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It’s a Wine and Chocolate Weekend – Yum!

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

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

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

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

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

 

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.


It’s cool to be square

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Brynn writes:

This is a post that I’ve had sitting in my draft queue for more than a week. I meant to get it published as soon as possible, but unfortunately other stories bumped it. Now that we’re up to the deadline, I figured better late than never, right?

Matt Albee, owner of Eleven Winery on Bainbridge Island, is trying a new way to get capital for his winery operations. Instead of going to a bank and taking out a small business loan he’s asking the community to be his lender. It’s an idea created by former Bainbridge Graduate Institute graduates who started a business called Community Sourced Capital in Seattle.

The concept behind Community Source Capital is that small businesses, like Albee’s winery, ask the community to support them instead of going to a bank and being tied down by loan requirements. The idea is to get the community behind small businesses to see them succeed. If you contribute money, you will be paid back within the year, it’s not a donation.

Albee is using the money to pay for the large-scale bottling he did last week. He used to bottle by hand and it took a long time (he could bottle one case per minute; the bottling truck does five cases per minute). This year he hired a company with a large bottling truck to come in and do the work.

“The benefit to us to doing bottling this way is we get a lot more done at one shot,” he said. “I can focus on other things, I don’t have to be bottling one weekend a month.”

Because the bulk of his wine was bottled all at once, Albee had to have all the bottles, corks and other necessary materials available. That means he needed $20,000.

“Having the money isn’t a problem for the business, but it’s having it all at once,” Albee said. “The cost of the loan is about the same as if I went to the bank, but I really like the idea of involving the community in what we’re doing. It’s a way for us to build community and get people involved in the winery, as well as get the cash together that we need to improve our processes.”

Instead of becoming a “shareholder” of Albee’s business, if you contribute you become a “Squareholder.”

“You put $50 in to our project today, great things happen, and then you get your $50 back in a year or less,” Albee said in an email.

So far 132 squareholders have contributed $17,350 toward Albee’s $20,000 goal. Eleven’s campaign to gather community-sourced funds ends tomorrow, as in Friday, June 7.

If you’re interested in learning more, or contributing to become a squareholder, visit the Community Sourced Capital page dedicated to Albee’s campaign: www.communitysourcedcapital.com/eleven/.


Winemakers, industry leaders differ on impacts of liquor privatization

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Brynn writes:

In Sunday’s Kitsap Sun we ran an article about the effects of Initiative 1183 on the liquor sales industry to mark the voter-approved initiative’s one year anniversary. The story was a combined effort between myself and reporter Rachel Pritchett.

What often happens when you have two reporters working simultaneously on a story is that not everything you report or write is included in the final product. That was the case with my section of the story dealing with how Washington’s wine industry has grappled with the new law. Because only a fragment of what I wrote was included in the story, I am posting my full story below.

This blog is probably the best location for this anyway, seeing as the story is wine specific and this is a wine blog. I’m also including the photos Meegan Reid took that fell to the cutting room floor with my story.

 

Washington wine industry leaders see varying effects of 1183

While campaigning for Initiative 1183 supporters laid out reasons why the state should be removed from the liquor business. A selling point was the belief that a competitive marketplace would mean better selection and savings for consumers, while increasing business opportunities for retailers and local wineries.

But those against the initiative cautioned removal could have the opposite effect.

A year later, local winemakers and Washington wine industry leaders weigh in on the effects of 1183.

Small wineries that produce 3,000 cases or less a year that rely on wine club memberships and direct-to-consumer sales have largely been unaffected by 1183. Large wineries, like Chateau Ste. Michelle Estates that produces more than 1 million cases a year, have transitioned easily into the new market because they have experience selling in other states with a similar structure, according to industry experts.

It’s the mid-sized wineries, those producing between roughly 5,000 and 40,000 cases a year, that have been affected by the new law.

“As you get larger in production you can start to play the games that 1183 allows you to play. Whereas when you’re more in the 6,000 to 10,000 case range, that gets to be a little more difficult,” said Sean Sullivan, founder of Washington Wine Report, an online publication dedicated to Pacific Northwest wines. Sullivan is also the Pacific Northwest wine reviewer for Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Sullivan was against 1183. A month before the election he wrote an article predicting there would be less room on grocery store shelves for wine if the law passed. He also guessed it would be difficult for Washington’s small wineries to compete for that space because they wouldn’t be able to offer discounts on wholesale purchases like large wineries, including many coming in from California.

“The overall selection that consumers see in the grocery stores has definitely gone down,” Sullivan said. “Has it (1183) been catastrophic? No I don’t think so. Has it put a real squeeze on people in the retail sector? Yes.”

That’s been the experience of Bainbridge Island winemaker Hugh Remash, who owns Eagle Harbor Wine Company.

Unlike his peers on the island, Remash set up a business model focused on wholesale and not direct-to-consumer sales to drive profits. His wines are found in local restaurants, Town and Country Market and Central Market and boutique wine shops on the east side of Puget Sound.

“What happened is a poor law was changed into a bad law,” Remash said of 1183.

When 1183 passed big businesses like Total Wine and BevMo! — which offer one-stop shopping for beer, wine and spirits — moved into the state. The majority of their wine inventory comes from California, making it hard for Washington wineries to compete for shelf space because they can’t offer the same bulk discounts.

These large stores hurt small boutique shops where Remash and other winemakers sell handcrafted, artisan Washington wines.

“I have small wine shops in the Bellevue area that sell my wine, their sales are down 30 percent,” Remash said. “In one wine shop I was selling a couple cases a week, now I’m selling one every three weeks.”

Remash attributes the decline to the passage of 1183 and the fact consumers are choosing convenience over experience.

“Do you want to go to a small winery and talk to the winemaker and see what’s going on and support somebody who lives there?” Remash said. “Or do you want to be convenient?”

As Sullivan predicted, some national grocery stores like Safeway, took away shelf space from wine and replaced it with liquor, reducing the wine inventory. Smaller wineries like Eagle Harbor Wine Company had a chance to sell to stores like Safeway before 1183, but now they’re not buying.

“What they’ve done with me is, they’ve said we’re not interested anymore,” Remash said of Safeway. “The only reason the Safeway on Bainbridge has my wine is because the woman there knows me and has fought for me.”

Wholesale discounts were another bonus touted by 1183 supporters before the election. Previously Washington laws prohibited retailers from storing alcohol in warehouses. Now they can purchase larger quantities and ask for wineries to sell them at a discount.

Large wineries — like Chateau Ste. Michelle, which owns more than half of the state’s grapes — have enough inventory to take advantage of these new regulations, but the majority of Washington’s wineries are too small to be able to offer the same discounts.

Washington is the second largest wine-producing state in the nation but most of its more than 740 wineries produce 3,000 cases or less a year. As a result they and can’t offer competitive wholesale discounts because they don’t have the inventory.

“If I’d lower the prices they’d pick it up in a minute, but then I wouldn’t make any money,” Remash said. “Incidentally, I don’t make any money. I make money to run the business and I get some perks but in terms of actual putting a paycheck in my pocket, zero.”

Unlike the other wineries on Bainbridge, Remash doesn’t have a wine club where members pay to receive wine on a regular basis. He’s reconsidering that decision.

“I’m thinking about starting a wine club because I’m losing wholesale sales,” he said.

With an annual production of 2,000 cases a year, Matt Albee, winemaker and owner of Eleven Winery, is the largest wine producer in Kitsap County. Almost 95 percent of his wine is sold through his wine club and tasting room sales.

Albee hasn’t felt direct effects of 1183 like Remash, but he agrees the law isn’t as favorable as it was advertised.

“I felt like it would hurt smaller wineries because it was really written by Costco and primarily benefits other, larger players,” Albee said. “It seemed pretty clear that small wineries would suffer a little bit. Not so much the very small wineries, more the medium sized ones.”

Big stores like Costco and Total Wine are the ones who have benefited, he said.

Alphonse de Klerk, winemaker at Bainbridge’s Rolling Bay Winery, has no interest in competing for shelf space in those stores. His focus is on getting into restaurants like Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill, where his wine is offered.

“It was more of a topic before it was passed and now it’s like the wave has passed us over,” de Klerk said.

Marty Clubb, owner and managing winemaker of Walla Walla-based L’Ecole No. 41 Winery, agrees the effects of 1183 have yet to be realized. Clubb is the president of the Washington Wine Institute, a nonprofit representing wineries, growers and associations across the state by advocating on their behalf in Olympia. The institute remained neutral on 1183.

L’Ecole produces 40,000 cases annually and didn’t feel the effects of 1183 because as one of the oldest in the state it is established among consumers, restaurateurs and retailers, Clubb said.

“I think the bigger guys knew what the new world was going to look like post-1183. That’s not really true with some of Washington’s smaller brands because they sell locally,” he said. “I think it has created some challenges for Washington’s smaller brands.”

Paul Beveridge, president of the Family Wineries of Washington, another group advocating on behalf of wineries, agrees more time is needed before 1183 can be evaluated. Beveridge is the winemaker and owner of Wildridge Winery, which opened in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood in the 1980s. His group favored 1183.

“We like the pricing freedom because we can give quantity discounts to customers,” Beveridge said. “The biggest winners on 1183 are consumers and it’s only going to get better.”

One area of the law he’d like to see changed is eliminating the restriction that prohibits shop smaller than 10,000 square feet from selling liquor.

No matter a wineries size or how 1183 plays out in the years to come, industry leaders agree if winemakers continue to produce quality wine consumers will buy it.

“The good news is, if you make good wine there’s a market for that,” Clubb said.


Memorial Day wine tastings of award-winning wines

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Brynn writes:

From Bainbridge to Belfair, a number of Kitsap’s wineries are open this weekend for people to taste some great wine and enjoy good company.

Here’s an added bonus, a number of the Bainbridge Island wineries and Belfair’s Mosquito Fleet Winery were recently recognized by the Seattle Wine Awards.

The Bainbridge wineries will be open all weekend, some even on Monday, from noon to 5 p.m. For more information or to see a map of where they are located visit bainbridgewineries.com.

Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair will be open Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. (and will continue to be open Saturdays from now until September). Sunday the winery will be open for its annual Spring Barrel Tasting event from noon to 4 p.m. Five wines will be offered and several barrels of the 2011 wines will be tapped. Winemaker Brian Petersen will be there to talk about changes from barrel to barrel and vineyard to vineyard. Pizza, cheeses and chocolates will also be served.

To attend the Sunday tasting, reserve your spot through the winery’s website, www.mosquitofleetwinery.com, or by calling the winemaker at 360-710 0855.

Here’s a list of the local 2013 Seattle Wine Award winners:

Amelia Wynn
  • Gold: Viognier; Columbia Valley Cuvée; Red Mountain Sangiovese
  • Silver: Rose

Eagle Harbor Wine Co.

  • Gold: Raptor

Eleven

  • Double Gold: Sweet Sarah dessert wine; Malbec
  • Gold: Viognier; La Ronde
  • Silver: Angelica dessert wine

Mosquito Fleet Winery (Belfair)

  • Double Gold: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gold: Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot
  • Bronze: Griffersen Reserve (port); Meritage;

Perennial Vintners

  • Bronze: Frambelle Raspberry
Rolling Bay Winery
  • Double Gold:Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturday a perfect day for wine tasting

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Brynn writes:

I’m sure by now you’re all well aware that this weekend is supposed to be awesome, filled with warmth and blue, sunny skies.

What better way to enjoy our sneak peek at summer than with a glass (or two, or three) of a good wine.

Rolling Bay Winery on Bainbridge Island is open this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 5:30 p.m. Their winery is a beautiful location just off Rolling Bay with outdoor tables, picturesque gardens and views of Seattle. See their website for more details.

Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair is opening its barrel room Saturday for people to taste its latest wines. This weekend marks the start of wine tasting season for the winery, which will open its doors every Saturday from now until September from noon to 5 p.m.

A recent email from the winery lists a calendar of events happening over the summer. If you’re super organized like me, you might want to write these dates down for future planning:

Spring has come fast and furious for us at MFW. We’ve been tasting and blending our 2011 wines and are excited to share them with you! We’ve also been busy creating a calendar of events to enjoy with you and your family and friends this summer. Check out some of  the upcoming events:

  • May 4: Barrell Room opens every Saturday for wine tastings Noon – 5pm (May-Sept)
  • May 17: Bainbridge Island: wine tasting and book signing. Author Richard Blumenthal will be at The Chapel on Echo Bay to discuss his book “Maritime Place Names”.  Come and learn all the interesting reasons why Washington waters and places are named the way they are. Time:  7- 10 p.m.
  • May 17: Gig Harbor: Wine Tasting at The Wine Studio from 5-9 p.m.
  • May 18: Winemakers dinner at Alderbrook Resort the breathtaking Hood Canal. Social hour begins at 6:30 / Dinner at 7 p.m.; $129 per person.
  • May 26: Barrel tasting 2-5 p.m. with winemaker, Brian Petersen.  Sample a variety of wines in various barrels. Learn about the importance of barrel selection and how it affects the flavors.  $25 per person.
  • June 27: Winemaker’s dinner at the Winery in the barrel room with one of our favorite chefs, Dustin Joseph of the Art House Café in Tacoma. $100 per person menu BTA. Enjoy a gourmet five course meal and wine with the owners of Mosquito Fleet Winery. Seating is limited.
  • July 5: Winery open for tastings 4-8 p.m. Bring your family and visiting guests down for a taste!
  • Aug 8: Salsa dancing lesson in the Barrel Room.  This is gonna be one HOT August night!! Bring your partner and a little attitude and we’ll bring the wine and appies! Tickets will be available soon.
  • Sept 10: Bottling day. We’ll be bottling our 2011wines for your future enjoyment.

Chocolate and wine, a great Valentine’s pair

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Brynn writes:

Struggling for ideas to surprise the love (or love interest) of your life this Valentine’s day? Look no farther than Bainbridge Island.

The winemakers that have put the island on the wine tour map are opening their doors for a Valentine’s day-themed wine tasting event Feb. 16 and 17. The weekend also coincides with the release of some of the wineries latest wines.

Here’s a list of the tasty treats they plan to serve:

  • Amelia Wynn: Artisanal chocolates paired by the winemaker
  • Eagle Harbor: Chocolates handmade by a Pasticceria of the Scuola di Arte Culinaria Cordon Bleu
  • Eleven: Super-secret chocolate plans are afoot at Eleven
  • Rolling Bay: Taste through a delicious line up of Theo Chocolates paired with our wines
  • Perennial Vintners: Chocolatier Keith Jackson of Yukon Jackson’s chocolates will be serving several of his creations, including his Perennial Frambelle chocolate truffle

Also of note: Fletcher Bay winery will be closed because they are moving to a new location set to open in March.

The wineries are open both days, noon to 5 p.m. To see driving directions visit their collective website.


Babies at wine tastings? Yes please!

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Brynn writes:

Since having my son four months ago I’ve made a point of not letting the little guy slow me down. That doesn’t mean I haven’t spent time at home cuddling, playing and enjoying these early months where he thinks his mom and dad are the coolest people around (I know this won’t last forever), but when the chance arises to get out of the house for something fun, I typically won’t turn down the invitation.

That was the case Labor Day weekend. My best friend Michelle flew all the way from Maui to meet the little guy, and of course hang out with her bestie of 16  years. Not wanting to deal with the Seattle craziness, we opted to stay in Kitsap. Instead of hanging around our house all weekend I suggested we head to Bainbridge Island to take advantage of the winemaker open houses and try some wine.

Since Daddy worked Saturday, there was no leaving the baby at home. So we packed up the little guy and hit the dusty trail. We had so much fun we returned Sunday, this time with Daddy in tow. The baby handled his first wine tasting like a pro, hardly making any fuss, and the wines we tried were superb. (As you can see below, he enjoyed his time at Eleven Winery Saturday).

I know we just devoted several weeks of our “What we’re drinking” posts to the Bainbridge wineries, but there were some new releases this weekend that were too good not to mention.

They are, in no particular order:

Rolling Bay Winery’s 2011 Fusion. This wine is a blend of 75 percent chardonnay, 25 percent pinot gris. Winemaker Alphonse de Klerk sources all of the grapes for his wines from Snipes Mountain in Eastern Washington. This white blend is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, which allows the mingling of citrus and tart fruit flavors of the chardonnay and pinot gris to stand out. The winery showcased its Fusion white wine blend in 2007 and de Klerk has made it ever since, thanks to its popularity among his winery’s followers. It was a great wine to start our tasting with Saturday, and paired nicely with the mini cubes of white aged cheddar we sampled.

The Fusion is a great choice to sip in the sun while sitting at one of the tables de Klerk has positioned in the gardens surrounding the winery’s cozy tasting room. We loved the setting — especially the peekaboo views of Murden Cove, and the foliage. Apparently so does Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, which recently named Rolling Bay’s tasting room its “Best Essence of Puget Sound.”

Eleven Winery had a couple of wines that stuck with us after we left. While we enjoyed everything we tasted, we especially liked the 2011 La Primavera, a rosé, and the 2011 Angelica, a white port made from pinot grigio.

The Primavera was wonderful — made just the way I like it: dry. Winemaker Matt Albee blends all of the red grapes he sources for his other wines to make this delightfully light rosé. The Angelica port was a great surprise too. It’s not everyday you see a white port; most well-known ports are made from red grapes, but there is such thing as white port wine. This wine offered a delicate balance between the citrus flavors of the pinot grigio grapes and sweetness.

Eagle Harbor Wine Company’s 2009 Viognier. Winemaker Hugh Remash doesn’t offer this wine as a part of his five wines available for tasting, but we lucked out Sunday. Remash described the wine to us, saying he doesn’t filter or fine the wine, so it appears cloudy because of the sediment that stays in the bottle. This can be unappealing to some, which is one reason why Remash doesn’t taste people on it. As Michelle debated whether she wanted to buy a wine she hadn’t tried, Remash went into the back and brought out a bottle of his precious viognier. Saying he planned to open some for dinner guests that night anyway, Remash poured us a sip.

Oh my what a treat. This was hands down my favorite white wine we tried at his winery Sunday — Remash’s Goldfinch sits high on my list of favorite wines, so this is an impressive feat. The viognier grapes come from Remash’s block at Dwelly Vineyard in Walla Walla. While Remash warned the wine might be cloudy, it poured nicely. Floral and tropical notes filled our noses and then our mouths. The full mouthfeel of the wine was exactly what I love about oaked white wines, but by no means does oak overpower this wine — it adds weight, but doesn’t detract from the delicate characteristics of the viognier grape.

Amelia Wynn Winery’s 2011 Riesling is the wine I ended with Sunday while at the Island Vintners tasting room in Winslow. Since we got a late start on the day, 5 p.m. came upon us fast — that’s when the wineries close their doors to tasters. So we headed to the tasting room, which was open later. We ran through the list of Amelia Wynn winemaker Paul Bianchi’s white wines, including his chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and Riesling. Bianchi added all of these this year after seeing the high demand for white wines from visitors to the tasting room.

The 2011 Riesling was just released. It’s a refreshing wine, and a perfect match for some of the warmer afternoons we’ve been having recently. The color is a pale, barely visible yellow, and the slight sweetness of the grape is met with the balance of tart citrus flavors, leaving your mouth feeling refreshed sip after sip.


Bainbridge wineries are open this weekend

Friday, August 31st, 2012

If you’ve been putting off a visit to the Bainbridge wineries thinking: “I’ll go the next time,” this is your “next time.”

The wineries are open this weekend and it’s the last time they’ll be open for a while because harvest and crush are fast upon us.

All seven wineries will be open for tours and tasting from noon to 5 p.m. It’s a great chance to talk with the winemakers about their winemaking styles, and try their wines. And if you go this weekend you have the benefit of an extra day — some of the wineries will be open Monday too.

Here’s some information from the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island website about the weekend:

Specials and new releases and openings for winery tour weekend September 1-3, Saturday-Monday

  • Amelia Wynn: new releases, 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Riesling
  • Eleven: new releases, 2011 Angelica of Pinot Grigio and 2011 La Primavera rosé
  • Rolling Bay: new release, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Schedule notes for September 1-3:

  • Amelia Wynn winery open Saturday and Sunday only
  • Eleven winery open Saturday and Sunday only
  • Fletcher Bay winery open Sunday and Monday only
  • Victor Alexander closed this weekend
  • Downtown tasting rooms (Eleven, Eagle Harbor, Island Vinters) open Saturday – Monday.

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