It was a damaging frost event at Champoux Vineyard in 2010 that brought Vineyard Manager Dan Nickolaus together with Quilceda Creek. Facing a shortage of fruit, Quilceda Creek’s President and Director of Winemaking Paul Golitzin looked for other sources of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and met Dan, who managed the highly revered Wallula Vineyard for the Den Hoed family. Paul quickly recognized Dan’s attention to detail and unyielding dedication in the vineyard, and in 2014 he and the other Champoux Vineyard board members elected Dan to oversee all operations of the historic vineyard. In 2017, the Golitzin family asked Dan to oversee their remaining vineyard holdings.
A native of Kennewick, Washington, which sits in the Columbia Valley AVA, Dan was raised on a small family farm surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards. He grew up with an appreciation for the culture of the wine industry, and by the time he was in middle school he knew he wanted to grow grapes for a living. “I always felt that wine grapes would do well in Washington, because it’s such a good area for apples. With apples, you look for good color and the perfect balance of sugar and acid. It’s similar with wine grapes, although they can sustain more extreme growing conditions, which our appellations in Washington offer.”
After earning a degree in horticulture at Washington State University, where he also studied business, Dan worked as an intern at The Hogue Cellars in Prosser, Washington. After one year at Hogue he was promoted to viticulturist. Following that he was hired by Bill Den Hoed to manage his family’s vineyards.
At Quilceda Creek Dan works closely with Paul Goltizin managing the Champoux, Galitzine and Mach One Vineyards. In 2020 he oversaw the replanting of 22 acres of the Champoux Vineyard, completing its conversion to 100% Bordeaux varieties. Dan has a deep connection with the land and the attitude of a “vigneron,” someone, literally, who grows wine. “Paul and I work fluently together and we’ve shared a lot of successes. In terms of what it takes to grow the highest quality grapes, our visions are completely aligned.”