Tag Archives: Eagle Harbor Wine Co.

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.

New tasting room opening in Winslow

In case you missed my story in yesterday’s Sun, three of the Bainbridge Island winemakers are opening up shop along Winslow Way.

Charlie Merrill, Jim Wilford and Paul Bianchi are joining forces to open Island Vintners, a tasting room next door to That’s Some Italian. Merrill is the owner and winemaker of Victor Alexander, Wilford is the winemaker for Fletcher Bay Winery and Bianchi recently joined the winemaker mix with his winery Amelia Wynn (named after his twin grandchildren born in 2008).

Merrill and Wilford will be the primary winemakers staffing the tasting room, but all three of their wines will be available for tasting. While the spot will be a tasting room, they hope people will choose to stay and enjoy their wines for a bit. They also hope to gain the attention of visitors coming off the Seattle ferry.

Their location is perfect to collect the foot traffic, and once the city finishes its street widening work along Winslow, they hope the wide sidewalks will help draw attention to their new location as people stroll by. (Cars won’t be allowed to park in front of the business like they can now, which the winemakers also think will help increase visibility).

The trio are hoping to ride the wave of recent publicity surrounding Bainbridge as a wine destination. After folks swing by their stop, they can continue the short distance down Winslow Way to Hugh Remash’s Eagle Harbor Wine Co., and then over to Matt Albee’s Eleven Winery tasting room, also located along Winslow Way.

Click here to read the full story about Island Vintners.

Bainbridge Island winemakers weekend in review

Sunday we took advantage of the sunny weather and made the trek to Bainbridge Island. We were lucky enough to have the company of Food Life blogger and now freelance journalist Angela Dice as we made our way to three of the six Bainbridge wineries that were open for tastings.

Not to worry, no winemaker will be overlooked. We hope to attend the next winemakers weekend, slated for May 28, 29 and 30, to visit the wineries we missed this time around.

Our first stop Sunday was at Rolling Bay Winery, which is along Murden Cove and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Winemaker Alphonse de Klerk was on hand, as was David Verwolf, also an owner of the winery. We had a great chat with them about their wines, as well as what they are planning for upcoming releases.

All of their wines come from Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley, one of the state’s oldest vineyards and newest AVAs. It’s also the second smallest AVA behind Red Mountain.

We started the tasting with their 2009 Chardonnay ($20), which was aged for nine months in neutral oak barrels. Interestingly de Klerk uses two different yeast strands for the Chardonnay. One barrel gets D-47, while the other gets Montrachet. The D-47 leaves the wine with hints of mineral, stone and earth flavors, while the Montrachet hits the citrus notes of apple and pear — similar to flavors found in Burgundian Chards.

Next we tasted the 2008 Syrah ($25), which is the winery’s third release. De Klerk added 10 percent Merlot to this wine, which gives it a brightness not found in most Syrahs.

The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) was next, which aged for 22 months in new and 2-year-old French oak barrels. Brynn noticed the tannins on the finish. Mary found the black cherry and berry flavors delightful.

The last wine on the tasting list was the winery’s signature blend: 2008 Manitou Red ($26). The mix includes 55 percent Cab, 40 percent Syrah and 5 percent Merlot. The wine is aged 22 months in 2-year-old French oak barrels and then bottled unfiltered. The color is light purple, and the nose slightly sweet, hinting at the slight oak finish.

It’s no wonder this wine has won many awards for the winery. While we were there, the Manitou Red and the Chardonnay were the two wines that seemed to be selling like hot cakes. Interestingly, de Klerk said they’re not sure they’ll have a 2009 Manitou Red because they’re trying some new things.

Finally we ended our time at Rolling Bay with a taste straight from a barrel. De Klerk let us sample a Cabernet Sauvignon co-fermenting with 12 percent Cabernet Franc. They plan to bottle this around July or August and then release it in October.

De Klerk said 2009 was a hot year; every time they turned around during harvest they had grapes coming in. Eventually they ran out of space, so when the Cab Franc came in they didn’t know where to store it, so they threw it in with the Cab to co-ferment. We found this to be very approachable straight out of the barrel with a nice ruby/purple color and crispness. We’re excited to try it once ready for its release later this year.

Our next stop was Eagle Harbor Wine Co., just off Sportsman Road at the Coppertops business park. Winemaker Hugh Remash was on hand, along with a film crew that was working a 30 minute feature on the Bainbridge winemakers. (We’ll let you know when it’s supposed to air in case you’re interested in watching it).

We started the tasting with his 2009 Goldfinch ($17.50), a 50/50 Chardonnay/Viognier blend. The citrus of the Chardonnay is a perfect match for the floral Viognier, giving the wine complexity and balance. The finish is especially enjoyable, leaving you to wonder whether you’re tasting the described orange zest, or orange blossoms.

We moved into the reds with a 2008 Sangiovese ($27), which wasn’t on the tasting list, but was a great surprise. The color was ruby red and the wine’s dry tannins left a mineral impression. The grapes come from Kiona Vineyards, which were planted in 1975 and are located in the Red Mountain AVA. One technique Remash uses in all his reds is to not fine or filter his wines. This generally adds body and complexity to a wine.

The 2007 Founders Cabernet Sauvignon ($32.50), a 100 percent Cab was next. This was aged for more than 30 months before the best wine was selected and transferred to four, 300 liter barrels made up of 33 percent new Virginia oak.

Remash’s 2007 Patina Vineyard Syrah ($24.95), which is described to be similar in style to the Syrah’s coming from the Northern Rhone Valley of France. The nose on this wine could only be described as gorgeous.

Remash prefers to age his reds, which takes away the initial jammy impression most Syrahs can leave. Instead the fruit has time to mellow, allowing the complexity of the wine to come through. That’s definitely the case with the Syrah, which he recommends decanting before drinking. This was demonstrated when two of us were poured the bottom of a bottle and one of us got a taste from a newly opened bottle. The gorgeous nose was missing on the just opened bottle, indicating it needed time to open up.

Lastly we tasted the 2007 Condor ($29.50), a 50/50 Syrah/Cab blend. Brynn liked this wine just about as much as the Syrah, until Remash brought out a bottle of his 2008 Condor. Although just bottled two weeks earlier, the 2008 had hints of oak on the finish that smoothed the overall impression of the wine.

The blend is also different, instead of 50/50, it’s a 60 percent Syrah, 40 percent Cab. We’d like to try it again, after it gets over its bottleshock — which Remash described as the wine sulking after being pumped from a barrel through a tank and into the bottle.

Our next destination was to see Charlie Merrill at Victor Alexander Winery off Island Center Road. We ran into the television producers again, so didn’t want to stay too long because they needed Merrill’s time. But we did get a chance to try a handful of what he was pouring.

His 2009 Washington White Wine blend is an interesting mix of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Semilion with a mineral hint balancing the pear flavors. This wine is crisp and unique. This is his theater edition wine, which means a portion of the wine sales goes to support the Bainbridge Performing Arts.

Next up was Merrill’s Semillon, which is one of Brynn’s favorite wines coming out of Victor Alexander. The 100 percent blend is aged in oak, giving in a round, full mouthfeel at the finish. While sipping the wine among the oak barrels in Merrill’s winery, we tried to conjure up visions of sitting on a back deck in the afternoon sun, Merrill’s Semillon in hand and fresh asparagus, zucchini and mushrooms grilling after a quick dip in a balsamic, olive oil marinade.

Merrill’s Merlot was next. He blends it with a little Cab and Syrah. Brynn didn’t try, but Mary and Angela enjoyed this smooth, very approachable blend.

Realizing the clock was quickly ticking toward 5 p.m. we hopped in the car and jetted over to our last stop of the day: Fletcher Bay Winery. Brynn heard winemaker Jim Wilford would have his “Super Tuscan” style red blend ready for the weekend, and was excited to give it a try.

Before getting to try the Tuscan we started with the winery’s 2010 Pinot Grigio ($14.50). The grapes are sourced from the Crawford Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. The wine had a hint of pink to its pale yellow color. We were told after fermentation, it was the color of pink grapefruit juice. It’s acidity was well balanced, making it another wine that would be great to enjoy while outside on a deck in the sun with a bit of grilled salmon.

Next up was the 2009 Battle Point Red ($16.50), which blends 39 percent Tempranillo, 35 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 percent Petite Syrah, 8 percent Merlot, 6 percent Cabernet Franc and 3 percent Sangiovese. The wine is aged 10 months in French and American oak. It’s approachable and offers a nice complexity that would saddle up nicely to steak or pasta with red sauce.

Our third sample was the 2009 Valvano ($19.83) otherwise known as the “Super Tuscan”. Super Tuscan is a traditional blend of the indigenous Tuscan grape Sangiovese with the French Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a blend of 54 percent Sangiovese and 46 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangio is from the vineyard of Zerba Cellars in the section of the Walla Wall Valley that dips into Oregon. The Cab is from three vineyards in Washington. The wine was aged for 16 months in French oak.

It was tasty, but a bit “dumb” because it had only been bottled two days earlier. We want to return in another month or two and compare notes. As we were told, some of the components were still getting to know each other after being all shook up during the bottling process.

We ended our time at Fletcher Bay, and our tour of the island, with some sips of the Blackberry Bliss dessert wine ($16.50), sourced from Kitsap County blackberries. The balance of acidity to sweetness is just right, making the wine a perfect compliment to a sliver of dark chocolate.

If you’re considering a visit to Fletcher Bay at an upcoming wine tasting, they’ll be releasing their 2009 Tara Rouge in June. This wine is a traditional Bordeaux blend of 54 percent Merlot, 33 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 13 percent Cabernet Franc.

For more on the next Bainbridge Island winemakers weekend, visit the group’s website, which lists the upcoming dates and a map of all the locations. Like we said earlier, we’ll hit up the wineries we missed this time around and write about them next time!


Brynn and Mary