And cooking oil rich in polyunsaturated oils and vitamin E.
It was during that time that Leber met Jim Early, president of the Prosser-based FruitSmart. The company, which was started more than 20 years ago by Early's father, takes the waste from area wineries and fruit-processing plants and creates products for food manufacturers and cosmetic companies.
Once wineries have crushed all the juice out of the grapes, all that's left is pomace -- a wet mixture of skins and seeds. The pomace is commonly used as fertilizer and to produce grape seed oil.
But, as far as Leber knows, the grape seed oil has never been separated by variety.
"Everyone else in the world is going out, collecting the wine grape pomace and mixing it all together and getting grape-seed oil," said Leber, who now is FruitSmart's director of research and development.
So Leber is a pioneer in the varietal grape seed oil field, as his father, Ted Leber, was in the wine industry. Ted Leber was among 10 partners who created Associated Vintners, one of the state's first wineries, in the late 1950s. The AprèsVin label uses the same swirling AV logo as the Associated Vintners labels used years ago.
At AprèsVin, Leber buys the segregated grapes seeds from premium Chardonnay, Merlot and Riesling grapes grown in Eastern Washington, then cold-presses them into extra-virgin cooking oils.
The oils are available plain, or infused with flavor: Chardonnay Provençal, a Chardonnay oil infused with a fragrant mixture of herbs, including tarragon and rosemary; Riesling Citron Vert, a very light oil infused with lime; and Merlot Chipotle, a richer, more complex oil that tastes like scotch, infused with chipotle peppers, for a spicy finish.
AprèsVin uncorked its first varietal grape-seed oils for the public last week at the Oil & Vinegar franchise in Bellevue Square.
"It was the best weekend we've had since Christmas," said Matt Stermer, the store's owner.
Stermer said Oil & Vinegar specializes in offering premium oils and vinegars from around the world and the oils being produced by AprèsVin are unique.
"They are actually incredible -- totally different from what you would normally expect from grape seed oil, which is generally very neutral-flavored and mass produced," he said. "The flavor (of the AprèsVin oils) is radically different -- and maybe it's something you should expect -- like the difference between a Merlot wine and a Riesling."
Alan Joynson, a chef and culinary instructor based in Tillamook, Ore., has been working with the AprèsVin oils to develop recipes. And he has also been playing with another byproduct of the seeds -- Merlot and Chardonnay flours.
After the oil has been extracted from the seeds, Leber crushes the shells into fragrant, healthy flour full of antioxidants.
"I've been using the flour for breads and bakery items -- developing a lot of recipes and have been encouraging some bakeries to try it," said Joynson.
Joynson said he uses the flour in a one-to-five ratio with regular flour to add flavor, texture and health benefits.
Vinman's Bakery in Ellensburg has been using the flour in a new bread that is becoming popular among customers.
"We use it in a whole grain sourdough that is very dark," said Jeff Bouden, the bakery manager. "When the customers hear it has grape seed flour they are excited to try it. They all seem to know it's good for you."
Leber said he hopes to the flour catches on among artisan bakers, creating another market for the byproduct. Being able to sell the flour would also enable Leber to lower the cost of the oil, which retails for about $65 a liter.
That's because it takes a ton of grapes, which produces 75 pounds of grape seed, to get one gallon of oil.
Ramonas said although the oils are only available at the Bellevue Square Oil & Vinegar right now, she is talking to local wineries and retailers about carrying the product and the company plans to have a Web site by the end of the year.