MikeL's Guide to WA Wineries
Bela Varga - Winemaker

A native of Hungary, Bela graduated from the University of Horticulture and Food Sciences of Budapest, one of the oldest universities offering enology and fermentation sciences curricula in Europe, with a Master in Enology in 1988. Upon graduation he married his university sweetheart Judit then together they climbed over the Iron Curtain. As Bela has said, "We love our home, but we could not live in that system." They moved to Healdsburg, CA where he worked for Chateau Souverain, one of the most prestigious wineries in Sonoma County, as Assistant Winemaker for three years. There he learned the winemaking ins and outs of California giving him great insight and ample opportunities to see both worlds, the old and the new. While at Chateau Soverain he was invited and eventually lured to Niagara Falls, Ontario, by Brights Wines, the largest winery in Canada. There he directed the operations of a three million case winery with products ranging from Champagnes, Ports and Sherries, to Premium and Dessert wines. He learned in his own words "the full scope of products." While it was an excellent experience and priceless schooling Bela wanted to focus on what he was primarily attracted to -- making premium wines of outstanding quality.

In 1999 he learned that Claar Cellars, a medium-size Premium winery in the Columbia Valley of Washington had an opening for Winemaker. After visiting the winery and touring the vineyards, Claar Cellars offered and Bela accepted the position of Winemaker in August 1999.

Bela values most the varietal character, fruit and crispness in wines, "Once you have that the embellishment can come after." As Bob Whitelatch, owner of Claar Cellars, likes to remind Bela, "I give you diamonds and it is up to you polish them." Bela agrees that the fruit of Claar Cellars Estate Vineyard is indeed unique and of the finest quality and believes that with his expertise he will now be able to craft the outstanding Premium wines he always dreamed.

[Source: Claar Cellars]

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