Warr-King Wines: It’s never too late to pursue your dream

A Sip Wines “Winelight”

Lisa Warr-King Packer, Founder & Winemaker

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” For many of us, this was THE question of childhood. I remember putting a lot of thought into it and getting really stressed out when, at age 8, I JUST COULDN’T DECIDE what I wanted to be. Like it mattered. Now that I’m the parent of a six year old, while I recognize that this question is unavoidable, I’m determined to frame it differently. Namely, that there doesn’t have to be ONE answer to this question--we can be many things as we grow up! Case in point: Lisa Warr-King Packer, founder and winemaker at Warr-King Wines. Sure, she’s making incredible wine NOW, but it’s not where she started…

Aloha, y’all.

...which was Hawaii, and while I’m sure it felt like a relatively “normal” upbringing, I’m still like um ok your childhood was so much cooler than mine. Not that Hawaii and wine necessarily connect in my mind (although I looked it up and there ARE vineyards in Hawaii), but Lisa’s father had a friend who ran a Club Med and apparently there was wine everywhere (shocking, I know). That, plus the fact that her parents are both of European background and culturally associate wine with food--and Lisa herself said that she loves food, identifying as a “lifelong gourmet.”

Then she went off to college at Oregon State (not to suggest that other interesting things didn’t happen in that decade or more, but moving right along), where she was promptly bitten by our ever-present friend, the wine bug. Specifically, wine bug’s cheeky cousin, the Pinot Noir bug. Those wine bugs. They’ll get you.

Oh, the childhood question…

Here’s the thing though: despite having a love of wine in her blood, Lisa didn’t pursue it as a career path--it’s not what she did when she “grew up,” so to speak. Instead, she went into the high-tech marketing world, moving to Seattle and remaining in that industry for the next 20 years. (Which gives me such hope after my decade-plus in the legal industry…)

Wine tracked her down in the end, through a friend who was the daughter of a winemaker. That friend, in addition to being an excellent tasting buddy, was the one who ultimately persuaded Lisa to enroll in a wine program at Lake Washington Tech. Even then, Lisa thought she would probably stay in marketing or possibly pursue a sommelier career, until a program requirement landed her in an internship at Patterson Cellars.

IT’S SCIENCE.

At least, that was one of the big draws for Lisa towards the actual production of wine. As she’s described it, she straight up loved watching the grapes roll in, along with the entire process of coaxing those grapes into beautiful wines. It was hard work, to be sure, but as they say, it’s not work when you’re doing something you love.

And she loved it, so she kept going; the next step was more education, but ultimately she wanted to learn on the job. She spent several years working at different wineries, immersing herself in the entire holistic process of winemaking, until she reached the point where it was time to throw her hat in the ring.

To quote Will Dubs again…

In 2013, Lisa launched Warr-King. Listening to Lisa describe the experience, I was reminded of one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” In this case, I don’t mean Lisa is little--I’ve never met her in person and cannot opine on her relative size--but rather, Warr-King may have been little to start, but she was fierce.

Fierce enough to go from 150 cases in the first year, when Lisa profusely thanks her family and friends for their extensive support, up to now 1600 cases per year. Math is not my strong suit, but that’s a tenfold increase in less than a decade. I think “fierce” is applicable, even if Warr-King is still relatively “little” on the winery scale. So question: how did she do it?

Answer: good people. Lisa openly and effusively attributes her success to the amazing people behind her and supporting her, from her assistant winemaker, Cellarmaster, and tasting room manager to the volunteers who step in for crush and bottling--and let’s not forget the family and friends who supported her every step of the way.

So how does she do it?

By “do it,” obviously I mean “make such incredible wine.” If you haven’t tried her wines yet, jump on that; Warr-King was the very first wine I ordered from Sip Wines, and my mind--and taste buds--were blown, and that was before I got to participate in her live tasting event for Sip Wines and drink even more of her delicious creations.

For Lisa, the key is minimal intervention. One of the things that ultimately drew her into winemaking was the uniqueness of Washington wines, something she got to experience in her internships and carries forward in her wines today. She is dedicated to preserving and highlighting the terroir of the region. In putting together this blog, I found a quote from her online that I think perfectly encapsulates her philosophy: “Washington wines are a perfect balance of old world and new – old world structure, acids and minerality like a European wine, and new world sunshine and fruit like a California wine.”

Well, whatever it is, it’s working. Warr-King is the real deal, and as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to go rewatch the Instagram live tasting with Lisa and order every single wine we had. No lie, it’s been over a month and I’m still thinking about them. And if you have a palette for distinctive wine, and try her wines, you can call me and we’ll talk about how much we miss them when they’re gone.

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