The Baty family acquired Columbia Winery in 1980 when the Northwest wine industry was in its infancy. Soon other labels – Covey Run, Paul Thomas, Ste. Chapelle, and Sawtooth wineries – were added to the portfolio. When the company launched Alice White (from 1980 – 2001), it was catapulted into the second largest wine company in the Northwest. A partnership with Australia’s McLaren Vale continued the growth with the addition of Shingleback Davy Estate and Red Knot wine. In 2003 Precept Wine was formed with further acquisition of Apex Cellars, Washington Hills, House Wine, Waterbrook and Willow Crest. Today, this portfolio of brands also includes Ste. Chapelle Winery, Yamhela Vineyard, Skyfall Vineyard, Gruet Winery of New Mexico (the company’s first sparkling wine), Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Chocolate Shop, and Sagelands from Diageo. Precept is now the largest family-owned wine company in the Northwest with vineyards totally 4,000+ acres in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The plan for success laid out by Precept Wine founders, Andrew Browne and Dan Baty, was carried through to the letter.
Cesar Cuellar is the assistant winemaker at Waterbrook Winery, his employer for 20 years. Cesar emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico and was originally a construction worker in Walla Walla before seeking a career in the wine industry. During his first decade with Waterbrook, he watched this family winery grow to near capacity, though it would take a substantial investment for the winery to reach its full potential. In 2006, then-proprietor, Eric Rindal, sold Waterbrook to Precept.
“Everyone at the winery was excited about the sale, but also nervous if the practices and sourcing would be the same,” Cuellar said. “From there, it just got better.” In 2009 Waterbrook opened a new state-of-the-art winery, visitor center and a nearby estate vineyard.
Cesar and his brother-in-law, cellar master Andres Palencia, who were both hired on the same day in 1996, watched in amazement as the winery finally made its new home on Highway 12. Over the years additional family members joined the Waterbrook team; Cesar’s four sisters, his father, and another brother-in-law now also work at Waterbrook.
The plan for success laid out by Precept Wine founders, Andrew Browne and Dan Baty, was carried through to the letter. Today, Waterbrook Winery has reached unprecedented acclaim, becoming a nationally known brand whose production facility now provides jobs that contribute to the economic vitality of the Walla Walla Valley.