In 1997, after witnessing the high quality of wines being produced in Eastern Washington, Jerry got into the grape growing business. In 2005, after selling his fruit to some of the state’s most prestigious wine producers, he was soon recognized for helping establish two top AVAs: Ancient Lakes and Wahluke Slope. One of his vineyards, Evergreen Vineyard within the Ancient Lakes AVA, was named Vineyard of the Year in 2014 by Seattle Magazine.
With the acclaim and dozens of 90-point wines coming out of this gorgeous undulating site, it only made sense to name his next venture Ancient Lake Wine Company. Within five months of launching, his team processed 1,300 tons through the facility. In 2015, the Ancient Lake crew grew the facility to a 13,000 ton capacity and it continues to grow.
Jerry, a true pioneer and forefather of the Washington wine industry, continues to seek out and acquire unique sites that produce stellar wines. He also has an eye for risk-taking talent. For Ancient Lake Winery, he’s put together one of the youngest, most productive winemaking and vineyard management teams in the nation.
While technically not a native Washingtonian, Jerry Milbrandt is about as close as you can get. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1948, but moved to the Quincy area of Eastern Washington at the age of six. “Dad and Mom bought 160 acres for $40 an acre. They had saved half of the money and borrowed the balance from Grandpa. Upon arriving we staked out our homestead and planted a border of trees for definition, shade and protection. We lived in an army surplus trailer and tent for the first winter, then built a concrete block home.”
Jerry first became aware of wine in 1969 while stationed in Frankfurt Germany. “I drank many wonderful Rieslings while in the army. Over the next three decades I continued to taste, explore and learn about wine.”
“Washington has the best growing conditions in the world and we’ve worked hard to find some of the best sites in the state. We have cool high-elevation sites for our whites, resulting in wines with great minerality, acid crispness and forward fruit.
Jerry and his wife Janie have six kids between them. They have been bitten by the travel bug (no relation to phylloxera) and recently enjoyed a barge trip down the Rhone River with a French winemaking couple.
In May 2014, Brandon and his family moved to East Wenatchee and jumped on board the Ancient Lake Wine Company project, where he and Steve Johnson started the construction of the facility and processed 1,300 tons through the facility just 5 months later. The Ancient Lake crew has now grown the facility to a 13,000 ton capacity in 2015 and will continue to grow it.
Brandon was born in Sunnyside, Washington where he grew up working at his parent’s bowling alley where they taught him customer service and that relationships with customers were far more important than just a pay check at the end of the week. He attended Washington State University where he graduated with a B.S. in Biology Pre-Dental in 2008. After graduation, Brandon started working as a Laboratory Technician at Snoqualmie Winery where he learned the daily analytical up-keepings of a large winery under Lab Manager Barb Zimmerman. It was there when he realized he wanted to be a part of the wine industry for the long haul.
Two months after employment at Snoqualmie, Brandon received a phone call from Charlie Hoppes, Head Winemaker at Goose Ridge Winery and Estates, asking him to set up the lab in the newly built facility. Excited about the opportunity, Brandon jumped on board the Goose Ridge crew where he worked his way through all aspects of winemaking starting with the lab for his first three years. Knowing Brandon’s willingness to learn all aspects of winemaking, management approached him about becoming the Cellar Master in the rapidly growing winery, which he accepted and ran cellar operations for both the bulk wine and boutique wine portions of the facility. In spring of 2013, he was asked to become the Assistant Winemaker behind renowned Winemaker Kendall Mix where he continued his growth of knowledge in the industry.
Brandon spends his spare time travelling and enjoying all outdoor activities the Wenatchee area provides with his wife Jennifer and two daughters Calie and Bentlee.
Ryan has over 18 years experience in the wine industry- specifically, vineyard management. Starting out at Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1998, he’s honed his techniques with some of the industry’s top producers. He currently manages over 1200 acres of contracted wine grapes in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA.
His focus when growing wine grapes is to work towards achieving terroir-expressive fruit by balancing viticulture management techniques with mother nature’s growing season. Soil, weather, irrigation, and solar influences are considered while trying to ripen each vintages’ grape crop. By understanding each vineyards’ unique soil profile and monitoring the weather and solar conditions during each vintage, canopy and irrigation management can be used to fully maximize the grape development at seasons’ end.
Since 2007, he’s helped Milbrandt Vineyards and Jerry Milbrandt produce some of Washington’s most acclaimed wines. He also helped the Milbrandt’s establish one of the state’s most renowned AVAs- Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley. He is also partner of Ryan Patrick Wines, a winery named after Ryan and his brother Patrick.
Hector, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, came to the United States in 2009 when he was 16 years old. He graduated from Sunnyside High School and was then introduced to the wine industry by his brother, Jorge Trujano, who was working at Goose Ridge Winery and Estates. Hector soon began learning the art of winemaking from Winemaker Kendall Mix and then Cellar-Master Brandon Rice.
Starting on the bottling line, Hector was responsible for assisting in the set-up, operation and clean-up. At this time he was able to get his forklift certiﬁcation allowing him the opportunity to work in the barrel room, working with a limited production of ﬁne wines from hand-picked grapes. Hector discovered his passion for winemaking during his next three years in the barrel program.
By the beginning of 2014, Hector went to work for one of Washington’s most respected winemakers, Charlie Hoppes, where he continued working on small production of high quality wines.
In September 2014, Hector was invited by Winemaker Brandon Rice to become part of Ancient Lake Wine Company, a large production facility owned by Jerry Milbrandt. Driven by a strong desire for success in the wine industry, Hector moved to Ancient Lake Wine Company during its earliest stages where he began developing the ﬁrst phase of the winery under the guidance of Winemaker Brandon Rice and Head of Maintenance Steve Johnson.
Nicole grew up in Kennewick Washington surrounded by wine country. She graduated from Washington State University in 2010 with a B.S. in Microbiology. After graduation Nicole started working as a Laboratory Technician at Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and Winery. It was there she discovered her passion for winemaking.
Having learned the ins and outs of the laboratory, in 2012 she was hired as a Quality Improvement Technician at Columbia Crest Winery. She was eager to learn a different side of the wine industry, hoping to gain knowledge in the production side of winemaking. At Columbia Crest, Nicole was able to work with many experienced winemakers expanding her quality knowledge and sensory skills. Realizing she missed the science and hands-on aspect fulfilled by working in the analytical lab, Nicole was approached to come back to Goose Ridge Winery in early 2013 as a Lab Manager. With the chance to work with respected Winemaker Kendall Mix and Assistant Winemaker Brandon Rice again, she jumped at the opportunity. Over the next year she refined her skills, developing an expertise in wine analysis, sensory and blending while being promoted to Enologist.
In early 2014 Nicole was approached by Ancient Lake Wine Company to join the team, becoming the Enologist and assisting in the development of the new winery. Knowing respected owner Jerry Milbrandt’s reputation in the wine industry of making quality premium wines, she could not pass up the opportunity. In September 2014, Nicole moved to Ephrata, WA to begin working at the large production facility with Winemaker Brandon Rice.
Tanner was born in Sunnyside, Washington where he graduated from Sunnyside High School. While in school, he worked at Independent Foods a food processing facility that his mom managed at the time. Following graduation, he was offered a job as a maintenance technician for a property management company in Selah, WA. There he learned uncompromised skills in construction such as plumbing and heavy machinery operation, while repairing and maintaining various buildings. After 5 years of working as a technician, Tanner had the opportunity to come join the construction of Ancient Lake Wine Company in March 2015. He took the opportunity and ran with it, utilizing his skills within the construction of the facility, and now learning the techniques of winemaking in the cellar.
Tanner’s life outside of work revolves around his son Bryson and his passion for bowling. Whether he’s with the family or competing in tournaments, you can probably find him throwing some games at the local bowling alley.