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The artisans who create the wines we love to sip decidedly have a passion for their craft. On the following pages we’ll introduce you to a handful of our state’s winemakers to learn a little bit about their stories and, of course, their wines. Before turning the page, grab a glass of your favorite vintage to enjoy while you read on.

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WHATCOM

Mt. Baker Winery

Owner: Randy Finley
Address: 4298 Mount Baker Highway, Everson
Tasting Room Hours: Thurs. – Sun., Noon to 5 p.m.
Phone: 360.592.2300
Website: Mountbakervinyards.com

Randy Finley is a veteran of the business, having been involved in wine production for 24 years. Before moving to wine, he worked in the movie industry. Randy is highly detail orientated and meticulous, taking great fascination with the fine points of the process. Since taking full control of business and production, Randy has grown Mount Baker Vineyards into a highly decorated and award-winning operation.

Q. What types of wine do you produce?
A. Sometimes we do blends, sometimes 100 percent varietals. We try to make and we do sell usually 25-26 different wines.

Q.How did you get started?
A. Dumbest thing I ever did. (Laughs) I thought that I could do a one-man operation or at least a minimal one. I just thought “I can do this.” I can do this and make decent wine and manage it with much less complexity. I was wrong. There’s more details in this business than anything I’ve ever been in in my life.

Q. How long have you been producing wine?
A. This is my 24th year. The winery had been in existence 10 years before I bought it.

Q. Is there a story behind the name?
A. Well, from the old boy that built the place built it in 1978. Since then it’s been Mount Baker Vineyard, and if you stand in the vineyard you can look up and see Mount Baker and Shuskan.

Q. Do you grow your own grapes? If so, what varieties?
A. I have six different varietals and they’re all winter hardy, mountain-style grapes. I have a Swiss grape, I have a German grape, I have a couple French grapes.

Q. How long do you age your wines?
A.We usually put the reds in barrels for two years. Some of them have been in barrels for two-and-a-half years. White wines are done within six months and they hit the market very quickly.

Q.What have been your best vintages?
A. It changes every year. This year, for instance, a local grape we did here called Siegerrebe. There are only six of us that grow it in the United States. And I think most of them got their cuttings for the Siegerrebe from here.

Q.Have you won any awards? Which ones and from where?
A. Dozens, hundreds of awards. The latest Malbec I set out to its first show and it got a double gold medal.

 

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WHATCOM

Vartanyan Estate Winery

Owner: Margarita Vartanyan
Address: 1628 Huntley Rd, Bellingham
Tasting Room Hours: Thursday – Sunday, April 1- Oct. 30, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 1 – March 31, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Phone: 360.756.6770
Website: Vewinery.com

Margarita Vartanyan’s family has been making wine for generations in her native Armenia. Margarita tries to make her winery a versatile location, and opening it to all sorts of community events. Local artists are often featured on the walls and live music takes place on the outside patio for all to enjoy. The art and concerts have become a staple of the location to go along with the wine. People are encouraged to drop by, bring a picnic meal and enjoy the local flavor.

Q. What types of wine do you produce?
A. Both white and red, but mostly red. Syrah, Merlot and different blends.

Q. How did you get started?
A. My family was in the wine-making business. I loved to make wine in Armenia. My grandmother, grand grandmother, they were making wine for centuries. I guess it was 18 years ago when I started.

Q. Is there a story behind the name?
A. Vartanyan is a very classic Armenian last name. Half of Armenia has this last name. In Armenian it means “rose.”

Q. Do your grow your own grapes?
A. Mostly we bring grapes from Eastern Washington. We planted our vines but just a couple of years ago. It takes at least five years, hopefully. It depends on the weather. If it’s like last year, it will take seven years.

Q. How long do you age your wines?
A. Red wines I age at least 18 months in barrels. That’s minimal. Some wines I age up to 36 to 40 months.

Q. What have been your best vintages?
A. They are all best. (Laughs)

Q. Have you won any awards?
A. I don’t apply for them because we are a very small production. Sometimes it’s quite minimal in cases, so it doesn’t make sense.

 

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SKAGIT

Tulip Valley Winery

Owner: Ector DeLeon
Address: 16163 Washington 536, Mount Vernon.
Tasting Room Hours: Fri., Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone: 360.428.6894
Website: Tulipvalley.net

Ector DeLeon got involved in wine making after serving in the military and doing a couple tours
in Iraq. He’s slightly new to the business and says that he’s always growing and learning. DeLeon
prides Tulip Valley on its laid-back and welcoming atmosphere as well as being community-focused. He credits the winery with helping him to adjust to post-military life and aiding him in getting past various physical ailments that he sustained during his service.

Q. What types of wine do you produce?
A. Pinot Noir. We also have an English and French cider orchard. We do Chardonnay here, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sangiovese. Next year I’ll have a Tempranillo out. I’m working on a Merlot, and I’m going to release my Sangiovese later this year.

Q. How did you get started?
A. I started about six years ago after I retired from the military. My partner Carl Inglebreath, who started this about eight years ago, bought the land and we became good friends. I learned how to make wine with him. Then I got the opportunity to make cider and I ended up making the (award-winning) Burro Loco.

Q. How long have you been producing wine?
A. We actually harvested our fruit for the first time in, I believe, about 2007. You know, you can get fruit off a vine in about two years but you don’t get the quality of fruit that you want. We wanted it to grow a little bit stronger so we grabbed it around the six-year mark.

Q. What is the winery’s volume of production every year?
A. We’re about 1,000 cases a year.

Q. Do your grow your own grapes?
A. Basically we grow Pinot Noir here, but I also make more than one wine. I do buy fruit from other
vineyards around the area and also from Eastern Washington. There’ll be more your German-, Austrian and French-region type grapes on this side, the cooler climate grapes.

Q. How long do you age your wines?
A. Anywhere from a year to two years, sometimes three. It depends on the varietal and where the wine’s at in stages. I like to sit my Pinot Noir in a bottle for a year before I release it to the public.

Q. Have you won any awards? If so, from where and what year?
A. In 2007 our Burro Loco took gold and Best in Show in the World Cider Competition. Burro Loco’s probably our highest-awarded cider here. Red Barn Cider has taken a lot of golds, and our wines have taken golds, silvers and bronzes.

 

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WOODINVILLE

JM Cellars

Owners: John and Peggy Bigelow
Address: 14404 137th Place NE,
Woodinville
Tasting Room Hours: Fri., Sat. & Sun.
12-5 p.m.
Phone: 425.485.6508
Website: jmcellars.com

John and Margaret (Peggy) Bigelow have owned and operated JM Cellars for 13 years, and is
a winery worth the visit. John, a software executive, unplugged in 1998 to pursue his life passion for wine and create something tangible that he could enjoy throughout his life.

Q. How did you get started?
A. In 1998 we converted the basement of our Laurelhurst home into a winery producing 100 cases
for our own enjoyment. We were encouraged to create a second vintage of 350 cases known as Tre Fanciulli… JM Cellars was born.
Q. The winery setting is beautiful, what’s the story?
A. The winery sits on seven acres of beautifully landscaped property, known as Bramble Bump. It is
part of the property that once included St. Michelle Winery and was a dairy farm. The previous owners had a passion for horticulture, so there are walking trails, a bocce ball  field and places to sit while you enjoy our wines. It is a great setting for an event or wedding.

Q. Of all the wines you produce, do you have a favorite?
A. As a winemaker I don’t or shouldn’t have a favorite but that being said I do have one often referred to as our signature wine, “Tre,” originally “Tre Fanciulli,” which means three boys, named after our sons.

Q. Where do you source your grapes?
A. We source our grapes from nine different vineyards in the Eastern Washington Region as well as own 40 acres on the southern border of the Walla Walla Appellation known as “Margaret’s Vineyard.” Here we planted 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec.

Q. How is your wine aged?
A. We age blends in stainless steel and utilize French Oak barrels for the other varietals. We never use one barrel more than two times. This preserves the quality you get from using Oak. We then sell the barrels and purchase new ones. The larger fermenting barrels are used for eight cycles then replaced.

Q. What is the winery’s volume?
A. We produce 5,000 cases a year, featuring high-quality wines styled for balance, power, dimension and finesse.

 

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WOODINVILLE

Adams Bench

Owners: Tim and Erika Blue
Address: 14360 160th Place NE, Woodinville
Tasting Room Hours: To schedule a tasting, call the winery or email info@adamsbench.com
Phone: 425.408.1969
Website: adamsbench.com

Tim and Erika Blue opened Adams Bench Winery in June 2006. Starting out as home winemakers in the early 2000’s, Tim’s passion for agriculture and Erika’s passion and curiosity for chemistry took over. Finding the perfect balance between the art and science of wine-making, they successfully produce some of the areas premier wines.

Q. What types of wine do you produce?
A. The winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends. In the near future we will be planting Chardonnay vines on our property here in Woodinville that will produce grapes for a sparkling wine.

Q. Where do you source your grapes?
A. Our grapes come from areas within Eastern Washington. We source grapes from seven vineyards across the Columbia Valley region including Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Frenchman Hills and Northern Columbia Valley.

Q. Is there a story behind the name?
A. Adams Bench is named after the “disciplinary bench” that was located outside the principal’s office of my elementary school attended by most of my family in Warsaw, IN. My grandfather and father attended the school and my father taught me as a fifth grader. When the school was being demolished at 100 years the family was contacted to see if there was any object we wanted to keep. The bench used often by my father now sits in the tasting room of our winery.

Q. How is your wine aged?
A. All our fruit is hand-picked into shallow bins. The grapes are de-stemmed, but left uncrushed, and the whole berries fermented in small, open top stainless steel fermentation tanks, with twice daily punch downs. We press to taste, using an upright stainless steel hydraulic basket press. It is then aged in 100% French Oak barrels.

Q. What is the winery’s volume?
A. Producing 1,000 cases a year, we specialize in very low yields and timing of the harvest.

 

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SNOHOMISH

Port Gardner Bay

Owner: Chris and Linneá Covington
Address: 42802 Rockefeller Ave, Everett
Tasting Room Hours: Thurs. – Sun., 4:30 p.m – 10 p.m.
Phone: 425.339.0293
Website: portgardnerbaywinery.com

Chris and Linneá Covington started Port Gardner Bay Winery in their home in 2009. It wasn’t long before they started making headlines. The Covington’s had gone through proper channels to start the business in their home but a neighbor complained, Chris says. A year ago they moved to their current location in downtown Everett. Now, Chris, a structural-engineer, and Linneá, who worked in psychology, are owners of one of the top-rated evening getaways in Everett.

Q. What types of wine do you produce?
A. We’ve got three whites: a Chardonnay, a Riesling and a Gewürztraminer, and on the red side we have Malbec, Merlot, Sangiovese, Carmenere, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and the Port Gardner Bay Red, which is 60 percent Sangiovese and 40 percent Petite Syrah.

Q.How did you get started?
A. We were to the point we were drinking too much wine and our palates were improving over time so we decided to try and make wine. We started making wine, made a few mistakes, and drank it anyway.

Q. How long have you been producing wine?
A. In 2005; we started in the garage and made 90 gallons. The next year we bumped it up to four barrels, then it was 12 barrels and then 16 barrels. Then we moved to our new facility.

Q. Is there a story behind the name?
A. We wanted to be local. Linneá came up with the name Port Gardner Bay, which is the bay right out in front of Everett. We thought, “Can’t get much more local than that.”

Q. How long do you age your wines?
A. Whites age for a year, reds are two and Syrahs are three. That is bare minimum, the longer the better.

Q. Where do you get your grapes from? What varieties?
A. (Linnea) It is exciting because we get our grapes at the same place as the big boys, like Northstar. (Chris) All but the Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Bordeaux grapes. Sangiovese is the main wine of Italy and the Tempranillo is the main wine of Spain.

Q.What have been your best vintages?
A. 2009. It was the warmest year. That was my first commercial year. We had other years; 2007 was a good year for wine, 2005 was a fabulous year for wine, but 2004 we lost everything because of the frost. You’re in the farming business when you’re a winemaker, and you’re tied to that big time.

August/September 2012 Bellingham Alive/North Sound Life