja as head winemaker, along with his wife, in January 2016.
When at home, he can be found in the kitchen with his family surrounded by good friends, good wine and plenty of laughter.
AMY ALVAREZ-WAMPFLER, Associate WinemakerA love for the outdoors that took hold at an early age while her family worked the land in the Yakima Valley and a serendipitous tasting room position at one of Washington’s largest wineries led Amy Alvarez-Wampfler to an auspicious career in Washington State winemaking. It’s a calling that found her, fueled by Amy’s knack for hospitality, inspired by an appreciation for growing things and realized by her gift for sensory analysis and a tenacious desire to create something.
Amy’s path to winemaking began in 2003 when she joined Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ Columbia Crest tasting room staff and quickly became enamored with wine. The more she learned about enology and its agrarian roots, the more it resonated with her Hispanic heritage and early memories of her family working the land while she played in the shade of a cherry tree. She soon enrolled in the enology and viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College and earned her associates degree in applied arts and science in enology and viticulture.
While in school, Amy continued working for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ North Star and Spring Valley tasting rooms, followed by two seasons with Ste. Michelle as a viticulture intern. Then came an enology internship with Columbia Crest that led to an “aha moment.” Winemaking was hands-on. It was about creating something from the land. She wanted to be part of that.
Amy spent the next four years as Columbia Crest’s white wine enologist responsible for over 10,000 barrels of Chardonnay annually. Working alongside some of the best winemakers in the business, she polished her winemaking skills. In 2010, she joined Sinclair Estate Vineyard, a Walla Walla start-up where she not only led the winemaking team but also delved deeper into the business of wine as General Manager.
In January 2016, Amy accepted the position as Abeja’s associate winemaker, a move that allowed her to return her primary focus to winemaking while working with some of the finest vineyards in the state. It also afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with her husband Dan Wampfler, Abeja’s head winemaker, a dream the couple held since their days working together at Columbia Crest.
In May 2016, Amy was elected to the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance board and also serves on the Educational Board of the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group.