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Winemaker' Journal —Victor Palencia lets his dreams soar

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Victor Palencia, the talented head winemaker for Jones of Washington and the mega-winery J&S Crushing in Mattawa, is now also crafting his own line of wines.Make that three lines of wines. Palencia Wine Co. will open a tasting room this month in an incubator building at Walla Walla Regional Airport to show off his limited early releases. His bottle wines will be available at two tier levels. Palencia Winery is the upper-tier label. Only premium grapes sourced from Red Mountain, Yakima, Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes American Viticultural Areas are used for these premier wines that "flagship the land," Palencia said. "They're a tribute to the hard working people of the land," said Palencia, who got his start in the wine industry as a boy working in vineyards with his father and older brothers. The line will start with a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and a Yakima Valley Sauvignon Blanc.The Monarcha label will feature lower priced, easy drinking wines that go well with everyday meals. The Monarcha name is for the Monarch butterfly that starts its migration north each spring from his family's homeland in Michoacán, Mexico to the Pacific Northwest."It's a symbol for letting your dreams soar," he said.The line will start with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based blends, a Chardonnay and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.He's also producing a line of Selección labeled keg wines for area restaurants, taverns and wine tasting rooms.Palencia, 28, has become one of the wine industry's rising rock stars as winemaker for the much-awarded Jones of Washington winery.  The Quincy-based winery — owned by the Jack Jones family of Wenatchee — was named Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest last year. The winery has won many gold medals in Foothill magazine's annual North Central Washington Wine Awards as well as in state and nationwide competitions.Palencia is also head winemaker for J&S Crushing, also known as Rivers Edge Winery, in Mattawa. It's owned by the Jones and Dick Shaw families. That custom crush plant expects to produce more than three million gallons of wine this year for customers that include Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries. And now Palencia Winery.Palencia said the opportunity to use equipment at J&S and have access to some of the state's best vineyards is a huge benefit that has helped him get a start while keeping his overhead low. He has no plans to leave J&S.He expects to bottle about 600 cases of his own wine this year, increasing to about 1,500 cases by next year."I'm going to be a busy guy. I need to learn how to clone myself," he said.