Pepper Bridge Winery isn’t just a family business. It is a three-family owned and operated winery.
In 1984, the Walla Walla Valley was legally recognized as an American Viticultural Area. At this time, there were very few acres of vines in the valley. Norm McKibbena, a founding father of Washington’s wine industry, realized that in order for the industry to be sustainable, it needed its own vineyards. He planted his first vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley in 1989. By 1994, he was managing more than 200 acres across the appellation. With a majority of the region’s vineyards under his control, McKibben soon decided to broaden his horizons by adding winemaking to his résumé.
McKibben founded Pepper Bridge in 1998, one of the very early wineries in Walla Walla. Shortly thereafter, he joined forces with Ray Goff and third-generation Swiss winemaker Jean-François Pellet. A forerunner then, Pepper Bridge Winery remains a pioneer today. It is one of the few wineries in the region to focus exclusively on estate-grown Bordeaux-style wines, producing premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from its Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards. Today, two generations are active in day-to-day operations.
McKibben’s grapes are some of the most sought-after in Washington State. With portions of both vineyards controlled by Norm, Pepper Bridge is one of only a handful of Washington wineries that produces 100 percent estate-grown wines. Farming methods include applying compost tea through drip irrigation systems, leaving groundcover uncut to preserve habitat for beneficial insects and minimizing the use of chemicals. Every vineyard acre features state-of-the-art trellising and irrigation. This minimal input farming quantitatively improves the health of the vine and improves the quality of the grapes.