Tag Archives: Eagle Harbor Wine Co.

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.

Winemakers, industry leaders differ on impacts of liquor privatization

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.

Chocolate and wine, a great combination

Brynn writes:

Who doesn’t love chocolate? And if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing it’s safe to assume you also love wine…so you’ll probably want to know about an event planned for this weekend that showcases both.

Bainbridge Island’s wineries are participating in a Wine and Chocolate Weekend Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Unlike other winemakers weekends were people can visit the tasting rooms and the wineries, this weekend’s event will be held at the wineries only — so if you head to any of the three tasting rooms on Winslow Way, while you’ll find wine, you won’t find chocolate.

Artisan chocolates will be paired with the handcrafted wines at the following wineries:

If you visit Rolling Bay Winery they are also using this Valentine’s Day weekend to showcase the release of their 2011 Rosé — with each bottle purchased you’ll receive a free rose.

Need a last minute gift? Why not local wine?

Brynn writes:

Yesterday I received an email from Mike Lempriere, winemaker of Bainbridge Island wineryPerennial Vintners. He wanted to share that while not an official “Meet the Winemakers” weekend, this weekend most of the island’s wineries will be open to holiday shoppers looking for that perfect stocking stuffer. (Perennial Vintners, Rolling Bay and Eagle Harbor Wine Co. will be open at their wineries, while the others — Fletcher Bay, Amelia Wynn, Victor Alexander and Eleven — will be open at their tasting room locations in Winslow.)

Lempriere is offering his Frambelle Port-style raspberry dessert wine at a special price, $2 off each bottle if you buy more than one, now until the holidays. He also has bottles of his Melon de Bourgogne and Muller Thurgau available, along with his Verjus from this year’s harvest (Verjus is non-alcoholic and is used in cooking, often as a substitute for lemon juice). All of Lemprierer’s wines come from grapes grown onsite at the winery off Lovgreen Road.

Alphonse de Klerk, winemaker of Rolling Bay, sent out an email today announcing the winery will waive its usual tasting fee this weekend for people to give his wines a try. The barrels will be open for tasting and anyone interested in getting in on the 2010 releases of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah can purchase their futures at the event.

Eleven Winery open house this weekend, Bainbridge wineries also open

Brynn writes:

Bainbridge Island’s Eleven Winery recently moved into a larger space and winemaker Matt Albee wants the public to check out their new digs. An open house is planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at the new location, 7671 NE Day Road.

For those who have visited the old Eleven Winery location in Albee’s garage, the new location is about a half-mile away in an industrial spot. Albee’s winery has grown from 500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. He held a private opening on 11/11/11 for his wine club members, but has continued to work on the space since then.

The open house is the public’s chance to see the new place and enjoy a free tasting. Rare wines and special discounts will be offered this weekend for the celebration. The event also falls on the winery’s semi-annual case sale, meaning if you choose to purchase a case you’ll see extra discounts.

Albee’s open house celebration coincides with the already scheduled meet the winemakers weekend on the island. Seven of the wineries will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. It sounds like this weekend is also Christmas in the Country and Studio Tour on the island, so you could easily make a day, or two out of all that’s going on.

Like Eleven, Rolling Bay Winery is also planning a special celebration for the weekend. The winery’s third annual release party is planned for Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5:30 p.m. The party will include a holiday giveaway where you can enter a drawing at the winery to receive one of three Rolling Bay wines: a Double Gold Medal winner 2007 Manitou Red, a 2009 Cuvée Aldaro or a 2010 Chardonnay.

Light appetizers from local artisan foods will be served with the winery’s newly bottled wines including:

  • 2009 Cuvée Aldaro (78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Cab Franc and 10 percent Merlot)
  • 2009 Syrah
  • 2010 Chardonnay (barrel fermented and aged in neutral french barrels)
  • 2010 Pinot Gris
  • 2008 Manitou Red (55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Merlot)

Barrels will also be open for tasting and futures of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will be for sale at the event. Price is $5 which is refunded with purchase.

For more about the winemakers weekend click here.

Eagle Harbor Wine Co. accolades

Brynn writes:

Sorry we’ve been light on content this week, I was out of town in New Orleans for a work conference over the weekend and Mary’s been slammed with her various community commitments, so we haven’t had a chance to keep the blog as active as we’d like.

As I’ve written before, I follow a number of Washington wine blogs — and even some international wine blogs — to see what’s happening in this wonderful world of wine. One of those blogs is the seattlepi.com reader contributed The Pour Fool: What to drink from the world and the Northwest. Author Steve Body writes about beer and wine, so if you’re interested you should check him out.

His most recent post caught my attention because it’s all about Bainbridge Island winemaker Hugh Remash and his 2008 releases of Syrah and his Cab, called Raptor. Remash is the owner and winemaker of Eagle Harbor Wine Co. which has a tasting room in Winslow. The winery is located in the “copper tops” business park off Sportsmans Road.

Here’s the link to Body’s review of Remash’s two wines.

While we’re talking about other people’s wine blogs, I also found a recent post from Sean Sullivan on the Washington Wine Report interesting. It’s all about this year’s harvest and Sullivan interviews some of the state’s most respected winemakers to get their thoughts on what’s coming off the vines this year.

Read his post, 2011 Harvest Report – Sept. 29th Edition, here.

Labor Day wine tasting planned

Brynn writes:

Looking to stay around Kitsap this three-day weekend and want to have fun? There’s another wine tasting planned on Bainbridge Island — all three days.

The seven Bainbridge wineries will be open from 12 to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 3-5, for people to swing by and taste their hand-crafted wines.

Some of them even have additional festivities planned for the weekend, like Rolling Bay Winery which is planning a live performance on Saturday by “Ranger and the ‘Re-arrangers’”. The performance will be from 2 to 5 p.m. They’ll also have artisan cheeses available to sample with the wines.

To see a complete list of the wineries, a map of where they’re located and what they have to offer, visit the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island website.

Get ready for another Bainbridge wine weekend

Brynn writes:

Well you’re probably getting sick of me writing about upcoming meet the winemakers weekends on Bainbridge Island, but guess what? I’ve got another one to tell you about.

Over Memorial Day Weekend the winemakers will sacrifice their three-day free time by opening their doors to let you in to taste their most cherished creations. In some cases the wineries have released wines since the last time they held this event, or they’re planning to release by June. (So, if you’ve already gone this year, you may want to call ahead to see if there’s something new to try).

Assuming the weather will be nice — and frankly that’s an assumption I wouldn’t bet the farm on knowing our spring so far — it could make for a nice day trip if you’re looking to stay close to home this year. Note the winemakers will be open all three days of the three-day weekend, not just Saturday and Sunday like all the other weekends.

So, once again, here’s the details for the weekend:

Wineries will be open Saturday, May 28 to Monday, May 30 from 12 to 5 p.m. Fees range from free to a few dollars.

Note for groups and tours: our wineries are all very intimate and cannot accommodate large groups or buses (all the better for the rest of you!). If you are a group of more than 6 people, you must call ahead to make arrangements in advance. Thank you!

Here’s a map showing all the locations (includes both satellite tasting rooms and winery locations – navigate carefully!). Note: this map may not get you all the way to the winery in all cases. When the wineries are open, there will be signs directing you to the exact locations.

The Wineries of Bainbridge Island are:

Eagle Harbor Wine Co. gets Seattlepi.com nod

Brynn writes:

Steve Body, who writes the reader blog “The Pour Fool” at seattlepi.com, highlight’s Bainbridge Island winemaker Hugh Remash and his Eagle Harbor Wine Co. in a post today. He highlights Remash’s Cab — which Mary and I tasted last month during the winemaker weekend.

Body’s review of the wine is more detailed than what we had to say about the Cab. We focused more on the Syrah and Condor, which were the two wines that caught our attention. I also really liked his Goldfinch — which I’ve been contemplating going back and buying.

Here’s our previous post.

Here’s The Pour Fool post.

Weekly wine defined: Bottle Shock

This is a term you might hear in the coming months as winemakers transfer the contents of their barrels and stainless steel tanks to bottles.

It’s a term we certainly heard a few weekends ago while visiting Bainbridge Island’s winemakers. At least two of them mentioned they’d just bottled numerous wines and some of the ones we got the chance to try were still experiencing bottle shock.

As the wine moves from the tank/barrel to the bottles, even if it’s being moved by gravity and not pumped with pressure, the wine is disturbed as it is pushed through the tank and into the bottle. This stirs up the molecules and disrupts the wine’s equilibrium.

Eagle Harbor Wine Co. winemaker Hugh Remash described the impacts of this movement by saying: “Wine gets angry, it doesn’t like that and it sulks.”

Julie over at Fletcher Bay Winery described the commotion of bottling by saying “the components are still getting to know each other” as the wine molecules settle into the bottle.

The shake up usually tends to mask the true flavors of the wine, which is why winemakers try to wait as long as possible before releasing a wine after its been bottled. But sometimes demand requires them to turnover the wine quicker than they’d like. In that case they may warn you of bottle shock and recommend you wait a few weeks before opening the wine.