Kate Michaud, Covey Run Winemaker

Kate Loves Wine

Kate Michaud, Covey Run's winemaker, loves wine. Really loves it. She loves wine the way people love their best friends. Or their black Labs. Or their favorite jeans.

Kate Michaud, Covey Run WinemakerBut Michaud also loves that she can wear her 13-year-old, puffy, black North Face vest - held together with Duct tape - to work, and no one bats an eye. She loves that she can do nothing more than wash her face in the morning, throw on a pair of jeans (there they are again, that same pair, for the fifth day in a row) and spend the day tasting wine. Michaud is a tactile type, and she likes the tangible results of her cellar's daily efforts. She likes that there's a product at the end of the day.

And when she's not jetting around Covey's Columbia Valley campus, or checking on her vines, Michaud is jetting around the country, spreading the Covey love. Jetting around is something Michaud's done a lot of in her 37 years. She was born in Detroit, but a year later moved to Mexico City. She spent her school years in London, then moved back stateside for college in Eugene, Ore., where she got a degree in art history.

But it wasn't until after a stint as a snowboard bum in Crested Butte, Co. that Michaud finally caught the wine bug. She'd moved to Santa Cruz, Cal. and got a job as a cellar worker at Bonny Doon Vineyard. She'd finally fallen in love, and she wanted to know more, so she enrolled in the Winemaking Certificate program at UC Davis. After a year, Michaud set sail for WA - not Washington state, but western Australia - where she worked a harvest in the country's Margaret River region.

When she returned to Santa Cruz, Michaud landed a gig as an assistant enologist at David Bruce Winery. But soon, she heard the siren call of eastern Washington, and it sounded a lot like, "the cost of living is much better up here!" In short order, she married a fellow enologist, became the assistant wine maker at Canoe Ridge Vineyard in Walla Walla, and experienced motherhood for the first time.

In 2005, Michaud, family in tow, jetted off again for the southern hemisphere, this time to KiwiLand, where she further refined her winemaking skills by conducting cold fermentations at Kim Crawford and jumping off tall bridges, bungee cords attached to her ankles.

After a particularly scintillating (and pregnant) New Zealand harvest, Michaud returned to Canoe Ridge and in the summer of 2007, she joined Covey Run to oversee its winemaking operation.

For all her scientific training, Michaud gravitates to the right-brained, touchy-feely part of the business. "Winemaking is subjective," she said. "There's good wine and bad wine, but wine can never be right or wrong."

Her craft, she says, involves knowing where the good sites are, and when the grapes are good - something for which Michaud credits her growers.  "They make me look good," she said.

Covey, the second-largest Washington winery led by a woman, has someone at its helm who believes that wines can have personalities, voices - even genders.  "I make wines with some nuance, but that are not caricatures of the varietal they represent," Michaud said. "I make feminine wines."