Table Wine | A chat with Substance winemaker Jamie Brown
Jamie Brown is a man of substance.
The Walla Walla native moved to the Seattle area after high school and pursued a career in music, opening his own music shop. He began to build relationships with clients who were in the restaurant business and began to share their knowledge of wine. He slowly discovered a new craft. As time went by, his creative spirit was drawn to a new passion.
The art of winemaking.
“When you’re smart and you chose music as your career path, you kind of give up some other opportunities along the way. You have to either go after it and not be the safe guy or you can find something artful and craft oriented that will make you happy and that’s kind of how I embarked on this journey,” he explained.
Jump ahead several years, a move back home, and a thorough introduction to the world of wine, and meet the winemaker behind Wines of Substance, Brown’s second-label project at Waters Winery in Walla Walla.
Wines of Substance was created to educate the younger generation of wine novices and to introduce them to Washington wines. Marked by the distinctive black and white label mirroring the periodic table and a low price point, Substance has quickly become known as the cool kid on the block.
Brown recently paid a visit to Purple Cafe in Bellevue for a tweet up event hosted by the locally famed Seattle Wine Girl.
“These type of events and exposure is why we created Substance in the first place,” he said, while sipping a glass of wine at Purple. “There’s an undeniable gravitational pull. Substance is really intended for this hip, young crowd who are open to trying new things.”
According to Brown, Substance took a couple of dominos to form. His return to his hometown of Walla Walla led Brown to Glen Fiona, Dunham Cellars, and Pepper Bridge before becoming the first winemaker for James Leigh Cellars in 2001. Four years later, Brown was introduced to Jason Huntley by their mutual friend Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar. The new friends shared a fondness for old world wines and formed Waters Winery.
In early 2007, Brown teamed up with Huntley and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars to launch Wines of Substance.
“We all felt there was a void in handmade valued brands,” Brown explained. “With Greg’s experience in the educational side of the industry, we thought we could produce a fun, well made wine that catered to a younger crowd. There has been an upswing and interest in good wine over the last five years and we have seen a lot more interest from younger people.”
The Substance team plans to grow the label horizontally rather than vertically, meaning they will add different kinds of varietals instead of simply increasing the production.
“We pride ourselves in making natural wine, meaning we don’t get in the way of the wine. Wineries can adjust wine during the process of winemaking. We try to do all that in the vineyard and let the wine be what it is,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of focus right now on organic. Wine shouldn’t be any different. Let’s get out the way and let the wine be what it is meant to be in its truest form.”
Current Substance releases include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, Syrah and Counoise. White wines include Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
“We feel like we make wines as natural as possible,” he noted. “As we were tring to come up with names for the new brand, we knew we wanted something that was associated with of the earth. We played around with a couple of names and ideas. Once we settled on the name Substance it became a natural progression of what is a substance. Our designers at Boxwood hit on the periodic tables design. It was one of those things where we couldn’t wait to get started on it because we knew it would be a huge homerun.”
Wines of Substance produces close to 10,000 cases a year and continues to receive high demand for the wine.