Today the Lawrence and Merkle families, two prominent growers in eastern Washington, announced the purchase of Yakima Valley’s Desert Wind Winery.

“We think it’s kind of a diamond in the rough so to speak,” says Josh Lawrence, CEO of Lawrence Enterprises and managing partner of Gård Vintners and Lawrence Vineyards. “The winery has this uniqueness, with its Southwestern feel and appeal.”

Located overlooking the Yakima River, Desert Wind is distinct in that the Southwest-inspired building not only includes a winery and tasting room, it also has a large event space, restaurant, spa, and overnight guest rooms.

“That idea of coming in and staying on-site and really getting the Washington wine experience, I think has a lot of legs,” says Lawrence.

In 2020, the Lawrence and Merkle families purchased Desert Wind’s 480 acre eponymous estate property on the Wahluke Slope. Having purchased well-regarded Connor Lee Vineyard in 2019, the two families now own over 1,100 acres in the Columbia Valley.

With the purchase, Matías Kúsulas was named winemaker at Desert Wind. A Chilean native, Kúsulas brings an impressive resumé that includes master’s degrees in enology and viticulture from Montpelier and Bordeaux. Kúsulas has worked in Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Châteauneuf-du-pape, and Côte Rôtie.

In 2016, Kúsulas moved to Washington and subsequently worked his way from enologist up to production manager and viticulturalist at A. Morrell Wines and M&L Production. He has also served as viticulturalist for Wautoma Springs Vineyard and head viticulturalist for Lawrence Vineyards on the Royal Slope.

“For me, it’s just an honor,” Kúsulas says of becoming Desert Wind’s winemaker. “We’ll be able to work directly with the vineyards we manage to bring fruit into this building and make a great product. I’m excited.”

In addition to his work at Desert Wind, Kúsulas also has his own brands Valo Cellars and Massalto. Both share a recently opened tasting room in Vancouver, Washington.

Founded in 2001 by the Fries family, Desert Wind Winery makes approximately 11,000 cases annually.

Photo by Lynn Howlett courtesy of Desert Wind Winery