Good Karma for Craig Mitrakul
Blog: Winemaker's Journal
December 14, 2011
You can bet Craig Mitrakul, one of the region's most prolific and awarded winemakers, will be celebrating the New Year with some bubbly from Karma Vineyards.
Mitrakul, of Wenatchee, has been hired as head winemaker for Karma Vineyards at Lake Chelan starting the first of the year.
Mitrakul was formerly winemaker for Ryan Patrick Vineyards in Cashmere and Saint Laurent Estate Winery in Malaga. He's also winemaker and owner of his own small winery, Crayelle Cellars, which has a tasting room in Cashmere.
Ryan Patrick was recently sold to Wahluke Wine Co. in Mattawa. Joshua Maloney, Wahluke's head winemaker, will take control of Ryan Patrick's wines. Bryan Mrachek will take over winemaking for Saint Laurent. Mitrakul said he's been involved the last few months with moving Ryan Patrick's winery and training Mrachek to take over at Saint Laurent, which is owned by Bryan's parents, Mike and Laura Mrachek.
"It's been a great experience working for two good companies and helping set up two wine facilities," said Mitrakul, 39.
Mitrakul said he's excited at the opportunity to work at Karma, one of few wineries in the state that makes sparkling wines. Karma is owned by Julie and Bret Pittsinger. Karma's wines have previously been made under the direction of consulting winemaker Ray Sandidge. Sandidge will continue as winemaker for Lake Chelan Winery and his own C.R. Sandidge Wines.
Karma makes a dozen wine varieties of premium red and white wines, including its Methode Champenoise sparkling wine made from chardonnay and pinot noir. Grapes come from Karma's own vineyards on Lake Chelan as well as vineyards in the Wahluke Slope and Snipes Mountain growing areas.
"I'm looking forward to working at one location and having a little more focus. It's been awhile since I've had a chance to work with sparkling wines. I think it's a great niche for the Lake Chelan area," he said. Mitrakul said he will also have a chance to do more work in Karma's 14-acre vineyard, which will allow him more control of the wine from beginning to end.
The last time he worked with champagne-style wines was during his first head winemaking job in the Finger Lakes region of upper New York state. Mitrakul, who earned his master's degree in food science at Cornell University, has also worked for Rosemount Estates in Australia, Ponzi Vineyard in Oregon and Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Patterson, Wash.
He was working with acclaimed winemaker Holly Turner at Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla when he was offered the winemaker position at Ryan Patrick in 2004. Famed winemaker Charlie Hoppes was consulting for Ryan Patrick at the time and recommended Mitrakul be hired for the job.
The Seattle-based wine blog Winefoot named Mitrakul as one of the top 10 Washington winemakers to watch in the coming years. "Craig's philosophy of making food-friendly, age-worth wines have really gone under the radar for the most part," wrote bloggers Duane Pemberton and Sarah Bagdon (who used to work with Mitrakul at Saint Laurent) in a Dec. 6 entry.
Also on Winefoot's top 10 list were Shane Collins at Tsillan Cellars and Dean and Heather Neff, owner-winemakers of Nefarious Cellars, two other Lake Chelan wineries.