Category Archives: Bainbridge Island Wines

Roll out the Barrel Aged Beer

While browsing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide recently, an amusing thought occurred to me. We all know where wine country is but where is beer country?

In this visitor’s guide, fun trips for visiting family and friends included boom towns, bike trails, fairways, volcanoes, heli-skiing, islands, rain forests and wine country but nothing about beer country.

So I did an online search for beer country. Nada. No where. Another search for hop country was darned fascinating. There is no such thing as hop country but there is Hick Hop Country which is a concept pertinent to beer in unique ways.

When you think about Wine Country, you envision vineyards, barrel rooms and tasting bars. You know this is where they grow great grapes, ferment and age fabulous wines. Federal Law actually requires the wine labels to inform you where the grapes are from be it Barossa Valley, Burgundy or Bainbridge Island. And this helps you understand the importance of wine regions where the wine grapes are grown to the wine’s quality.

But most beer labels are woefully sparse on the origins of the grains and hops and how they’re treated in the fermentation process that will affect the final product. It doesn’t make sense that where grain and hops are grown doesn’t contribute to the quality of the brew, especially when you consider how much hops and grain are grown in Washington State.

Washington State produces 77% of the United States’ hop harvest. Washington hop growers raise both aroma and alpha variety hops. The majority of the hops produced in Washington are alpha and super alpha varieties. Alpha hops are designer hops, used as a bittering agent in your IPAs and other brews.

Traditional aroma varieties, Willamette, Cascade, and Mt. Hood have been grown in eastern Washington – aka Wine Country – for generations. The economic impact of the Washington beer industry contributes greatly to our state’s economic vitality. Revenue generated was in excess of $6 billion in 2014.

While many of us are proud of the wonderful award winning beers produced here in the Kitsap Peninsula, we are clearly behind in per capita consumption. In 2012, the United States drank 77.1 liters per person, with some doing more and others clearly not doing their part.

We rank 14th in per capita beer consumption behind the likes of Finland, Panama, Slovenia, Venezuela and other more obvious stein sloshing nations like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland and Germany. Astonishingly, IPA’s namesake, India, drinks 2 liters per capita which is the equivalent of 5.6 six packs.

Wine on the other hand, is an equally intriguing story. Not surprisingly, the majority of the highest ranking wine consumption countries are in Europe. Surprisingly, it’s the country of Vatican City that utterly dominates every other country, with 73.38 liters per capita in 2012. That is amazing considering there are only about 800 Roman Catholic adults in this country. France clocks in at 44.12 liters per capita. And Italy? 37.54 liters per capita.

Even Canada (11.70L) quaffed more wine than the United States, at a mere 10.33 liters per capita. The take away from this news is we, as a country need to give more beer and/or wine gifts.

We can start with our Christmas lists. Cross off sweaters and such and give a thoughtful gift of Eleven late harvest Viognier, Rolling Bay Syrah or Amelia Wynn Merlot.

On the beer side, I would highly recommend a barrel aged beer. Barrel aged beer is more complex, richer and concentrated. For thousands of years, beer was not only aged but brewed and transported in wood. Today, they’re boiled in copper kettles, fermented in stainless steel and for the most part, then bottled. But several years ago, the bourbon barrel made its grand entrance into the brewing world.

The law dictates that bourbon makers can only use a barrel once. After that first use, the expensive barrels are re-purposed. Bourbon barrels are sent around the world to age Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Sherry, and most recently, big beers.

Bourbon barrels aren’t the only containers brewers are using, either. Those creative folks also use sherry, wine, tequila, and rum barrels. At a recent barrel aged beer tasting, I tasted beer aged in bourbon, brandy, sherry, tequila, Viognier, Muscat, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels. One beer was even made with grains, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and fermented with both lager and champagne yeast.

deschutesHere are a few barrel aged beers that would make great stocking stuffers:

Deschutes The Abyss is imperial stout, partly aged in Bourbon, Pinot Noir, and new oak barrels.  Almanac’s Barrel Noir is a stout aged in tequila barrels. And Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a quintessential bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, full of chocolate covered caramel flavors

Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ales are always a blend of bourbon and brandy barrel aged beers. Most years the blend can be from as many as eight separate barrels of their Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Bravo and/or Velvet Merkin. The result is a masterful blended beer that is highly sought after and prized.  The perfect gift.

Scaldis Prestige NuitsScaldis Prestige de Nuits is a Belgian strong ale that’s aged in Burgundy barrels from Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges. This prestigious French Burgundy barrel caught my attention. The beer takes almost a year to produce and is fermented a total of three times. Once in tank, then in the wine cask, and finally in the bottle. And it’s a third of the price of a bottle of Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges.

Cheers!

Wining and Dining this Weekend

This weekend head on down to the 25th Annual Blackberry Festivalbbfest_logo held on the Louis Mentor Boardwalk on Saturday, August 30th through Monday, September 1, 2014. The festival opens at 10:00 a.m. each day with lively music, lots of food vendors and fun for the whole family.

The festival’s blackberry wine is also available. It’s made, as in past years, by Pasek Cellars of Mount Vernon Washington. A perfectly balanced wine, not too sweet and not too dry, it’s just right.

The Bainbridge Island Winery Alliance wineries are open for tours and tasting this weekend from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. It’s billed as a pre-harvest party even though Mother Nature brought on an early harvest this year. These cozy wineries offer the opportunity to meet and talk with the winemakers, taste their wines, some offer music to enjoy their wines amid lush surroundings.

Yes, the 2014 harvest has begun! And that means Catch the Crush is not far away. The smells, colors and hustle and bustle make this one of the more exciting times of the year to visit Yakima Valley.

You can celebrate the harvest with the Yakima Valley wineries at the annual Catch the Crush event, October 11th and 12th. Each winery offers its own celebratory events, including grape stomps, harvest and crush activities, tours, free-run juice, hors d’oeuvres, live music and wine tasting, of course.

Eleven at Eleven

It’s a special weekend for Eleven Winery, they turn 11 and there are several ways to help them celebrate!

The garagiste and volunteers during crush.

Matt Albee, a true garagiste,  first started the Bainbridge Island winery in 2003 in the garage. This humble beginning has blossomed into the same garage winery but with lots more equipment, and two tasting rooms, one on Bainbridge and one in Poulsbo.

This weekend’s celebrations include  a special 11th Anniversary commemorative wine glass for $5, bottle discounts on their 2011 vintage wines, and reserve tastings for $11.

This is also your last chance to visit the Poulsbo Tasting Room during the Great Poulsbo Sidewalk Sale on August 29th and 30th. After several years in Poulsbo, Albee has decided to refocus efforts on the winery location. There will be huge discounts on wine merchandise but not the wine.

With this closing, the winery hours and events will be expanded. The winery is located off 305 at 7671 NE Day Road. The winery tasting room will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m. and other fun wine occasions for club members.

You can also order off their website but it won’t be near as much fun as being there!

Dr. Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center Grand Opening

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center honors the Washington wine industry pioneers beginning with Dr. Walter Clore. Dr. Clore began his research work in 1937, studying vinifera grapes and their potential in Washington. His research, a cornerstone of the industry’s development, earned him official recognition from the Washington State Legislature as the Father of the Washington Wine Industry.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is celebrating its Grand Opening on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 1pm. This event will have a special toast with Columbia Crest 2010 Walter Clore Private Reserve. To RSVP for the Grand Opening, please call 509-786-1000 or info@theclorecenter.org

The Tasting Room will showcase a rotating featured AVA of Washington wines, agricultural themed exhibits, and wine and culinary program anchored by a chef’s demonstration kitchen. Entry to the exhibits is free.

Chosen by lottery, the featured AVA for June is the Puget Sound Region. The Puget Sound AVA was established in 1995. There are 178 acres planted to 61% red and 39% white vinifera and hybrid grapes.

June’s featured wines from grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA:

Bainbridge Island: Mueller Thurgau and Pinot Noir

Comforts of Whidbey Island: Sweet Donna Blend, High Tide

Hoodsport: Island Belle

Lopez Island: Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine

Maury Island: Pinot Noir

Perennial Vintners: Isletage and Raspberry Dessert Wine

Spoiled Dog: Rosé of Pinot Noir

Vashon Winery: Isletage, Pinot Noir

There are several student wines also available for tasting, the WSU Red Blend and Riesling; and the YVCC 2013 Study Skills Chardonnay, 2011 Dean’s List Lemberger, and NV Campus Blend Red

Visitors can enjoy a variety of wines for a tasting fee of $5.00. For more information,  www.theclorecenter.org

Let the Wine Touring Weekend Begin!

What to do this weekend? Tour a winery! North, south, east or west there are many wineries ready to welcome you and your friends with food, music and wonderful wines.

Go north to Bainbridge Island for a Memorial Weekend Charcuterie and Wine tasting. May 24 thru 26 the winemakers on Bainbridge Island serve up charcuterie (meat treats) to pair with their delightful wines.

All the wineries are open for tours and tasting from 12-5 pm. For more info or directions, visit Bainbridge Wineries

If you head south, stop by Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair.  On Saturday only, from noon until 5p.m., Winemaker Brian Petersen will have a special spring barrel tasting. Dr. Brian Petersen will pour tastes of upcoming vintages still aging in the barrel.

From the recently crushed 2013 vintage to other vintages still in barrel; this is a fantastic opportunity to compare wines as they develop. Taste the difference between American and French oak, light vs. heavy toast’s impact on a wine and the different yeasts used for a specific taste. The cost is $25 per person and includes a MFW wine glass and gourmet food bites. (They always have wonderful wines and delicious food.)

East of here is a plethora of wineries in charming Woodinville. Here’s a list of this weekend’s events. And a special shout out to Lou Facelli: Congratulations on 25 years!

And finallly, west of here are the eight Olympic Peninsula Wineries and two cideries. They will be open but there are no special events planned this weekend. Here’s a map and list of the places to visit.

Have a safe and happy weekend. Cheers!

Wine Defined – Shoot Thinning

A recent email from Perennial Vintners‘ Vineyard Manager Mike Lempriere, says “the next job in grape growing has begun – it’s time to do shoot thinning.”

Shoot thinning’s goal is to reduce the density of the leaf canopy later on.  Right now it’s easy to tell which shoots bear fruit and which grow leaves. This helps improve wine quality becauase the vine’s energy is more concentrated in the fruit bearing vines.

Shoot thinning is easy to do by hand right now, you just have to know which shoots to snap off the vine. As the weeks go by, the new shoots become stronger and woody and difficult to do by hand. If it reaches that point, a pruning shears and more labor are needed to get the job done.

If you want to learn about this task, Mike is looking for a few volunteers in the next week or two. You can schedule a time by contacting Mike via the website

Spring Barrel Tastings this weekend

Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)
Alphonse de Klerk at his Rolling Bay winery on Bainbridge Island on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN)

Bainbridge Island Wineries are open for tours  and tasting from 12-5 pm this weekend. Meet the winemakers, taste classic favorites from the barrels. Participating wineries are Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor, Eleven, Fletcher Bay, Perennial and Rolling Bay. The Island Tasting Room will also be open.

For more information and directions, visitbainbridgewineries.com

 

It’s a Wine and Chocolate Weekend – Yum!

All of the Bainbridge Island Wineries will be open this weekend. They will be serving up special chocolates and wine at each of the wineries. Here’s the lineup and a link to the website for directions and hours.

  • Eagle Harbor Winery: delectable chocolate truffles by Pink Peony: Double Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Chiles
  • Eleven: Assorted amazing chocolates from Bissinger Chocolatier: chocolate covered wine grapes with blue cheese, salted caramels with Merlot, with Pear and Balsamic Vinegar, and with Bacon, as well as our wonderful port served in chocolate thimbles.
  • Fletcher Bay Winery: delicious locally-made fudge from Bon Bon!
  • Perennial Vintners: luscious handmade truffles from Yukon Jackson incorporating our Frambelle raspberry dessert wine.  Chocolatier Keith Jackson will be on hand on Saturday to serve you and talk chocolate.
  • Rolling Bay Winery: delicious, innovative chocolates by the dozen from Seattle favorite Theo Chocolates.

Harvest 2013: Reports from the field the last haul

Vines

Paul Bianchi, winemaker of Amelia Wynn Winery on Bainbridge, has done a stellar job of sending me videos, photos and other little tidbits from the road as he brings in his 2013 harvest. I however have been not so stellar about posting them as they come in. (Sorry Paul!)

Here’s a collection of what he’s sent over the last couple of weeks to give some flavor of how busy life has been for our local winemakers.

CSCaveBGrapesCabernet Sauvignon grapes from Cave B Vineyards.

HaulinggrapesGetting ready to head home

BianchisangioSorting Sangiovese

LasttripThe last haul

2013 Harvest: Reports from the field

 

Cab Franc

Brynn writes:

Every year around this time I see posts on Facebook and email updates from our local winemakers. Many of them are making regular trips to Eastern Washington to harvest grapes and check the conditions of their vineyard blocks to determine the best time to pull the clusters from the vines.

I’ve always wanted to get a report from them about how harvest is going and to hear their initial projections about the vintage, but never want to bother them since I know they’re busy and running on minimal sleep. This year I took a chance and sent an email to the winemakers of Bainbridge Island (Amelia Wynn Winery, Eagle Harbor Wine Company, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Rolling Bay Winery) and Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair to see if they’d be interested in sending me email updates of how things are going in the field.

I haven’t heard back from everyone, but a number of the winemakers wrote back almost immediately — some with reports from the field, others saying they would be sending me updates as harvest went along. My plan is to compose periodic blog posts that includes their reports from the field — either as a direct copy and paste from what they sent me, or my summary of what they have to say.

I was surprised to hear that a number of white grapes have been harvested and are already back on the peninsula fermenting. Matt Albee, winemaker for Eleven Winery, said his Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio grapes were about two weeks ahead of schedule this year.

Below is a list of the wineries I’ve heard back from and quick summaries of how things are going. As you’ll see, Amelia Wynn winemaker Paul Bianchi has supplied a great report from the field. I’ve copied and pasted his emails so you can see the life of the local winemaker around this time of year.

Amelia Wynn (Email from winemaker Paul Bianchi sent Sept. 17):

Timing is everything at harvest and plans take shape over weeks. When it’s time to pull the trigger the vintner puts the vineyard on notice for an agreed upon harvest date.

The players are: vineyard owner, vineyard manager (if not the owner), picking crew being paid by the pound, the custom crush facility (if used) and most importantly the truck rental agency because you need a big truck if you’re hauling more than 5,000 lbs.

This Sunday (Sept. 15) in Walla Walla it was 95 degrees with 20 mph drying winds. Not a good day for grapes. So the green light was given to pick on Tuesday (Sept. 16). Predicted light showers turned out to be heavier than anticipated, complicating the day.

All grape bins were covered and because the crush schedule got screwed up, our Merlot was to be destemmed around 11 p.m., making for a very long day for the crush crew. We have to be at Artifex at 8 a.m. Wednesday (Sept. 18) to pick up the destemmed grapes and then drive west to Prosser to press the Cab Franc and Viognier. The latter I need to pick up at the Elerding vineyard.

The pick date for the Viognier was established last week and all players were put in motion. The Cab Franc was given a green light Sept. 16 to be picked on the same day as the Viognier.  The intent is to make a 500 mile truck rental, two nights on the road, and use of commercial equipment as efficient as possible.

What has gone down toward the end of the 2013 harvest is: A record-setting hot summer has skidded to a slow walk with a cooling trend that is in fact a relief because the  grape varieties were rippening too close together as a result of the high temperatures. With a cooling period the wineries can pace the harvest dates so work in the winery is not chaotic.

When I return to the island tomorrow night (Sept. 18), I will have the following grapes fermenting or preparing to ferment:  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Franc Rose, Viognier and two clones of Merlot from Walla Walla.

Here’s a summary of what winemaker Paul Bianchi’s days looked like Monday/Tuesday:

  • Monday: catching the 8:10 p.m. ferry and arriving in Prosser at midnight, staying at the Best Western.
  • In the morning dropping off bins for Cab Franc, which will be picked and pressed on Wednesday (Sept. 18) for a Rosé. Also dropped off two 275 gal juice totes where the cab franc will be pressed as well as 4,000 lbs of Viognier.
  • Drove on to Walla Walla where we will pick up 3 tons of Merlot and have destemmed at Artifex, a custom crush facility.
  • Sept. 18 back on the road to Prosser where we will pick up 2 tons of Viognier at Elerding vineyard and then to Kestral winery where the Cab Franc and Viognier will be slowly pressed in a membrane press.

Eleven Winery (Email summary from winemaker Matt Albee, sent Sept. 16):

I have Sauv Blanc and Pinot Grigio fermenting, and am leaving tonight (Sept. 16) to pick Viognier tomorrow (Sept. 17); Roussanne/Marsanne and Syrah on Thursday (Sept. 19).

The very hot summer perhaps favors later-ripening varieties like Cabs and Mourvedre, but so far everything is good quality!

We picked Sauvignon Blanc on Aug. 29, Pinot Grigio on Sept. 9 (originally scheduled for Sept. 4, but pushed back due to forecast of rain, which ended up not hitting our vineyard). This week we will see if last week’s extreme heat had much impact. There seems to have been a lot of rain for September in Eastern WA, but my sources have largely been spared (whew!).

Fletcher Bay Winery (Email from winemaker Jim Wilford, sent Sept. 16):

My plans for harvest this year include: Tara Rouge ( Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), a Walla Walla Cab Sauv, a Red Moutain Zinfandel, a dry Rose, Semillion and a Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio is being picked, everything else is still on the vine.

Perennial Vintners (From winemaker Mike Lempriere’s newsletter):

The 2013 harvest is looking fantastic! It will be our largest local harvest to date. The Frambelle is done fermenting, it’s tasting superb already.  We will be getting an excellent harvest of Melon de Bourgogne, so mid-2014 we’ll have our signature wine available again!
The vineyard is mostly done with for the year, at this point we’re mostly just waiting for Mother Nature to finish the job of ripening. We do still have to spray for Botrytis mold, but other than that it’s just trying to catch up on weeding.  It’s a beautiful time to visit the vineyard as the grapes have gone through veraison, meaning they ‘re ripening and turning color.
From Facebook: Mike said they harvested the Siegerrebe Sept. 8.

Mosquito Fleet Winery (Email from winemaker Brian Petersen, sent Sept. 16):

Crush has just begun for us here at MFW and we are excited! We brought in a couple tons of our first white: A Viognier from Elephant Mountain. The fruit is very nice, tremendous flavors and great acids.

We will only be producing around 100 cases of Viognier this year. Partially fermented in stainless steel tank and partial barrel fermentation, which we will ferment and age sur lie and go through malolactic fermentation.

This Thursday (Sept. 19) we are bringing in Merlot from Double Canyon Vineyard and on Saturday (Sept. 21) we will bring in our first Malbec off Elephant Mountain as well. We are looking forward to this too.

We have increased our Pepper Bridge Vineyard fruit and we are now sourcing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from there as well. The PB Merlot will be ready in about a week.

Then it’s Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional for our Port.

It will get very, very busy here shortly.