Mosquito Fleet Winery came to life three years ago in a Belfair
warehouse. That’s when the first shipment of grapes made its way
from various Eastern Washington vineyards across the Cascade
Mountain range and into the industrial space where the winery’s
four owners and numerous volunteers anxiously waited to partake in
the winery’s inaugural crush.
A lot has changed since that first crush party. Most noticeable
is the transformation of the warehouse, which doubling as the
winery, opened to the public for the first time last week for an
inaugural release party.
What once housed crushing
equipment, including a destemmer and fermentation containers, is
now lined with twinkling white lights, fishing nets and other
nautical décor, stacked oak barrels filled with wine and photos of
the winery’s first days. Winemaker Brian Petersen credits his wife
Jacquie and business partner and close friend Jacy Griffin for the
transformation. Griffin’s husband Scott is the fourth owner of the
“They had a vision for how it could be and they hit it out of
the park,” Petersen said of the décor selections and attention to
detail — like Reidel stemware and specialized decanters used to
bring out the wine’s flavors before it was poured for guests.
Another, less obvious transformation, is the amount of wine
stored in the barrels. At its inception in 2009, the Petersens and
Griffins purchased enough grapes to produce 200 cases. That’s on
par with most small-scale wineries opening these days with a focus
on quality handcrafted wine over quantity.
But where the winery diverges from the norm is its growth
between its 2009 vintage and its 2010 vintage. Instead of making a
gradual increase in production over time as wine sales grew — the
most common path taken — Mosquito Fleet’s production jumped from
200 cases in its first year to 1,000 cases for its 2010 harvest.
The winery replicated that number with its 2011 harvest.
“We typically aren’t known for our patience,” Petersen said.
“It’s go big or go home.”
Brian Petersen and Jacy Griffin offer
barrel samples of the Touriga Nacional Port
If he isn’t already, Petersen should be known for his
persistence. A chiropractor by day, Petersen set out on a mission
to not only learn what he needed to create top-notch wines —
attending a series of winemaking classes at UC Davis and picking
the brains of some of the state’s most respected winemakers — but
he also became determined to get his hands on grapes from some of
the state’s most well-known vineyards.
When others may have turned away after being told there was no
fruit available, Petersen didn’t let up until he got what he
Mosquito Fleet sources grapes from Elephant Mountain and
Copeland Vineyard, located in the Rattlesnake Hills appellation in
Yakima, and Double Canyon Vineyard located in the Horse Heaven
Hills appellation. Double Canyon is adjacent to Champoux Vineyards,
one of the state’s most highly regarded vineyards known for
consistently producing some of the state’s best cabernet sauvignon.
While it doesn’t carry the Champoux name, the grapes Mosquito Fleet
receives share the terroir that sets Champoux’s vines above the
rest, Petersen said.
The winery added fruit from Kiona Vineyards in the Red Mountain
appellation for its most recent vintages.
But the vineyard Petersen is probably most excited about is his
block within Pepper Bridge Vineyards, which is known for producing
some of the most sought after fruit not only in the state, but also
the Northwest. The winery’s cabernet sauvignon is 100 percent
sourced from Pepper Bridge and after one sip the similarities are
evident. Like Pepper Bridge’s cab, Mosquito Fleet’s cab is a deep
purple color with tight tannins evident on the finish.
Considering it’s the winery’s first release — along with a
Meritage Blend that is Petersen’s take on a left-bank Bordeaux
blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit
verdot — it’s evident the “go big or go home” motto has worked in
the favor of the Petersens and Griffins who have maintained all
along that they want to be known for producing quality wines.
In 2010 Mosquito Fleet will again release a cab and Meritage
Blend, but it will also add cabernet franc, petit verdot and a
syrah, mourvedre, cab blend to its line up. The winery will also
release limited quantities of its Touriga Nacional Port 2010, which
is a blend of 18 percent Tinta Roriz and 82 percent Touriga
Nacional — considered to be Portugal’s finest red wine grape.
Mosquito Fleet’s owners have
done a good job of marketing their product. A private inaugural
release party drew close to 200 people last week and the winery saw
around 250 people come through its doors on Saturday, the one and
only day it opened to the public.
“The fact that we were able to pull 450 people through our doors
for the first time we opened our winery was amazing,” Petersen
said. “The feedback we got was tremendous.”
The strong response solidifies efforts to market Mosquito Fleet
Winery as a community winery, Petersen said.
While he wondered whether they would sell out of the 2009
vintage after the initial opening, there are still some wines left.
But because of the limited supply, the winery won’t open again to
the public, at least not until 2013 when it’s time for the release
of the 2010 vintage. Instead wines can be purchased at the winery’s
website, or in the near future at an
area wine shop. They’re also in the process of working with local
wine shops and restaurants to feature the wines.
Mosquito Fleet Winery’s 2009 Releases
- 63 percent cabernet sauvignon
- 32 percent merlot
- 3 percent cabernet franc
- 2 percent petit verdot
Vineyards: Double Canyon Vineyard, Le Vignes de
Marcoux, Elephant Mountain
Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 83 percent
French, 17 percent American
- 100 percent cabernet sauvignon
Vineyard: Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla
Elevage: Aged 22 months on new oak, 87 percent
French, 3 percent American
Touriga Nacional Port 2010:
- 82 percent Touriga Nacional
- 18 percent Tinta Roriz
Vineyard: Two Mountain Winery’s estate Copeland
Vineyard and Elephant Mountain
Elevage: Aged 24 months on French oak; expected
bottling November 2012
Cases: 72 demi cases (selling in advance of
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