Quincy vintner does double duty

QUINCY — Craig Mitrakul wanted something stronger than soda pop.

Armed with a new bachelor’s degree in food science from Rutgers University in 1994, Mitrakul’s first job was as a researcher working on artificial sweeteners. The job may have been a sweet deal as far as compensation and security, but it left the New Jersey native thirsty for something more.

“I decided I really didn’t want to know everything there is to know about soda,” he said.

Two local vintners and a growing number of Washington wine drinkers can be thankful that Mitrakul decided to leave the job and go to graduate school at Cornell University. There he discovered the magic of the grape during a master’s research project that put him to work in a university extension vineyard in upstate New York. His newfound excitement about the art and science of wine production eventually led him to several jobs across the nation and in Australia.

His current profession as a winemaker has him head of production of not one but two of the region’s acclaimed wineries. Saint Laurent Winery and Ryan Patrick Winery joined forces last fall and built a new wine production facility in Quincy to better use the services of the winemaker they also share. In other ways, the two wineries remain separate, specializing in different styles of wine and harvesting grapes from different vineyards. Both wineries have produced award-winning and high-scoring vintages under Mitrakul’s direction.

Ryan Patrick has its tasting room and offices in Leavenworth. Saint Laurent has a tasting room, concert venue and offices in Malaga.

Mitrakul, 35 and now living in Wenatchee with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, says the dual role offers him a rare opportunity to use and grow his talents in different ways.

“I feel fortunate to be able to work with two wineries. It’s a unique situation. Wineries, by nature, are pretty competitive. But these two have the vision to be able to work together,” he said in a recent interview at the new production plant.

While he outlined his career for a reporter, Mitrakul kept busy at his work in a laboratory room nestled between a row of huge stainless steel fermentation tanks. He used a titration stand to drip wine into a flask of chemical solution to determine the wine’s acid level. A row of glasses were lined up, each with a sample from barrels of various 2006 reds that would eventually be blended for best taste and consistency. He moved between tasks with confidence and obvious experience that is somewhat baffling considering his youthful, collegiate looks and almost apologetic manner.

“He looks so young he still gets carded sometimes when he goes to a show to display his wine,” said Ryan Patrick’s owner, Terry Flanagan, with a laugh. Flanagan said Mitrakul’s youthful looks and humility — unusual in a winemaker of his caliber — cause some people to miss his broad experience.

“He makes excellent wine and is very precise. He leaves nothing to chance,” Flanagan said. “Winemaking is a marriage of art and science. Craig is one of the guys who has the art side down and knows the science very well.”

“He’s soft-spoken, but he can be demanding in what he wants and needs to make great wine,” added Mike Mrachek, co-owner with his wife, Laura, of Saint Laurent Winery. “He didn’t allow me to cut corners when we were building the winery. That’s a good thing. He’s really precise and he has a great concept in what wine is supposed to taste like.”

In 2004, Flanagan hired Mitrakul on the recommendation of heralded wine consultant Charlie Hoppes to head up wine production at the winery’s new facilities in Rock Island. Saint Laurent had been bringing its grapes to the Ryan Patrick plant since 2003 for custom production of their wine, which fell under Mitrakul’s direction after he was hired.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.

Tanner Mock begins unwrapping new furniture that has been delivered on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
In Everett, new look, new name for mainstay Behar’s Furniture

Conlin’s Furniture, based in South Dakota, bought the huge store and celebrates with a grand opening this week.