Meet Ashley Trout on today's Foodie Friday. She's a winery owner in Walla Walla, Washington, who also operates both Brook and Bull Cellars, a commercial winery, and Vital Winery, a winery supporting the free, bilingual healthcare clinic in Walla Walla. She's a businesswoman who has a keen eye for business and passion for those in need.
What is your role in the food industry?
As a winemaker, I get the pleasure of crafting food-friendly wines that (hopefully!) inspire professional and home chefs alike to explore new exciting flavor combinations in their dishes. Finding the perfect pairings and experimenting with new kinds of blends, recipes and flavors keeps me coming back for more year after year.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
In college I started working at a winery in the evenings helping with harvest- and I never left! I opened my first winery in 2006 and sold it in 2010 to start Vital Winery.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
Vital is a non-profit winery dedicated to improving healthcare access for vineyard and winery workers in the Walla Walla Valley. Walla Walla is a multi-lingual community supported by an industry of small family-owned companies who can’t always afford to provide part-time or seasonal staff with healthcare. That gap inspired the creation of Vital, which funds a free, bilingual healthcare clinic right here in Walla Walla to help address the inequalities within our industry.
I founded Brook & Bull Cellars shortly after Vital with two goals: first, to alleviate some of the administrative costs for Vital and give more back to our community, and secondly to return to my passion for varietal focused, expressive winemaking. Brook & Bull focuses on single varietal wines, with an eye towards balance, nuance, and small lots of high-quality fruit.
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
Pairing wines with food is no new concept- but exploring the possibilities of new exciting combinations is always inspiring. I’m constantly evaluating our wines for their possible pairings, and working with local chefs to build menus for our wine club parties and events is one of the most enjoyable aspects of what I get to do everyday.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
The changes towards locally sourced seasonally available ingredients has really shaped the food industry in Walla Walla. Enjoying a world-class meal made with local ingredients and paired with locally produced wines? Doesn’t get much better than that. I also really enjoy that many consumers are branching out of their usual culinary loops and experimenting with new cuisines and flavor combinations.
Tell us about an industry professional who influenced you most?
I have been so privileged to work with a whole host of amazing industry professionals in Walla Walla, it’s impossible to pick just one. Jumping into the wine industry from such a young age I learned so much from so many- I can’t thank them all enough.
What keeps you going as a food professional?
The opportunities to try new ideas and combine passions for great food with a love of winemaking. Experimenting and putting my own spin on recipes (and wines!) makes each year more and more exciting.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
Burrata cheese. In general I like ordering a couple small plates. Variety is key.
Name the food/ingredient you can’t live without.
Coffee and chocolate
Who in the food industry do you most admire?
Andrae Bopp – his no-frills world-class approach to his cuisine is refreshing.
What food or ingredient would you never use or eat?
Sauerkraut or kimchi – I’ve never been a fan of spicy fermented foods.
Where would you most like to live? Why?
If I could make wine on a beach in the Caribbean I’d be there tomorrow. Somewhere hot.