Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Winemaker and Her Wine - Up-close and Very Personal

Jill Noble has lived just outside of Walla Walla for almost twenty years, and I have known her for most of them. We met when Jill was pregnant with her first child -- a couple of "newbies" together in a local charitable organization. Later we were classmates in Walla Walla Community College's Viticulture and Enology program; in fact, we were among the program's "pioneer" students, before the college's Wine Institute was built. Through these years of classes and projects, Jill has been one of my biggest cheerleaders, so I was heart-warmed when she told me a few weeks ago that she felt I had been one of hers.

Life is personal and passionate for Jill, and it shows in her work, in her personal relationships and now in her winemaking. The work of a winemaker is not a job for her but an avocation, a calling. She is a hands-on winemaker from grape to bottle; her wine is very much a labor of love.

Jill's love extends to her winery's name. Couvillion is the family name of a close personal friend, Connie from Louisiana. “It’s French-Canadian," Jill told me, "and I wanted to honor her because she is so dear to my heart.” One of her wines, a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon, carries the unusual name of "Hoobie" -- again, after a dear, now departed friend. She told me she's planning to name other wines in the future to honor those people who have touched her life.

Jill’s interest in the wine industry came from a desire to help diversify her family's wheat farm. This time of year the drive out to Couvillion, which is north of Walla Walla a few miles, in the Spring Valley area, is all about colors and aroma: hills bright green with spring grass and the air sharp and fresh with growth. North of the family farm is Jill's vineyard; her small but efficient winery is part of the farm itself (she is already planning on expanding the new structure). The great views of the rolling hillsides and the sounds of birds made my visit quiet and relaxing...a perfect spot to sip Jill's wines, which are made with so much passion. When you visit, doubtless you, too, will want to take some Couvillion wine home with you to recapture that memory!

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage." That's Jill's philosophy of life -- and of winemaking.

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