Stretching from Port Angeles to Sequim and Port Townsend, the Olympic Peninsula wineries trail give you a chance to experience the local scene and landscape in a very different visceral way than your experience in the park. Before you take a sip in one of the tasting rooms, breathe in the rich aroma of the wine you are about to taste. It’s likely you’ll catch floral or herbal scents or hints of honeysuckles, pears, plums, freshly cut apples, violets and perhaps even oak and wet stone, all descriptors Washington Wine Report founder Sean Sullivan has used to describe various Washington wines.
“The best things in life are meant to be shared, and we really believe that,” says Vicki Corson, co-owner of Camaraderie Cellars in Port Townsend and president of the Olympic Peninsula Wineries Association. “It’s why the name we chose, Camaraderie Cellars, fits. It’s about the whole experience.”
On the wineries and cideries trail, you’ll find yourself immersed in a vibrant local scene of people committed to introducing travelers to the wonderful products they’ve crafted, as well as offering great advice on must-see area attractions. Along the way, you’ll discover Alpenfire Orchard & Cidery, Camaraderie Cellars, Eaglemount Wine & Cider, FairWinds Winery, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Harbinger Winery, Marrowstone Vineyards, Olympic Cellars and Wind Rose Cellars.
Washington Wine History
Growing grapes and producing wine is older than Washington state itself. When the Hudson Bay Co. planted the first grapes in the soil of what would become Washington state, it planted an idea as much as a crop. The land in this “new world” could support Old-World crops like grapes, and the French, German and Italian immigrants who settled the land planted them. Yet, it would take 135 years for the first commercial-scale grape plantings to take place in the 1960s and more years beyond that for Washington wines to flood the national market. Today, Washington ranks second in the U.S. in wine production.
The Columbia Valley is Washington’s largest grape growing region at nearly 11 million acres. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah, according to Washington State Wine. The valley is located in Washington’s eastern side known for growing grapes as it’s drier than the state’s west side.
“Washington state has a perfect growing environment with its long hot days,” Corson says. “The cool thing is you can make wine anywhere, but you cannot grow it anywhere.”
And this is why the Corsons, along with eight other wineries and cideries, have sprouted along the Pacific coast along rural roads and downtown main streets of the Olympic Peninsula. Buying grapes from the state’s east side and crafting wines on the west side enables wineries like Camaraderie to craft wines with a variety of grapes from diverse vineyards to create complex flavors.
“You can have a Cabernet grape in nine different vineyards and each one will taste different,” Corson says. “When we combine them, we have a more complex flavor.”
Olympic Peninsula Wine History
Olympic Cellars, which was started by previous owners in the 1970s, is the oldest winery on the Peninsula. Camaraderie is the next oldest, celebrating 25 years in 2017, followed by FairWinds Winery in Port Angeles, Wash, which opened in 1993 and is owned by Judy and Micheal Cavett. But like many in the wine industry, the Corsons did not start their careers off in the wine industry and in fact, both grew up in families that did not have alcohol in their homes. They discovered winemaking with friends in Seattle who bought a home kit for winemaking and over time, winemaking evolved from a hobby to a passion and a thriving business.
“We have huge hospitality genes in our families,” says Corson. “Wine was the perfect complement to what we knew and loved and cooking and entertaining.”
An oasis of warm hospitality, Camaraderie Cellars is tucked a few minutes drive off the highway with a stunning garden setting where visitors can sit outside and enjoy the scenery. But all the wineries and cideries on the Peninsula offer a unique experience. Finnriver Farm & Cidery is a family-owned organic farm, fruit winery and hard cidery owned by a duo who sailed from Brittany, France, to the United States and never left. You can sample their authentic crepes in the Finnriver Cider Garden. Alpenfire Orchard & Cidery produces the West’s first certified organic hard cider.
While the wine and cidery trail can be done in a day, Corson recommends spending two days, giving travelers time to sample the Peninsula’s thriving food and cultural scene. Be sure to check winery hours before you head out to ensure the ones you would like to visit are open. Not all wineries are open every day of the week. For driving directions, a map of the wineries and cideries and recommended itineraries, visit the Olympic Peninsula Wineries website.
For more information:
Olympic Peninsula Wineries
Article by Tori Peglar