KALAMA — Tork Will has a new excuse to uncork bottles of wine with friends Friday night. It’s his business.
Will, 46, has long enjoyed casual evenings drinking wine with chums at Kalama’s Skin & Body Day Spa after they close shop for the weekend. Opening his new tasting room, Corks & Bottles & Wines, in the same building was a natural progression, he says.
“We kind of do this anyway,” Will said, only now, he never runs out of wine. A recent promotion at his day job at Emerald Kalama Chemical also gave Will the time to run the tasting room entirely on his own — it’s only open on weekends — and to keep his initial investment small.
Will explores a new local winery each month and brings five favorites back for sale over the next month. Will then continues to stock the most popular of the five varieties after the month ends. He says he tries to focus on Washington wines unavailable in other local stores.
“People might not realize that we have so many (wines) just in our own back yard,” said Will, who has visited Bethany Vineyards in Ridgefield, the Rusty Grape in Battleground and Bateaux Cellars in Toledo since the tasting room opened in January.
Wine first caught Will’s attention about eight years ago, after he took a friend tasting for her birthday. He has no previous experience in the wine business but enjoys learning alongside his customers.
Will meets with wine makers to inquire about the history of their vineyard, the origins of their grapes and personal interests (such as a love for red wines or an affinity for aroma) that might influence their product.
Will frequently encounters scenic, beautiful open spaces, live music and even outdoor movies at the wineries he visits, and he hopes to add similar attractions at his tasting room.
“We’re trying to take the best ideas along the way and use what we can,” Will said.
Will has extra space behind the tasting room he might use for outdoor seating and activities in summer and fall. He also wants to host mid-week parties that combine wine tasting with spa treatments, such as manicures and pedicures.
Even without special events and activities, the small tasting room at Corks & Bottles & Wines has drawn visitors from as far away as the Tri-Cities area, Will says. He hasn’t advertised much, but people began showing up before he even put out signs for the business.
“The social aspect is fun. You get to actually do something with your friends,” Will said of Corks & Wines & Bottles’ appeal. He tries to create an inviting space with the intimate atmosphere of the gatherings that inspired his tasting room.
“Then of course there’s the wines,” he adds.
Most wines at Corks & Bottles & Wines cost between $15 and $30 a bottle, with red wines averaging about $25 a bottle and whites averaging about $15. The tasting room is located at 524 North First Street in Kalama and is open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.