Category Archives: Olympic Peninsula Wines

Still Learning about Wines

The 6th Annual Washington Wine Awards was held last week. About 40 wineries were pouring with some wonderful bites presented by local restaurants. It was a heavenly event.

So what did I learn? Well, grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair as I tell you about some of my favorites that evening.

A new find was the Ashren 2016 Columbia Valley and 2014 Celilo Vineyard Chard. Winemaker Chris Gorman sources his grapes from some of the best vineyards – Conner Lee, Boushey and Celilo. While rather high at 14.4% alcohol, you couldn’t taste it, it was so well balanced. Both spent 9 months in neutral oak also contributing to the fullness and balance.

Airfield Estates on Merlot Drive in Prosser poured their 2015 Yakima Chard. This wine was so easy to sip with 70% fermented in stainless and only 30% aged in neutral oak. Crisp, medium bodied with pear and apple aromas and flavors. It’s a summertime wine.

Next I beat feet to Cadence but with several bodies blocking my way, I waited my turn at Canvasback next door, one of the newest wineries on Red Mountain. What makes this such a storied wine is its California roots.

Owned by Duckhorn of Merlot, Cab and Sauvignon Blanc fame, they’re making wine from the Obelisco and Quintana vineyard grapes while waiting for their vines to reach maturity (seven years old). Winemaker Brian Roudin apprenticed at Cadaretta in Walla Walla. You need a bottle of this.

Cadence was pouring the 2013 Red Mountain Bel Canto, a blend of 75 Cab Franc and 25 Merlot which is the inverse of some great Pomerols with their 75 Merlot and 25 Cab Franc. The breadth and depth of aromas and palate was amazing.

Sparkman Cellars Wilderness 2014 Syrah was being poured. It went very nicely with the Tulalip Casino’s Pork Belly sushi. I was also drawn to their wonderful 2015 Kindred, a Bordeaux blend. He makes great wines – really.

I thoroughly enjoyed Purple Star Winery’s 2013 Cab, a blend of 90% Cab with the remainder Merlot and Petite Verdot. And Dusted Valley’s 2013 Cab, a blend of predominantly Cab, with Petite Verdot and Cab Franc from Dionysus Vineyard is another wine that garnered 3 stars from my pen, along with Long Shadows Chester Kidder’s 2014 Red Blend.

Newsprint Winery’s 2014 Red Blend is another not-to-be-missed BBQ wines. And finally, in a garage in Woodinville is Kevin White Winery, near and dear to me. His 2015 Yakima Red and 2014 DuBrul Red well worth seeking out, if you can find them. Truly.

OK, last one, Treveri Cellars Blanc de Noir was absolutely perfect as always but with the Tulalip Casino’s Butter Poached Prawns with Dungeness Crab, Ginger Lime Vinaigrette and Wasabi Tobiko, we’re talking heavenly. Both those guys really nailed it.

The Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park is next Saturday. This revelry of wine, set on Bremerton’s scenic and sunny waterfront, is one of the best on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The 9th annual festival begins at from 2 and ends at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 from Brown Paper Tickets which includes a Kitsap Wine Festival commemorative wine glass and 15 scripts.

Kitsap Peninsula’s Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island will be there also. The Winery Alliance includes Amelia Wynn, Bainbridge Vineyards, Eagle Harbor, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay, Perennial Vintners, and Rolling Bay Winery.

What the individual wineries are pouring that day remains to be seen but here are my picks with fingers crossed that they’ll pour what I want to taste:

Harbinger Winery is an artisan Olympic Peninsula winery focused on making fabulously drinkable wines with varietals that aren’t mainstream. Sara Gagnon, owner and winemaker, has made great wines and I hope to taste her Dynamo Red Table Wine, a gold medal winning wine made from mostly Syrah, with a dollop of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Grenache.

I first met Davenport Cellars owners Jeff and Sheila Jirka at a Kitsap Wine Festival a few years ago. Located in the warehouse district of Woodinville, they source their grapes like most from eastern Washington. Their Continuity is a Bordeaux blend of 71% Cab, with the remainder being Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Fruit sources include Walla Walla’s Pepper Bridge and Les Collines, Sheridan Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills, and Kiona on Red Mountain.

Also new to me from Woodinville, is Long Cellars, a boutique winery whose primary mission is to produce fine Bordeaux styled wines from vineyards located in the Yakima Valley AVA, the oldest AVA in Washington.

Eleganté Cellars is another winery that’s been around since 2007. They also make wine from Les Collines which is in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, in the Walla Walla AVA. Their Gewürztraminer grapes come from 35 year old vines from Celilo Vineyards.

Stina’s Cellars in Lakewood caught my attention after having won a bottle of Ice Wine at auction last winter. They have won a number of awards for their 2013 Wahluke Slope Tempranillo and a gold medal at the Capital Wine & Food Festival for their 2012 Yakima Valley Malbec.

Finally, many Oregon wineries will be in the direct path of the total solar eclipse on August 21st. Viewing totality among the grape vines in the Willamette Valley could be just the kind of celebration you haven’t experienced on a Monday morning.

Willamette Valley Vineyards’ sold out event offers parking, eclipse viewing eye-glasses, wine tasting, educational presentations, a commemorative Solar Eclipse Pinot Noir and live music for $100. For ticket holders arriving ahead of the traffic, gates open at 0400!

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!

What we’re drinking: Finnriver Cidery

Mary writes:

Finnriver Cidery has been popping up in my glass a lot lately. So I just have to share the delights this wonderful farm is pouring out.

At the fifth annual Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park, this Chimacum Cidery served up their Pear Cider, Pear Brandy, Artisan Sparkling Cider, Black Currant Wine and Spirited Apple Wine.

The Sparkling Pear Cider was incredibly refreshing on that hot summer day. It’s a semi-sweet blend of organic apples and pears which was a nice match with the ahi tuna from Anthony’s.

The other wine that got my attention was the Black Currant Wine. So concentrated it stained the glass and the aromas were pure black currant. It’s port-like in that they blend with apple brandy and is sweet, well-balanced dessert wine.

My next encounter a few weeks later, was with the Blind Wine Group who hosted a Méthode Champenoise tasting. The rules were specific: bring a bottle that was made in the traditional méthode champenoise.

This means that the wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle. Traditionally, a bottle of Champagne would go through this process anywhere from one to three years.

Finnriver uses the riddling racks, hand turning the bottles and disgorgement methods to make a naturally carbonated sparkling cider. It’s a labor intensive process and well worth the wait.

Of the 12 bottles of sparkling wine and champagne presented at the tasting, no one guessed that it was not made from grapes like the other eleven. It was that good.

And just in case you think that I’m exaggerating, take a look at the medals it has garnered:

  • Double Gold Medal, 2011 Seattle Wine Awards.
  • Silver Medal, 2011 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.
  • Silver Medal, 2011 Northwest Wine Summit.
  • ‘American Champagne Toast,’ 2012 Good Food Awards
  • Silver Medal, 2013 Seattle Wine Awards
  • ‘Best of the Northwest, Dry Cider,’ 2013 SIP Magazine

Finnriver is such a delightful place to visit. I encourage you to drop in and savor the farm community, the cidery and the fresh air either in person or online:

Harbinger Winery in Port Angeles recognized for its wine

Harbinger Winery in Port Angeles was the recent recipient of a “Best of Show” award from the Portland Northwest Food & Wine Festival for its 2008 Syrah Vintner’s Pick.

This sought after award is definitely something to write home about. Winemaker Sara Gagnon is clearly doing something right — the wine was recognized earlier this year with a double gold from the Seattle Wine Awards.

Here’s some info from a press release Gagnon sent about the recent recognition:

“Syrah is my favorite grape and the first wine I made was a Syrah. I am elated that my continued persistence with this endeavor is paying off,” Gagnon said. “I am deliberate in making our wines food friendly and it feels great to receive acknowledgement for that. I also recognize that the amazing folks that work with me at Harbinger make it possible for me to put the time and effort into making our wines better every year.”

Harbinger also took silver medals for its 2009 Merlot and 2009 Bolero and recently was recognized by Sunset Magazine in its International Wine Compeition. The winery received gold medals for its 2008 Barbera and 2008 El Jefe’; a silver for its La Petite Fleur; and a bronze for its 2009 Bolero.

From the release:

“I am so happy to see Harbinger competing so well at an international level. The downside of this is the fact that we are small and our wines very limited. Both the Barbera and El Jefe’ are all but sold out! So I guess this will just have to be validation to all of the folks that already purchased these wines,” Gagnon said.

A limited tasting and release of the awarding-winning wines will be available at Harbinger’s Holiday Open House on Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  In addition to the award-winners, Harbinger will also have samples of its holiday wine and “four-legged-friend-wine” — a blend where 100 percent of the profits go to the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society.

Harbinger Winery is located at 2358 Highway 101 West, just 3 miles west of Port Angeles. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For questions or more information call the Harbinger Tasting Room at 360-452-4262 or visit at

Try this low alcohol sparkler for Mother’s Day brunch

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate and what better way to toast the mother in your life than with a glass of bubbly?

If you’re planning to do a brunch this year for your celebration we’ve got a great recommendation that isn’t your run of the mill bubbly, and it’s made locally.

Ann Vogel’s Mother’s Day recipes for yogurt parfaits and apple Dutch babies calls for a partner in wine with lots of fruit flavor to echo the fruit in the dish; the bubbles will contrast the creamy yogurt.

This is where the Olympic Peninsula’s Finnriver Farm and Cidery enters the picture.

An artisan cidery and organic farm located in the Chimacum Valley, Finnriver produces its ciders from heirloom apples and berries grown at the farm. They also glean apples from old homesteads in the valley and from a family farm in Eastern Washington.

Cider has a long history — it was the drink of choice for the colonists. Cheap and easy to make, it was consumed for any event imaginable — weddings, funerals, Mother’s Day, baptisms, barn and church raisings and even breakfast.

Ciders can and do vary in style from a drier, more traditional style from Normandy and England, to the sweeter sparkling blends made with berries in Washington.

Finnriver’s award-winning ciders are handcrafted from the orchards to the bottle. They like to experiment with small-batches fruit blends to see what Mother Nature has offered them at harvest.

The sumptuous sparkling hard ciders are made with apples, pears and berries. Perfect for this Mother’s Day menu.

A few suggestions include:

The Artisan Sparkling Cider. Fermented using the traditional, labor-intensive méthode champenoise this wine is perfectly balanced, crisp with distinct apple aromas and flavors. The bubbles are small and make a bright, champagne-style cider.

The Sparkling Pear Cider is made from heirloom apples, blended with sweet pear. A soft sprightly sparkle accompanies the definite pear aromas and semi-sweet pear flavors of this cider.

The Sparkling Black Currant Cider is lighter is body and has a pretty blush color. It’s a blend of sweet heirloom apples and tart black currant. This one is also semi-sweet.

Finnriver is located at 62 Barn Swallow Road in Chimacum. A trip to their tasting room gives you a chance to sample their wines — and decide which you might want to serve mom this Mother’s Day.

What we’re drinking: Harbinger

Mary writes:

Harbinger 2008 Sieg-MA is a delightful blend of two German grape varieties — Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine — grown in the Puget Sound Appellation. Harbinger Winery is located in Port Angeles and it’s a brewery too!

I enjoyed this delightful wine at the recent Holly Ridge Vino in Kitsap tasting and scavenger hunt. Vintner Sara Gagnon has her way with blending. A passage from Harbinger’s website puts it beautifully: “The white wine pixies were flitting mischievously through the winery.”

The wine is very aromatic with a bouquet of flowers and spice. At 10.6 percent alcohol, it is sweet but the acidity keeps it clean and crisp. Gagnon’s description of the wine, a “balance of fruit and acids that leave you feeling as invigorated as a glacially fed river plunge”, is a perfect imagery.

This wine pairs beautifully with spicy Thai or Chinese and fresh fruits and sharp cheddar.

Manette Wine Walk a success

I missed Thursday’s Manette Wine Walk — unfortunately work kept me in the office and off the streets of Manette. But Mary made the journey and said it was a blast. Here’s her recount of the night:

Mary writes:

It was a sell out. Rebecca Dove-Taylor, owner of The Manette Saloon and Side Bar, was thrilled with the attendance to the first Manette Wine Walk last night. One hundred thirty seven passports were sold in the first hour, and the response was so great that one restaurant ran ou of wine in the first hour.

Dove-Taylor planned the event to bring the community together for a night of wine appreciation and to bring attention to Manette restaurants. The weather cooperated, which may have contributed to the sell-out crowd — what a charming sight seeing so many people strolling up and down Eleventh Street.

For $10, participants tasted wine and sampled food at the Manette Saloon, Boatshed, Der Bloken and for some, La Fermata.

Participants started at The Manette to purchase their passports, where they sampled wines from Olympic Cellars Winery out of Port Angeles (known for their “Working Girl Wines”). Go Girl Red (a blend of Merlot and Lemberger) and Handyman Red (Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc) were paired with hummus, pita chips, fresh vegetables and stuffed mushrooms.

When I asked why she had picked this particular winery, she said, “I’m a ‘Working Girl’ and I just love their wines.”

The absolutely packed Boatshed served up Chateau Ste. Michelle’s ’09 Chardonnay and ’08 Cab. The food samples were eye appealing and there was something for every palate. Olives, hummus, blackberries, strawberries, fresh mozzarella balls, Gouda, salami and prosciutto.

Der Blokken Brewery was serving up Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil Merlot. This was gone by the time I made it up the hill. But they were serving Smith’s Eve Chardonnay as a substitute.

Dove-Taylor has invited the newest Manette restaurant Orion to the next Wine Walk the end of June as plans for a quarterly event move forward.

Harvest Events Planned For The Weekend

Looking for some wine-themed reasons to drive around the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas this weekend? You’re in luck.

As was previously reported, the six of the eight wineries on Bainbridge Island will be open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. A map of the various locations can be found at the Wine Alliance of Bainbridge Island website. The website also has phone numbers for the seven wineries, and links to the websites for those that have them.

The Olympic Peninsula Wineries Association is also hosting an event the same weekend. The theme of the weekend is “Drink in the Bounty of our Harvest.” The event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be a wine themed scavenger hunt, a first for the annual event.

Here’s what the press release says about what wine enthusiasts of all levels can expect from the weekend:

Locally made wines, including new releases, will be paired with harvest inspired appetizers. Hard ciders will be available at Finnriver Farm and Eaglemount. And it’s B.Y.O.G. (bring your own glass) again this year! Last fall’s inaugural B.Y.O.G. tour proved so much fun – and so many unique and extraordinary glasses were shared – that the wineries are bringing it back!

The event is $25, and is a self-guided tour. Tickets can be paid online in advance, or purchased at the door. The cost includes complimentary wine tastings and appetizers at each winery. A tasting fee of $5 per winery applies to visitors without a ticket.

Featured wineries include:

Finnriver Farm, Chimacum
A 33-acre organic family farm and artisan Cidery. Sparkling hard ciders, including Finnriver’s handcrafted champagne-style cider and apple-blueberry cider, will be available for sampling. Harvest-themed sweet treats include pumpkin-rum cookies.

FairWinds Winery, Port Townsend
FairWinds’ Gewürztraminer will be paired with home-grown gourmet stuffed potatoes, while home-grown squash will be made into a dip served on pita chips and paired with the only Mead produced on the Olympic Peninsula. In addition, FairWinds will feature its traditional hot spiced Lemberger wine.

Sorensen Cellars, Port Townsend
Fall harvest treats from the Quimper Peninsula will be paired with Sorensen’s hearty red wines. Case specials will be available throughout the weekend.

Eaglemount Wine & Cider, Port Townsend
Apples from Eaglemount’s homestead orchard will be featured with a new wine release.

Olympic Cellars, Port Angeles
Olympic Cellars will open its cellar – the heart of its 120-year-old working barn that is home to the winery. Harvest treats include pumpkin soup with roasted pumpkin seeds served with Mt. Townsend’s Fromage Blanc; Pane d’Amore Miche bread made with Nash’s organic grains and served with Olympic Cellars Chardonnay Butter; a wine and cheese pairing featuring Mt. Townsend Creamery’s artisan cheeses; hot mulled Lemberger wine; and harvest fresh surprises throughout Olympic Cellars’ cornucopia table. Featured wines include the newly released 2007 Cabernet Franc from Boushey Vineyard and the ever-popular Cranberry Jubilee, the perfect wine for the holiday table. Also, featured will be the 2007 Neuharth Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon, released in 2009 to commemorate the winery’s 30th anniversary, and considered by winemaker Benoit Murat to be his best wine made at Olympic Cellars.

Camaraderie Cellars, Port Angeles

Camaraderie Cellars’ gardens will be open and a harvest display set up in the newly completed arbor area. Inside the tasting room, savory bites of pate, sausages, and local breads will complement a range of red wines perfectly suited for cold autumn nights and hearty fare. Special pricing will enhance holiday shopping.

Harbinger Winery, Port Angeles
To celebrate the end of harvest Harbinger Winery & Brew House will be sipping on its latest release of Cranberry Bliss while sampling chanterelle and butternut squash bisque. Freshly baked pumpkin bread with several festive local artisan butter spreads from Golden Glen Creamery will be available as well. Another new release poured for the tour will be Harbinger’s 2008 Menagerie, a blend of Merlot, Grenache and Syrah. (100 percent of the profits from this wine go to the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society). Guests can also sample the 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah, 2008 Viognier, and the 2009 “Bone Dry” Rose.

(A note for beer lovers: Harbinger’s Brew House Ratz have also been creative in their beer-making endeavors; stop by to check out the surprises they’ve concocted).

For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit, or call 800-785-5495.

For information about bed and breakfasts on the Olympic Peninsula, visit The Bainbridge Island Lodging Association has a complete list of bed and breakfasts, as well as other lodging information, on its website.

If I didn’t have to work this weekend, my plan would be to do the Bainbridge wine tour one day and the Olympic Peninsula tour the next.