My tour of the Olympic Peninsula wineries: A scenic journey everyone should take in Washington

It’s December 5th, 2009 and it’s a chilly but sunny day in Washington. For a change of pace, I decided to plan an adventure to the Olympic Peninsula wine region and invited Lisa to come along for the journey. This trip involves a combination of a ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston and an hour to an hour and half drive to the Port Angeles area. Along the way, we passed a series of ports and small cities that you’d never know existed unless ya took the drive:

Port Gamble, WA

The first thing you notice is the Victorian style homes that line the streets of this historic city. If you’re a history buff or just want to know more about the history or Washington, this is a great place to stop. Here is a small paragraph from the Port Gamble Historic Museum website:

Experience this waterfront jewel of the Kitsap Peninsula situated on the shores of scenic Hood Canal. Explore the 120-acre National Historic Landmark complete with picturesque, turn-of-the-century buildings filled with antiques, a historic church, breathtaking views, expansive grounds and New England style houses on maple and elm tree-lined streets.

Founded in 1853, by Maine businessmen Andrew Pope and William Talbot, Port Gamble was the longest continuously operating mill town in North America. Authentically restored and operated by Pope Resources, Port Gamble is the only remaining company owned mill town in Puget Sound. We invite you to visit our unique shops and Sunday markets, explore our trails, exchange vows, celebrate an event, or simply take a leisurely stroll and relive history.

The Hood Canal Floating Bridge

The Hood Canal Floating Bridge has a history of its own. It’s one of the largest floating bridges in the world (ranked #3) and it’s used by many in Washington. The views from this bridge are spectacular and worth having your passenger take pictures for you while you drive (can’t remember if there is any stopping points on either side of the bridge). Due to a wind storm in 1979 which sunk the bridge, it needed to be replaced in two major projects. The west half was replaced in 1982 and the east half was just replaced last year.

Discovery Bay

When you reach this point of the drive on historic Highway 101, you’ll notice a lot of the native culture from the Klallam. I would suggest you do a search about their culture of the area to find out more. Very interesting read.

Sequim, WA

The last major city before Port Angeles is probably the most interesting. Not only does it have a unique charm, but it also has a very interesting site:

Bandy’s Troll Haven, http://www.trollhaven.org The Troll Haven is a private residence but a few lucky souls have the opportunity to tour or stay at one of the residences. I didn’t get a chance to see the site, but I will definitely make an attempt. Check out the website and look at all the pictures!

Now, onto the Wineries

Harbinger Winery

Harbinger Winery is a great winery to start your wine tour off with or end it. They have a nice collection of wines and the staff was very friendly. Although it was a slow day for a wine tasting, we were greeted by stories of the winery and the surrounding area. I would’ve easily walked away with a case of all their wines, but I had to restrain myself and decided to pick up these wines:

Harbinger Winery 2008 Rosé De Mourvédre (Kiona Vineyard, Appellation Red Mountain)
Like the bright coral flash of an upriver-bound salmon this snappy rosé will demand a second look. Bright berry cobbler-like aromas waft into the senses, neutralizing one’s prejudice towards the color pink. While retaining its delicate qualities of rose water and spice cake, laser-like acidity cuts through the fluff and reminds us all why rose is the #1 selling wine in France.

Harbinger Winery Dynamo Red
Our newly released Syrah blend has proven its worth as a value wine yet again with its most recent accolade of a double gold from the West Coast Wine Competition in San Francisco. Incredibly approachable, this wine exhibits velvety layers of rich fruit, supple tannins, and enough zip to keep the marriage happy.

Harbinger Winery 2008 Viognier (Two Coyote Vineyard, Mariposa Vineyard)
These two varietals have been forever vying for top spot. Viognier loves to pour on the fruit, but isn’t interested in structure, while Roussanne can sometimes be a bit like a couple of my engineer friends— so focused on load support they forget to stop and smell the honeysuckle. This wine boasts exceptionally heady aromas of tropical fruit, ripe pear, lemon custard, and exotic spices. The rich, round mouth feel stays crisp and clean though. 76% Viognier, 24% Roussanne.

Harbinger Winery Cranberry Bliss
She’s back! Everyone’s favorite holiday party girl is boasting a new style this year. This lively blend of our Rosé, barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Cranberry Wine is sexy in a way that you may be embarrassed to tell your friends about! Bright cranberry and toasty oak flavors make this wine irresistibly sassy and undeniably northwest in its uniqueness.

Harbinger Winery 2008 Blackberry Bliss (Graymarsh Farms)
Barrel-fermented in American oak gives this fruit wine the depth and sophistication of a timeless Bordeaux. Whether you sip wine ceremoniously as a toast to your Northwest adventure, or pick it up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, it’s guaranteed to bring a smile to any occasion.

Black Diamond Winery

Black Diamond is a small winery best known for its fruit wines from rhubarb to loganberry and all berries in between. While I did walk away with a few bottles, I did want to share my honest experience at the winery.  Anytime I visit a winery, I always look for a few basic things:

  • What they do well?
  • What bottles can I purchase now and/or in the future?
  • Are they a good fit for my future wine tours and/or wine tasting series events?
  • Can I offer my personal endorsement?

I really hate to say this, but in the case of Black Diamond Winery, I can’t do many of these things. I honestly believe that when you visit any winery, you can taste the passion and soul of the product that’s produced. Based on my overall experience, I didn’t taste or feel any of this. When comparing Black Diamond’s fruit wines to Pasek Cellars Winery fruit wines, Pasek wins in a landslide. The conversation in the tasting room was very dry and lacked a friendly or inviting environment. For these reasons, I would say Black Diamond Winery is not a good fit for any wine related activities we have  and I cannot offer my personal endorsement. As I mentioned before, I did purchase some product, but it was mainly in support of Washington wineries (Sorry, no tasting notes on these):

Black Diamond Winery Strawberry Rhubarb Wine
Black Diamond Winery 2008 Muller Thurgau
Black Diamond Winery Cranberry Wine
Black Diamond Winery 2007 Syrah

Olympic Cellars Winery

This winery is one of my top picks for this region and a stop you must make if you’re in the area. Olympic Cellars is the first winery in the region owned by women and they’re branding reflects this. The ladies of the tasting room are really friendly and very fun to chat with. Here is what I brought home:

Olympic Cellars Winery 2007 Dungeness Red
Our 100% Lemberger is known for its bouquet reminiscent of cherry cobbler, with tart, zesty acidity and big cherry notes on the finish. Pairs extremely well with Halibut and Salmon and food off the grill.

Olympic Cellars Winery 2008 Dungeness White
Our best-selling semi-sweet Riesling. Intensely aromatic with loads of fresh juicy peaches & green apple notes.

Olympic Cellars Winery Handyman Red (Working Girl Wines Series
Big & bold, Bordeaux Blend. Pairs equally well with a cigar … and, chocolate for us ladies.

Olympic Cellars Winery 2007 My Sweet Syrah
Similar to the French Côtes du Rhône (Syrah and Viognier), ours is ‘Washington style’ with Riesling. Port-like without the high alcohol: lush, smooth, a bit lighter than a varietal Syrah and semi-sweet. The sweetness lingers on you lips… like a first kiss.

Eaglemount Wine & Cider

The last stop on our tour was Eaglemount Wine & Cider. I was looking forward to this stop because you can never have enough good cider in your cellar. The sad part was most of their stock was sold out due to popularity. Nevertheless, after the release season, this is a stop you’ll want to make. The wines were also close to being sold out as well, but there were still a few bottles of their great wines left. Although I only walked out with two items, I’ll be back for more:

Eaglemount Wine 2007 Osprey
A Bordeaux style Merlot blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. A Reserve wine.

Eaglemount Cyser (Cider)
Cyser is a hard cider fermented and sweetened with honey. Semi-sweet

Another great trip in the books! This trip ended my wine tour season for the year. I had a lot of fun checking out the various wineries and met a lot of great people. In my next note, I’ll tell you about the wild adventure I had on my first wine tour of Woodinville Wine Country. I’ll admit that I avoided this area because I love to travel. However, I realized that this area was well worth multiple visits. More to come soon!

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