Since starting my Q&A series in October, I’ve really enjoyed how different each winemaker’s answers have been despite receiving the same set of questions. Each answer is so personal and unique, and it’s fun to introduce you all to new and familiar faces in the wine industry, especially when their personalities really come out through their answers. This month, we’re heading back up to Walla Walla to feature Richard Funk, owner and winemaker of Saviah Cellars! I first met Rich at a winemaker dinner in 2013 when he was seated next to me. As it turns out, one of his assistant winemakers was a friend of mine! Small world.
Rich got into the wine industry several years after moving to Walla Walla in the early ’90s (he and his wife stopped in Walla Walla while driving from Montana to Oregon and loved the area so much they decided to move there). He first dabbled in archery and making beer before leaving a career in environmental health to start his winery in 2000, named after his wife’s great grandmother Saviah. Saviah Cellars was one of the earlier wineries established in Walla Walla (there are now over 100) and has managed to grow in popularity as the area has. Production is now over 20,000 cases annually, including everything from Chardonnay to Riesling and Barbera to Syrah! It’s a great spot to check out if you’re in the area.
Read on to hear what elk roasting over a fire has to do with a great wine experience according to this outdoor-lover!
12 Questions with Richard Funk
What’s your current job title?
How did you get started in the industry?
Just grabbed the bull by the horns and I haven’t let go. I love everything about our business.
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
My most memorable wine tasting experience was discovering how good Walla Walla wines are when friend brought a Leonetti Cab on a bowhunting trip to Montana, which we drank with fresh elk tenderloins roasted over a campfire. I have many more…they always have a common theme. Fresh air, a campfire, family and good friends.
Do you have a go-to wine and food pairing?
Please see previous question:)
What’s the strangest word/s you’ve used to describe the smell or taste of wine?
I smelled a wine that had a terrible sulfide/diacetyl issue. It smelled like someone %#&&@ a popcorn ball.
Which wine varietal do you think is underrated?
I think Tempranillo would fit that description.
Is there one person in the industry you really admire and/or has been a role model for you?
I admire so many people who have made it in this business. Too many to list.
When you’re all wine-d out, what is your drink of choice?
I really enjoy a good IPA or a hot cup of some aromatic tea.
Favorite place in the world you’ve visited?
I love to visit anywhere with scenic beauty… All the better if you have to hike, bike or boat to experience it.
If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Grateful, optimistic, persistent.
Do you have a random talent or party trick?
I can shoot a bow pretty well. I can hit a cork from 60 feet. I have yet to have anyone volunteer to have me shoot one off their head.
What 3 things would you take on a deserted island with you other than water?
My fly rod, a big hat and some polarized sunglasses.
Thanks to Richard Funk for participating in this month’s ’12 Questions With…’ To read more about Saviah Cellars, click here to visit the website or read about the Saviah wine dinner I attended. Cheers!
Personal photos provided by Richard Funk.