Dynamic Seattleites: Vino Revolutionists, Chip McLaughlin & Spencer Richards

Trendsetting and trailblazing — these wine makers add hipster flavor to their vino.

When Chip McLaughlin, 26, and Spencer Richards, 25, aren’t verbally wrestling like brothers and jamming out to their favorite Thrice riff, they’re making avant-garde wine under the pseudonym of Vinyl Wines. The brand, which the two released this late spring, is a fusion of their ultimate pairing – music and wine.

(L-R) Spencer Richards & Chip McLaughlin at Bottlehouse in Madrona; Photo by Chris Laurion

The young entrepreneurs met while waiting tables at Walla Walla’s neighborhood Italian joint, T. Maccarone’s, and decided to join forces and tastes in both of their passions. Vinyl Wines’ one focus from the get-go was to “offer a new experience for consumers” through their merge of melodic and oenological influences.

Diving even deeper into their niche than their name suggests, Vinyl Wines offers digital playlists available for download with the purchase of a bottle.  The cork itself provides a code that allows the download from their website to the consumer’s media player of choice. After extensive research sifting through up-and-coming bands, McLaughlin and Richards selected a handful of harmonious groups from all over the map to represent Vinyl Wines musically.

Thanks to the duo’s expertise in “taking pairing to another level,” Vinyl Wines are widely accepted by their goal market of Seattle. Although they acknowledge Walla Walla as the foundation for their wine background, Richards said their chief demographic is a younger, hipper wine drinker, which makes their desire for a connection with Seattle even stronger (although the bulk of their production still takes place in eastern Washington).

With two wines already on the market, a “poolside” rose blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot and a single-varietal Grenache, the pair plan to reveal their third wine this fall. Fans of their rockstar-like wines anxiously await the final portion of the Vinyl Wines trilogy, a single-varietal Cabernet Franc.

As Vinyl Wines’ proprietors, winemakers, distributors, salespersons and delivery truck drivers, McLaughlin and Richards keep their hands sufficiently full, all while managing to make music a priority. Avid music fans and longtime multi-instrument musicians in their own right, the Vinyl boys each credit each other for introducing the other to new tunes and new wine.

When they held their inaugural release party at Madrona’s neighborhood wine shop, The Bottlehouse, Vinyl Wines’ low attendance expectations were shattered when nearly 200 people dropped by to trial run and purchase their wares.

With statewide support, McLaughlin and Richards have presented a product unlike others in the wine market. They lift their glasses to the new generation of both wine and music, “where the two become one.”

And just like the target audience for their vino, McLaughlin and Richards regularly hit the city to catch shows at some of Seattle’s hottest music venues and hit up the “mecca of sports teams.” (And as any seasoned Seattleite knows, calling our town a “mecca” of any sort when it comes to athletics indicates some pretty deep-running loyalty.)

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