Marie-Eve Gilla

Marie-Eve Gilla

Valdemar Estates (Director of Viticulture and Winemaking)

French-born Marie-Eve is the first woman winemaker and winery owner in the Walla Walla, Washington. She founded Forgeron Cellars in 2001. It was only the 23rd bonded winery in the AVA and is a smaller-production winery of high-quality wines (Nina Buty founded Buty Winery in 2000 but is not its winemaker). In French, "Forgeron" refers to artisans who build with their hands, combining experience with an extensive knowledge of their trade.

In June 2018, Marie-Eve retired from Forgeron, and accepted a position of winemaker for Valdemar Estates. A new winery in Walla Walla Valley, it is owned by Bodegas Valdemar, a winery located in the Rioja region of Spain. Here, Marie-Eve crafts a variety of wines for Valdemar Estates including varietals such as Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Marie-Eve earned her Diplôme National d'Oenologie (Masters) at the University of Dijon, gaining practical experience and training in Burgundy's wineries and vineyards before coming to the U.S. in 1991. The wines that Marie-Eve produced at Forgeron and now at Valdemar Estates have received many accolades and are consistently highly rated by the Wine Advocate, The Washington Wine Report, and The International Wine Review, among others. As one example, her 2014 Chardonnay was declared “Best White Wine of the Year” at the 2017 Seattle Wine Awards.

In 2013, Marie-Eve was inducted into the Seattle Chapter of the prestigious Les Dames d'Escoffier International. In January 2016, the French government bestowed both the title of Chevalier (Knight) and membership in the l’Ordre du Mérite agricole (Order of Agricultural Merit) upon her. The membership rewards individuals who have rendered exceptional services to agriculture.