Friday, September 7, 2012

Vintage Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Cellars attracts a crowd for its summer concerts
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Now that Idaho Wine Girl has left the Snake River Valley of Idaho for the Dungeness Valley of Washington, it's time to report on a few wineries that made a big impression on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Technically in Port Angeles, though somewhat closer to Sequim on Highway 101 is Olympic Cellars. Set in a gorgeous old barn right off the highway, it's a well-run place that hosts a lively outdoor Saturday-night concert series of local acts -- ten bucks and you're in. This affords you the opportunity to buy wine and snacks, including Mystery Bay clams and oysters.

Kathy Charlton of Olympic Cellars
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Kathy Charlton, one of the smiling faces behind the Olympic Cellars story -- the others are Molly Rivard and Lisa Martin -- is a former Texas Instruments exec who made a 180-degree career turn. Here, she produces wine made from Eastern Washington grapes -- no one really seems to grow grapes seriously out here. But, among many other labels, her Working Girl white -- a scrumptious blend of Chardonnay and Riesling -- and Handyman Red -- a drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon/Cab Franc mix --  are available not only at the winery but also my local Safeway and stand up to any $10 bottle fom California, in my book. Their winemaker is a French gal in Walla Walla named Virginie Bourgue.

Tempted to stop in? The tasting room is open daily until 6 p.m. through October, and till 5 p.m. after that till March. Five bucks will net you generous pours from a list of selections, and there are generally little bowls of munchies, too. Enjoy!

☻☻☻ Always a positive experience at the big barn at 255410 Highway 101, Port Angeles. 360-452-0160.

David Volmut of Wind Rose Cellars in Sequim
Photo by Meg McKenzi
Wind Rose Cellars is run by an enterprising young couple making a go of it in the quiet downtown area of Sequim. Set back from Cedar Street (just north of the main street, which is Washington), their tasting room is set in a narrow building but is pretty easy to find.

Young husband-and-wife David Volmut and Jennifer States distinguish themselves from the Washington wine-making crowd by sourcing only Italian-style grapes (nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera and pinot grigio) from Yakima, and some of their bottles (the 2011 Rosado, a dry rose selling for $11.99, for example) are great choices to present to a dinner-party host or simply to enjoy at home.

☻☻☻ David and Jennifer have added tables to the patio next to their tasting room for the summer. While not the most scenic vista on earth (it backs onto low-income housing), it's a welcome addition to the farmer-ville Sequim scene, and it's only five minutes from the highway. Hours are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, May through October. Prices vary. On a recent Friday, I stopped in during the monthly art walk and found they weren't offering a tasting but instead sold me a glass of their Brava Rosso for $7 (plus 60 cents tax).
155-B W. Cedar St., Sequim WA 98382.  360-358-5469.

Judith Collins, co-owner of Marrowstone Vineyards
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Marrowstone Vineyards is set on a lovely island just south and east of that bustling Victorian home-laden Puget Sound city Port Townsend. I sort of stumbled upon the winery on a recent Saturday outing -- I'd never been to Marrowstone, though I've been living on the Olympic Peninsula for eight months now. Heading up a hill, I saw a sign stating the tasting room was open.

At the top of the hill, I drove right by the vineyards because co-owner Kenneth Collins hadn't put the sign out yet, but I saw the grapevines and made my way into the tasting room, a clean and lovely former horse barn that's been completely remodeled by a pair of energetic former San Franciscans.
Judith Collins, a cheery blonde, greeted me with a lovely smile, and before long I was telling her the story of my life (that's how friendly she is, and how delicious the five bottles of red were that I got to try for five bucks). Only one was their own vintage, being that they're brand-new: a light but drinkable Oregon-style Pinot Noir. The others were from Richard Sorensen of the defunct Port Townsend Soresnsen Cellars, and boy were they good. I bought a bottle of his 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon for $20 (plus tax). Yumm-oh! as Rachael Ray once said.
☻☻☻ Lovely setting (they host weddings here, by the way), friendly folks and good wine. Give them a few years, and they'll be cranking out cases of their own stuff. In the meantime, enjoy the best a great Port Townsend vintner has to offer. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May to November. 423 Meade Road, Nordland, WA 983658. 360-385-5239.

My ratings go from one grape (poor) to five grapes (excellent) and are based on accessibility, price, ambiance, overall experience and, of course, the wines.