Columbia Crest Names Juan Muñoz Oca Head Winemaker

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B-roll: Columbia Crest Head Winemaker Juan Munoz Oca in the vineyard

PATERSON, Wash.--()--Columbia Crest, recognized as the leading producer of acclaimed, high-quality wines from Washington state, today announced that Juan Muñoz Oca will assume responsibility for producing the winery’s portfolio of Reserve, H3, Grand Estates and Two Vines wines as Head Winemaker.

Muñoz Oca joined Columbia Crest in 2003, and most recently was dedicated to the winery’s red wine program where he was tutored by Ray Einberger whose 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon became the first Washington wine to be named ‘Wine of the Year’ by Wine Spectator in 2009.

As Director Emeritus of Winemaking, Einberger will assume an advisory role for the boutique wineries within the portfolio of Columbia Crest’s parent company, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (SMWE).

“Juan’s experience making red and white wines in New World and Old World wine regions has been a stylistic asset to Columbia Crest,” said Doug Gore, SMWE executive vice president of winemaking and vineyards.

“He is immersed in the traditions that preceded him,” said Gore. “He approaches winemaking with a respect for the past and an ability to look at it through his own creative lens. It is his particular skill that has led to wines receiving great reviews. People still are surprised that we do what we do at Columbia Crest, and it's winemakers like Juan who keep that element of surprise alive."

Muñoz Oca, 35, has experience that spans 19 vintages in five world-class wine regions, including Bordeaux, France; South Australia; Mendoza, Argentina; Spain; and Washington state. He began interning with the viticulture team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 2001; two years later he was hired as a full-time member of the Columbia Crest winemaking team. In 2005 he was named red winemaker.

Raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Muñoz Oca came under the tutelage of his grandfather, cellar master at Bodegas Toso winery, at a young age. The older man instilled in him a love and respect for wine, as well as for his family’s Spanish culture, that was to become the root of a lifelong passion for winemaking. Muñoz Oca picked his first grapes at the age of eight, later took an after-school job in a wine cellar, and spent his vacations helping his grandfather with harvest.

“I’ve been involved with grapes since I was a little boy – my grandfather was in the industry and his father was in the industry – it’s all I’ve known,” says Muñoz Oca. “Winemaking has been in my family, it’s in my blood, it’s what I do, and it’s who I am.”

During his college years, Muñoz Oca gained more wine industry experience during stints at various wineries in Argentina. After graduating with honors from Argentina’s National University of Cuyo with dual degrees in agricultural engineering and winemaking, he studied viticulture in Ribera del Duero, Spain and joined the winemaking team at Terrazas de los Andes, an Argentine premium winery owned by Chandon.

Though Muñoz Oca planned to further his experience with an internship at a California winery, in 2001 a meeting with the legendary Dr. Robert Wample, then a top viticulturalist at Washington State University, convinced him to head further north to Washington.

“Washington state is a very special place to grow grapes for many reasons,” says Muñoz Oca. “An excellent climate combined with ideal soils and passionate, knowledgeable people equates to the ability to craft high-quality wines. The last nine years in Washington have been the most meaningful to me, I fell in love with the wine and the people, and that’s why I’ve been here since.”

“I am looking forward to my new role as head winemaker,” he continues. “Columbia Crest is synonymous with quality and consistency, and my goal is to create wines that beat consumer expectations year in and year out.”

Muñoz Oca joins a small, elite group of winemakers to hold the title of Head Winemaker at Columbia Crest; in the winery’s 28 year history only three people have been in the position. Ray Einberger was Head Winemaker from 2003 to 2011; under his leadership the winery produced the first Washington wine to be named Wine Spectator’s No. 1 Wine in the World. In 1984 Doug Gore became Columbia Crest’s first official Head Winemaker. Under Gore's direction, Columbia Crest grew from a small winery in a relatively unknown wine region to one of the most significant wineries in the U.S. and a major force behind Washington state’s emergence as a world class wine region. Gore is currently the executive vice president of winemaking and vineyards for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Founded in 1983, Columbia Crest is one of the leading producers of premium wine in Washington state. The winery is best known for its award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. More information about the winery can be found at

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Columbia Crest
Erin Shane, 425-415-3696


Columbia Crest
Erin Shane, 425-415-3696