Amy Alvarez-Wampfler & Victor Palencia

“You need to always do your best. Don’t get discouraged. Tell yourself, ‘I can do it.’”

- Amy Alvarez-Wampfler


Amy and Victor at the Stan Clarke Vineyard at Walla Walla Community College. Clarke, a charismatic teacher with a degree in viticulture, mentored both young winemakers. He died unexpectedly in 2007. Greg Lehman

Left: Stan and Amy bring in the fruit at Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology & Viticulture. When the young mom ran short of funds, “Stan even paid for part of a quarter at school.” Walla Walla Community College

MIddle: Victor in the barrel room. Now senior director of winemaking for J&S Crushing in Mattawa, Victor oversees winemaking for Jones of Washington. Richard Duval

Right: Victor and Amy sample some of the award-winning College Cellars wines in the tasting room at Walla Walla Community College, their alma mater. Greg Lehman

Who are they?

Hispanic vineyard workers have been the backbone of the West Coast wine industry for more than half a century. Yet until recently few got the chance to craft wines. Victor Palencia and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler, two of the top winemakers in the Northwest, are part of a vanguard of talented young Latino winemakers and vineyard managers. Their stories are a blend of serendipity, talent and hard work. There’s one more thing, Victor says: “Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams.”

Stan Clarke, their mentor at Walla Walla Community College, entered their lives at just the right time. A masterful teacher, Clarke’s generosity matched his passion for winemaking. Amy was a young mom who needed gas money to stay in school. Victor was a prodigy. Clarke kept Amy on the road and helped her secure an important internship. And he told everyone that Victor, at 19, already had the “nose” of a gifted winemaker even though he was too young to drink, legally at least.

Victor and Amy represent one of the fastest growing communities in our state. Washington’s Hispanic population is up 83 percent to 808,000 since 2000. Washington, meanwhile, is now second only to California in the production of premium American wines. Walla Walla Community College’s award-winning winemaking institute is playing a key role by ensuring the industry has vintage talent. Stan Clarke died at the age of 57 in 2007. His legacy will be long remembered far beyond Walla Walla.