The delicious aroma of paella cooking over an open fire mixed perfectly with the sweet smell of the summer air. The wine was selected to pair with the food and the setting was more like a garden party than a winery. Amelia Wynn Winery was my first stop of seven Bainbridge Island wineries during the quarterly, two-day wine event Wine on the Rock.
Paella was the dish winemaker Paul Bianchi chose to pair with his delicious 2016 rosé made from tempranillo grapes. This dry, Provencal-style rosé has aromas of rose petals, fresh strawberry and wet stone with flavors of pear and white peach.
The event ran for two days and featured live music, fabulous food pairings and wine at each of the seven Bainbridge Island wineries. The July 22-23 event marked the one-year anniversary the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island hosting Wine on the Rock. Each winery on the island was unique and brought a fresh perspective on Washington wine.
My next stop was the new location for Eagle Harbor Wine Co. This is one of the oldest wineries on the island, but the newest winery location, boasting a beautiful tasting room. The 2013 Condor, a merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend from Walla Walla, was a stunner with flavors of tart black plum, cassis and vanilla, accompanied by an earthy undertone.
Owner and winemaker Emily Parsons was at the winery and gave all visitors a behind-the-scenes tour. A half a mile down the road, before the winery was even in sight, I could hear husband and wife duo Champagne Sunday playing self-described “Pearl Jam meets Bette Midler” music on the patio of Fletcher Bay Winery. This winery is located in a beverage lover’s paradise next to a brewery, distillery and coffee roaster.
Winemaker Jim Wilford was behind the bar pouring wine and his wife (who really should moonlight as a standup comedian) shared the history of the winery while pouring future releases. This winery has a beautiful, newly remodeled tasting room with a Cheers kind of vibe — everyone is welcome and everyone knows your name.
At the winemaker’s recommendation, I tried the 2015 Columbia Valley Riesling and was blown away. Not too sweet, this wine was crisp and refreshing with flavors or pear, apricot and melon — a perfect summer sipper.
Making my way east across Highway 305, I was excited to visit Rolling Bay Winery’s new location and see the work in progress on the new tasting room, which opens Labor Day weekend.
A few steps from the tasting room is the winery itself, housing hundreds of barrels of cabernet franc, old-vine cabernet sauvignon and syrah, just to name a few. Alphonse de Klerk, a veteran winemaker, was on hand providing barrel samples and selling futures of his wine, sourced from some of the oldest vineyards in Washington state.
Next stop: Eleven Winery, the largest winery on Bainbridge Island with a vast wine list and home of the best red wine in the state, the 2015 Malbec, awarded by the 2017 Washington State Wine Competition. With 16 wines on the list, there is something for everyone at this fun, bicycle-themed winery.
Bainbridge Vineyards and Perennial Vintners are the only two Bainbridge Island wineries that grow grapes right on the island. The cool maritime climate produces unique, low-alcohol, high-acid varietals like siegerrebe, madeleine angevine, muller thurgau and melon de bourgogne.
Bainbridge Vineyards is a 6-acre, organic, 100 percent estate-grown winery that was the place to be for folk music and a picturesque picnic setting. Its resident chef was serving farm-fresh kale salad and caramelized onion tart, with ingredients sourced from the adjacent farm.
Rounding out my seven-winery tasting experience was Perennial Vintners. Mike Lempriere is the grower, owner and winemaker running a one-man show and making wines from the smallest commercial vineyard in Washing state, 2.5 acres. Part of the tasting includes a vineyard tour and fascinating history lesson on Bainbridge Island as well as the Puget Sound AVA.
The Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island is the organization representing all seven Bainbridge Island wineries and is the driving force behind the Wine on the Rock event, which happens four times a year. What makes these events unique is that the winemaker is often the one pouring the wine and sharing winemaking and grape-growing expertise. I heard first-hand how varietals like melon de bourgogne and siegerrebe are grown with passion on Bainbridge Island by Perennial Vintners and how horses are used to plow the vineyards at Bainbridge Vineyards. The passion is obvious; what isn’t so obvious is what hidden gems theses wineries are.
Wine on the Rock is a great way to experience all seven wineries, each event hosting a different theme. Don’t miss the next event with wine and charcuterie, Nov. 11 and 12. For more information, visit www.bainbridgewineries.com.