Memorable wine touring experiences in the state of Washington are by no means limited to the Willamette Valley and Walla Walla.
Not far from Seattle, but still a bit off the beaten path, you can explore the wineries of the Olympic Peninsula. And it truly will be an exploration because chances are you’ve never even heard of any of the wineries.
The reason: Most of them churn out fewer than 2,000 cases of wine per year. With such limited production, combined with strong local demand, it’s rare to encounter an Olympic Peninsula wine anywhere except on the Olympic Peninsula. Translation: In order to sample and enjoy these wines, one must go to the source.
With seven wineries welcoming visitors, one can comfortably explore the peninsula’s vinous treasures over a couple of days. Keep in mind, however, that hours may vary by the season, so it’s best to call ahead or check winery Web sites when planning your trip.
Also be aware that in addition to traditional table wines, some of the wineries also offer fruit wines and/or mead, which is a wine made from honey. This means that even one who doesn’t appreciate “regular” wine – and every family seems to have at least one such outcast – may find something they’ll like.
For instance, the aptly named Harbinger Winery offers an array of good things in a bottle, ranging from a big red Bordeaux-style blend to a fruit wine known as Blackberry Bliss. Harbinger is the most northwest winery not only in the Pacific Northwest, but in the entire United States, and it’s housed in a building that formerly was a supply and repair shop for logging trucks – very Northwest, indeed.
Co-owner Sara Gagnon describes Harbinger’s offerings as “wines that cry out with their own unique and uncompromising style.”
You can expect a warm welcome at Camaraderie Cellars where, in addition to fine wines, the estate offers great views and a beautiful garden setting that evolves with the seasons. Camaraderie is one of the few Olympic Peninsula wineries with significant distribution outside the region.
Black Diamond Winery, overlooking Tumwater Creek, is situated on 20 rolling, picturesque acres. The land surrounding the winery is planted both to grapevines and orchards, so there’s always an array of tasty wines to sample.
High in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains sits Lost Mountain Winery, where award-winning wines have been crafted since 1981. Red dinner wines are the specialty of the house, and from the very beginning, Lost Mountain has avoided the addition of sulfites to its wines.
Sorensen Cellars sources most of its grapes from Eastern Washington, but gives them a unique personality through tender, loving care in the cellar. If you love red wines, Sorensen is a must stop.
The “something for everyone” description certainly fits FairWinds Winery, which boasts the most eclectic “menu” on the peninsula. The estate produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, a Cabernet/Merlot blend, Gewurztraminer and Aliogote, as well as mead, a blush wine, and a unique bottling known as “Port O’ Call.”
No tour of the Olympic Peninsula is complete without a visit to historic Olympic Cellars, the first winery to locate on the peninsula and one of Washington state’s original 15 wineries. In 2001, the winery made history again when it became the first in the North Sound area to be owned by a woman.
The tasting room is decorated in what’s best described as “barn nouveau,” and the wines are crafted by French vintner Benoit Murat, who embraces both French and American techniques in the cellar to create cuvees of great distinction.
Olympic Cellars is extremely guest-focused, offering numerous activities throughout the year, including a series of concerts.
After visiting three or four of the estates, finish your day of touring at one of the peninsula’s excellent restaurants. Here’s the “A-to-T” on five of our favorites:
* Alder Wood Bistro. Specializes in local, organic and seasonal cuisine.
* Cedar Creek. Situated in the historic McGeorge House, this restaurant has an excellent wine list to complement its regional Italian cuisine.
* Fins Coastal Cuisine. Pacific Northwest wines… fabulous seafood… unparalleled views of Puget Sound. What more do you need?
* Joy’s Wine Bistro. Wine isn’t just part of this bistro’s name; it’s the heart and soul of the restaurant. A great place to experiment with food-and-wine pairings you may not find anywhere else.
* T’s Restaurant. We pity the fool who misses this establishment, which offers Northwest cuisine and more than 100 wine choices.
The Willamette Valley and Walla Walla regions can be a bit daunting for any wine lover with limited time because both are home to so many estates. The Olympic Peninsula, on the other hand, provides plenty of wine-drinking pleasure in a much more compact area. For a fabulous weekend wine getaway, the Olympic Peninsula garners a gold medal.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION…
Black Diamond Winery
Lost Mountain Winery
Fins Coastal Cuisine