By Pat Jenkins
People who love wine, flowers and sweets might think they’re in heaven when they visit Rainier View Winery and Nursery.
Starting two months ago, JoLeigh and Clay Thornburg have been satisfying the unique combination of tastes at their business in Graham, located off State Route 167 at 12314 264th St. E. Customers can taste and buy a wide variety of grape and berry wine that’s handcrafted on site. They can also buy hanging baskets and vegetable starts, and they can browse and satisfy their sweet tooth in a gift shop that offers gardening items and JoLeigh’s homemade fudge and jam.
The nursery has been open for five years. The winery was added May 1.
-”The wine is taking off. People who’ve come to try it pick at least one to take with them,” with blackberry plum a big seller recently, JoLeigh said.
Clay, a native Midwesterner who is retired from the Army, is the winemaker. When he was still in the service, a pub owner in Germany taught him how to make wine the European way, which has fewer phosphates and a higher alcohol content (18 percent) than U.S. wine.
“In the simplest terms, we use less chemicals and more fruit in our wine,” JoLeigh said..”We’d rather bring out the natural flavor of the fruit than load it up with the artificial stuff. That creates a wine that’s bolder, sweeter and more fragrant.”
The couple and their lone full-time employee, Daniel Kelly, make the 28 varieties of wine by hand, right down to stemming, pitting and mashing the grapes that come from Yakima and the berries that are purchased locally from Spooner Farms and Scholz Farms in the Puyallup Valley.
The finished product is sold by the glass, bottle and case in a “cozy” building that seats 25 people inside and 25 outside, JoLeigh said. For customer service, the goal is intimate surroundings and personal attention.
“We sit down with people and teach them a little about wine,” including which ones go well with desserts, JoLeigh related. “If you’re looking for a stiff, ritzy wine bar, we don’t fit the bill. That’s not us. We focus on creating a unique, high-quality product” that the couple believe any type of wine drinker – conoisseur or novice – can enjoy.
The winery is open Monday through Sunday for tastings. It also hosts after-hour private parties.
“It’s a fun place to relax,” said JoLeigh, who spends more of her own time there during the summer break from her job as a special-education teacher at Graham-Kapowsin High School.