Wind your way from Port Townsend to Port Angeles and you might notice something unexpected for that corner of the state.
Eight wineries and tasting rooms dot the landscape of the Olympic Peninsula, which is about as far away as one can get in the state from where most of Washington’s wine grapes are grown. Not that proximity to grapes matters all that much, because despite where the grapes are grown, wineries operate successfully all over Western Washington — even in Port Angeles. And, yes, grapes do grow on the Olympic Peninsula.
It takes only a few days to explore all of the Olympic Peninsula wine loop, which makes the outing an ideal fall getaway.
For the traveler who prefers something more organized, book a weekend tour from Nov. 7-8 for the Olympic Peninsula Wineries Harvest Wine Tour (see accompanying box for details) for a weekend filled with activities at each participating winery.
Port Angeles is the perfect place to make wine. The temperature is perfect; it’s nature’s air conditioning here; it never gets too hot or too cold.
Don Corson, Camaraderie Cellars
Everywhere I stopped on a recent tour, I found inviting tasting rooms run by knowledgeable staff happy to share local lore or wine tales. Most had working wineries attached to the tasting rooms, and gaining entry to the barrel rooms and wine-making areas was as easy as asking for a quick tour.
The wineries I visited ranged from a small do-it-yourself Port Townsend operation with a sealer crafted out of a toaster oven, to a Port Angeles winery with beautifully landscaped grounds perfect for a picnic.
Most are open every weekend, some on weekdays (although hours dwindle at some wineries as fall slips into winter, so check before you visit). Expect around a $5 tasting fee at each stop, but many waive that fee with a bottle purchase. And speaking of bottles, while visiting, get familiar with wine clubs sponsored by the wineries. Club members receive invitations to member-only functions and score first dibs on coveted bottles.
Here, take a tour of six Peninsula wineries with me, and check out a few more at the end of the story that will participate in the Harvest Wine Tour.
Tasting room hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
Moments after walking into the arty looking Harbinger Winery tasting room — framed in shimmery metal siding and holding a collection of funky upholstered chairs — cellar master Dave Shillington extended an invitation to the warehouse winemaking area where owner/winemaker Sara Gagnon was leading “Team Bolero,” winery volunteers assisting with a bottling of the winery’s Bolero (a tempranillo-grenache blend).
The beauty of a tiny winery is that an owner is around to share the winery’s story, which in this case is a long-rooted Port Angeles tale. About 15 years ago, Gagnon became an apprentice at nearby Olympic Cellars and within six months was head winemaker at age 29 and among the youngest female winemakers in the state at the time. She founded Harbinger in 2005.
Wines: Barbera, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petite syrah, rose, viognier, chardonnay, and fruit wines made from raspberry and blackberry.
Olympic Cellars Winery
Tasting room: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Many might recognize this winery by its Working Girl label. Those popular wines are one of the labels at the winery operated out of an expansive converted 125-year-old barn that holds a wine barrel and production area, as well as side-by-side tasting/sitting rooms. The winery bills itself as one of the original 15 wineries in the state if one traces the history to its founding as Neuharth Winery, under original owner Gene Neuharth in Sequim. Dan Caudil took it over after Neuharth’s death, renamed it Olympic Cellars, and moved to Port Angeles. Kathy Charlton took over the winery about 15 years ago, and Lisa and Tom Martin purchased it in 2014 with Lisa’s aunt and uncle, Patricia and Steve Green, and family friend David Ikeda.
Wines: Cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel, lemberger, riesling, chardonnay, and a cranberry and port-style wine.
Tasting room: Open by appointment in fall and winter, except for Olympic Peninsula Wineries open house events. Open weekends in spring and summer.
Sculpture gardens, beautiful landscaping and occasional live musical performances — Camaraderie Cellars is a terrific respite. It’s also the retirement business of Don and Vicki Corson. Vicki also is the president of the Olympic Peninsula Wineries association.
They founded the winery in 1992. They were drawn here by Don’s job as a vice president at a timber company and decided to stay because of the area’s beautiful surroundings. As Don said on my visit, “Port Angeles is the perfect place to make wine. The temperature is perfect; it’s nature’s air conditioning here; it never gets too hot or too cold.” The duo also are devoted patrons of the arts. Their Rhapsody in Red wine doubles as a fundraiser for the Port Angeles Symphony.
Wines: Merlot, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, sangiovese, tempranillo, pinot gris and a number of blends.
Wind Rose Cellars
Tasting room: 1-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 1-9 p.m. Friday; noon-9 p.m. Saturday.
David Volmut and Jennifer States have created a community-hub/tasting room right in the middle of downtown Sequim.
Their winery operates near the Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim, but the winery is closed to the public for now. By next summer, the winery is hoping to be open for touring.
The best times to visit the tasting room are Friday and Saturday nights when they offer light snacks and live music to draw in locals and visitors. Wind Rose also turned out to be the best location on this trip for gathering restaurant tips from patrons and the tasting room manager.
Check the winery’s website for the music schedule.
This winery, which opened in 2011, features Italian style wines made from Italian variety grapes grown in Washington (about 90 percent of its grapes are from Yakima).
Wines: Dolcetto, barbera, nebbiolo, primitivo, pinot grigio, muscato.
Eaglemount Wine and Cider
Tasting room: Noon-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Part winery, part cidery, Eaglemount is a dual purpose business and now has dual locations. The open-to-the-public tasting room is on the former Palindrome grounds on Jacob Miller Road. (The location was formerly an events center and bed-and-breakfast.) The new location is spacious in contrast to the tiny, yet cozy, tasting room nestled on the homestead of Eaglemount’s orchards. That tasting room is no longer open to the public.
The winery and cidery was founded almost 10 years ago by Jim and Trudy Davis.
Wines: Cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and Bordeaux style blends.
Ciders: Quince, ginger apple, dry, semi-sweet and meads.
1984 Hastings Ave. W., Port Townsend; 360-385-6899; fairwindswinery.com.
Tasting room: Noon-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
He’s part winemaker and part MacGyver. Micheal Cavett will proudly show you the capsule sealer he saved hundreds of dollars on by making himself. It’s a converted toaster oven and one of several pieces of classic or hand crafted equipment — all backed by terrific tales — at Cavett’s 22-year-old winery. Cavett, who owns the winery with wife Judy, began making wine in 1993 and was the first to establish a winery in Jefferson County. The winery is tough to miss. Just look for the oversize barn off Hastings Avenue West. Tours of the working winery behind the standing-room-only tasting room are gladly given by Cavett, just ask.
Wines: Cabernet sauvignon, lemberger, gewurztraminer, a port-style dessert wine and fireweed mead.
ADDITIONAL WINERIES AND CIDERIES AT HARVEST TOUR
OLYMPIC PENINSULA WINERIES HARVEST WINE TOUR
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 7-8.
Where: Participating wineries and cideries on the Olympic Peninsula.
Wineries and cideries: Alpenfire Cider, Camaraderie Cellars, Eaglemount Wine and Cider, FairWinds Winery, Finnriver Farm and Cidery, Harbinger Winery, Lullaby Winery, Marrowstone Vineyards, Olympic Cellars, Wind Rose Cellars.
What: A self-guided tour of the 10 participating businesses.
Tickets: $25 in advance (purchase online) or $30 at the door. Must be 21 to purchase tickets and participate in wine tastings. Tickets come with a commemorative glass plus wine tastings and food pairings at each stop.
Kids: Children are permitted in tasting rooms.
Extras: Live music will be performed at many of the tasting rooms.
Wine: Special wine releases are planned at many of the wineries.
Information and tickets: olympicpeninsulawineries.org.