A Glass of Wine With Your Law

By Joseph V. Sebelin Jr.

 

Enjoy a fine French wine or microbrew, but can’t find exactly want you want? That was what faced Washington lawyer Paul Beveridge after law school. His solution was to make his art of winemaking into a career and build his own winery.

Paul’s path from attorney to winemaker began in Paul’s early childhood. Paul credits his father’s love of wine for his deep interest in wine. While Paul was a young boy, his father studied to become an Episcopal priest and worked as intern at the Napa Valley Mental Hospital. Given the proximity to the famous wine region and the senior Beveridge’s interest in wine, Paul’s family would enjoy family outings at the various vineyards. While Paul’s mother and father sampled the numerous vintages, Paul and his brothers would explore the wine cellars and caves. Paul recalls that his favorite winery in those days was Louis Martini, “because they served grape juice to kids and had the best cheese and crackers.”

Paul’s interest in the art of winemaking grew while he attended Whitman College, located in the heart of Washington winemaking country in Walla Walla. There, he met his future wife and winemaking partner, Lysle Wilhelmi. In addition, he discovered the Washington wine industry. This initial exposure to the wine industry piqued Paul’s interest in owning a winery. In particular, Paul was fascinated by a the fact that a Whitman board member who owned a prominent Washington winery. In light of the board member’s schedule and commitments, Paul noted the possibility of winery ownership as a part-time venture.

Paul left Whitman in his junior year for Columbia Law School. In New York, Paul embraced the availability of fine French wines. With money earned from working for law firms, he could afford to purchase them. Yet, Paul missed the various and sundry microbrewery beers produced in Washington State. because Paul could not find a suitable New York substitute, he decided to make his own beer. Paul credits this beer brewing as the beginning of his winemaking career and his eventual decision to open the Wilridge Winery, located in the historic Madrona neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.

In 1985, Paul graduated from Columbia and began work as an environmental lawyer in Washington, D.C. Even as a new lawyer Paul infused his interest in winemaking into his practice. His first major project involved extensive travel to California. Paul saw this as an opportunity to indulge in wine tasting in the Sonoma Valley. By 1986, Paul and his wife, Lysle, moved back to Washington State so that she could attend medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle. Paul practiced environmental law with a Seattle law firm. Paul noted that one of the partners operated a small winery in his garage. Paul theorized that if a partner could enjoy such a hobby, so could an associate.

Soon Paul’s wife decided to explore her interest in restaurant operation. She decided to take a year off from school and work as cook. Within a few years, the couple decided to open their own restaurant in their home. The business plan was simple - a European-style bistro where Lysle made the food and Paul made the wine. The restaurant, which opened in 1991, was on the first floor, living quarters on the second floor, and the winery in the cellar. The restaurant, Madrona Bistro, opened to critical acclaim.

Paul’s law license soon became entwined with the operation of the business as “tied house” laws prevented the Bistro from selling Wilridge wine. Paul embarked upon a legal battle to permit the sale of wine at the restaurant. With some help from the Washington Wine Institute, Paul successfully fought to change these “tied house” laws. Two years after the restaurant opened, Wilridge wines were sold at Madrona Bistro.

Citing the rigors of operation, the couple reluctantly closed the restaurant in 1994. They continued to operate the Wilridge Winery, however. By 1996, demand had increased such that the couple expanded the winery by lifting their house (and former restaurant) and excavating a 1,500 square foot cellar/winery. The new facility gave increased Wilridge’s production capacity.

Paul still practices environmental law full time at Heller Ehrman, White & McAuliffe LLP, where he has been practicing for 18 years. For 15 of those years he has also operated the winery.

The Wilridge Winery specializes in handcrafted red wines made from selected single vineyard sites in Washington State. The grapes are picked in Red Mountain, Yakima, and Walla Walla. They are crushed, pressed, and aged in new French oak barrels at the winery. For more information about Paul’s wine, please visit www.wilridgewinery.com.


Joseph V. Sebelin, Jr. is an associate with William G. Schwab & Associates, a general practice firm in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Attorney Sebelin’s interests outside the law include weightlifting and mountain biking
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