Discover the brilliant individuals behind the Wine and Food Festival event. Find out how these people have honed their craft into an art.
Brand Ambassador for USA Market, Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery
Receiving a degree from the Universidad Mayor de Chile as an agronomy engineer, Max Erlwein began his career at Cono Sur as a viticulture assistant. In 2012, he became the Brand Ambassador for USA Market for Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery.
Cono Sur Winery, at the southern tip of Chili was founded in 1993 with the goal of creating quality wines while maintaining a commitment to and respect for the environment. The bicycle was chosen as an emblem on their organic wines because most of their workers come to work by bicycle.
Since 1998, Cono Sur has committed themselves to environmentally friendly vineyard management with a total of about 740 acres under organic certification, and have completed several carbon footprint reduction projects including using geese and other “green” methods to control vineyard pests.
Patrick Merry, a native of Billings, developed an interest in wine long before he ever crushed his first grapes. Touring the iconic wineries of California on a family vacation as a child and helping build his parents’ wine cellar before he was allowed to drink, planted the seed that would later grow into a career in winemaking.
After completing a degree in Computer Science at Rocky Mountain College and working in information technology for several years, he moved to Spokane and earned an MBA from Gonzaga University, still unaware of what the future would hold but thoroughly enjoying the close proximity to Pacific Northwest wineries. In pursuit of a doctorate in Computer Science, Patrick found his way to Pullman, WA. Although the move was for academic reasons and Patrick did not intend to permanently relocate to the Palouse region of eastern Washington, he fell in love with the community and small town atmosphere. He tried his hand at winemaking and in the beginning it was hobby that relied on the labor of friends and neighbors to help process the fruit and bottle the end product. Within a few short years, his “hobby” quickly became something more substantial and, with the encouragement of others and the incredible support of his family, Patrick launched Merry Cellars in 2004 with an inaugural vintage of 400 cases.
From humble beginnings in an historic building in downtown Pullman, Patrick and his wines were quickly embraced by the local community. Growing from that initial vintage in 2004, Merry Cellars now produces 5,000 cases annually and has relocated to a new facility on the edge of town. Patrick’s wines are distributed throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. If you’re adventurous, you can also find his wines in China.
In addition to running the winery on a day to day basis, Patrick also works closely with Washington State University to provide internship opportunities to their Viticulture and Enology students and teaches a course in winemaking through the Wine Business Management program. When he’s not making wine, sampling the barrels or teaching, you can usually find Patrick gardening, remodeling his house or spending time exploring the world with his partner, Shannon Epler, also a Billings native.