You guys actually grow grapes over there?
That is the number one question we get when we explain to our customers that our Pinot Noir and Siegerrebe are Estate grown. Granted, this is a valid question. Of the 50,000+ acres of vitis vinifera (traditional species of wine grape) planted in Washington, roughly 200 of those acres lie west of the Cascades. And, yes, it does rain a lot over here. But on average the growing region is drier and has more sun that most of the classic growing regions in Europe. Also, there is very rarely a freeze during the winter to damage the vines. But how did wine grapes start on this side of the mountains?
This handsome man is Lambert Evans. Evans was a confederate soldier during the Civil War who was imprisoned in St. Louis for most of the war. Upon his release he walked, WALKED, to Los Angeles and from there, because he did not like the heat, he headed north to the Puget Sound. He was known to row his skiff around the Sound and one day he came upon Stretch Island.
Noticing the slope and and southern exposure he knew this would be the perfect place to plant fruit. In 1872 he chose to plant apples and grapes at first. He would take his skiff and sell his fruit in Olympia, but was not making that much money. Around this time a businessman named Adam Eckert had settled in the area and ended up purchasing more land on the island and, with Evans, planting more grapes. The variety they were planting was called Island Belle or Campbell's Early. Although this was a different species (vitis lubrusca or "Concord" type grapes) from the traditional wine grape, prohibition forced it into fermentation. Once prohibition was repealed a man by the name of Charles Somers, who had purchased the land from Evans' widow, opened up a winery named Old St. Charles Co. This winery was the first bonded winery in the history of all of Washington wine.
On a recent trip to the region I took some pictures of the vines that are still growing there. Look at how thick those vines are.
From the early 60's and on more and more adventurous souls started planting traditional wine grapes in and around the Puget Sound. Some grew great and some didn't make it. After years of trial and error we have found the the varietals that grow best are Pinot Noir, Regent, and Zweigelt for reds. And Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Muller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, and certain clones of Pinot Gris.
There are many wineries in western Washington, but we take a lot of pride in being one of only a handful that have our own Estate vineyards that produce great fruit year after year.
Now that summer is here we are always happy to provide a tour of the vineyard and winery. You can always call the winery and set something up in advance with our vineyard manager or just reply to this email and we will see what we can do.