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Uncorked: Pearl Jam fan uses band as wine inspiration

Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament (left) and Sleight of Hand winemaker Trey Busch in the tasting room in Walla Walla, Wash.
Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament (left) and Sleight of Hand winemaker Trey Busch in the tasting room in Walla Walla, Wash.

A sterile-white tasting room with formal accents did not fit the vision or personality of Sleight of Hand winemaker Trey Busch.

So when he went to work on a tasting room in Walla Walla, Wash., Busch took inspiration from his passions. As an avid music lover, Sleight of Hand takes its name from Busch’s favorite song by Seattle rockers Pearl Jam. He also has more than 600 vinyl records and a turn table that has provided the tasting room soundtrack since it was built in 2010.

The Sleight of Hand labels are inspired by classic posters of famous magicians and every wine has a magic-themed name. Art, magic, music and exceptional wine seamlessly intertwine at Sleight of Hand.

Winemaker spotlight

Trey Busch didn’t have a degree from the elite viticultural schools on the West Coast.

But he wanted a slower lifestyle and fell for Walla Walla, where he and his wife vacationed. Eventually, Busch left a steady, nine-year job as a buyer for Nordstrom, cashed in his 401(k) and moved a family with a newborn baby to Washington wine country where he’d take a serious pay cut as an assistant winemaker.

Harvest, work in the cellar and a wine community that willingly shares information would provide Busch with his formal training. While it might be a non-traditional experience, it has allowed Busch the freedom to bring his personality into Sleight of Hand.  

“The packaging and overall feel of a wine label with a plain winery on it isn’t me,” Busch said. “I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan. The name of my favorite Pearl Jam song was perfect for the label. But we had to figure out how to package it. I found some vintage, 1920s art deco posters of Harry Houdini and Robert Heller and wanted to use them as inspiration for the label.”

Ironically, the graphic artist Busch commissioned for the label, Phelyx Hopkins from Denver, Colo., was also a magician. His passion for music and wine had also backed him into the world of magic. With Sleight of Hand T-shirts inspired by the traditional Cheap Trick concert shirt and the club CBGB, Busch’s whimsical approach to enjoying life is further on display.  

“I don’t like to take myself too seriously,” Busch said. “I do take the quality of wine seriously though. At our tasting room there are over 600 vinyl records on the wall. A turn table is spinning music all day long.”

What to buy

Sleight of Hand, The Spellbinder 2010, $19.99

Smooth with friendly red fruit flavors and a touch of star anise with a lengthy finish. The Cab Franc provides a hint of earthiness on the mid palate to tie things together nicely.

Visit for more information on purchasing wines.

Wine 101

Washington has underwent a wine rush since 2000. From 1970-2000 there were 150 wineries statewide. Today there are 635, a number that could increase because more than 700 licenses have been issued.

Syrah, Rhone blends and Cabernet Sauvignon have gained a deservedly stellar reputation. The state is loaded with creative winemakers willing to take risks and either set or break the established paradigms to craft great wines.

Which is why, this winter, Washington wines have repeatedly found their way onto my dinner table and into my cellar.

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at

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