Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Joshua Maloney has been named the Director of Winemaking for Milbrandt Vineyards. Maloney, who has been red winemaker at Ste. Michelle for six years, will begin his new position next month in time for the 2011 crush.

Maloney assumes the position previously occupied by Gordy Hill, among Washington’s more talented – and unsung – winemakers. The Director of Winemaking position involves both making wines for Milbrandt Vineyards as well as running the custom crush facility at the Wahluke Wine Company. The combined production would be the state’s fourth largest winery if it were a single entity. Wine from Wahluke Wine Company go into scores of bottles from many notable Washington wineries.

Maloney just may be the perfect person to fill Hill’s large shoes. He brings extensive experience with winemaking as well as the organizational expertise necessary for working at scale.

Maloney, who graduated from Cornell University with a degree in chemistry, started out working for a small winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York. From there he went to Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where he worked as a lab technician and cellar worker before moving to Estancia Estates Winery. At Estancia he oversaw the Merlot program. Maloney joined Chateau Ste. Michelle as red winemaker in 2005 at the age of 32 – the youngest person ever to be named to the position.

The opportunity at Milbrandt is a unique one. Milbrandt Vineyards encompasses over 1,800 hundred acres, with most of the acreage concentrated on or around the Wahluke Slope. The Milbrandts work with countless Washington wineries, both in terms of fruit contracts and through the Wahluke Wine Company.

Maloney is excited to work for the Milbrandt brothers. “They are master of the dirt. If you really want to wrap your arms around what it takes to be successful making wine, that’s it right there,” Maloney says.

Maloney says that, while leaving Chateau Ste. Michelle was a difficult decision, he is looking forward to a new challenge. “The team that I’ve worked with at Chateau Ste. Michelle is honest to God one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” Maloney says. “I’m eternally grateful to Chateau Ste. Michelle for bringing me up here from California.”

Maloney is unabashedly bullish about the future of Washington wine. “I’ve made wine in two parts of California, and I’ve made wine in upstate New York. Nothing comes close to making wine in Washington,” he says. “I’m absolutely convinced that this area has the potential to eclipse wines from anywhere else in the world.”

Maloney is also effusive about the opportunity at Milbrandt. “It’s going to be a new learning curve to me to take what I’ve learned here and apply it to other wineries and other labels,” Maloney says. “I’m excited about it.”

Maloney begins at Milbrandt Vineyards in August.