Like many areas in Western Washington, Whatcom County has seen a steady increase in the number of wineries. This far north region of the Puget Sound Appellation is now home to 10 wineries, and along with two distilleries, they’ve collaborated to form the Whatcom Winery and Distillery Association.
Association wineries stretch from Bellingham north to the Canadian border and from Lummi Island east along the Mount Baker Highway. A visit to the area offers wine enthusiasts the unique opportunity to take in the spectacular natural beauty of Western Washington while sampling premium wines along the way.
Aware of the advantages of working together, Tracey DeGraff of Blaine’s GLM Wine Company notes, “We’ve recognized that we’re stronger in a group than we are individually. Our resources are pooled for advertising and marketing, especially for special events such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and October Harvest and Crush.”
DeGraff’s husband, Tom Davis, who’s Vice President of the Association, has designed a brochure titled, “The Whatcom Wine & Spirits Trail,” which is available at all member wineries and distilleries. The brochure serves as a handy reference guide with tasting room hours, an area map, and driving directions.
The brochure also includes a wine and spirits passport. Visitors who collect passport stamps from eight of the 12 members earn a generous 20% discount on any purchase.
Dynasty Cellars is a great place to begin your Whatcom County wine tasting adventure. Peter and Olga Osvaldik and their family are always gracious hosts while serving wines that are hugely popular with local wineophiles.
Although they currently offer Riesling and Rosé, red wines have always been Dynasty’s forte, and these big, full-bodied wines have been sourced almost exclusively from Les Collines and Pepper Bridge Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.
Originating in Prosser, Masquerade Wine Company moved to Bellingham in 2007 and became the city’s first urban winery. The husband-and-wife team of Bill and Jennifer Kimmerly produce a number of wines using Columbia Valley, Red Mountain and Willamette Valley grapes.
Masquerade’s signature wine is the Effervescing Elephant, a sparkling blend of three classic Champagne region grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.
Tucked away in a quiet, wooded area near Lake Whatcom and just minutes from Bellingham is Inyo Vineyard & Winery. In addition to the current releases of Riesling, Syrah and three red wine blends, Owner/Winemaker Charles Terranova also offers a white wine blend that combines Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe grapes harvested from the winery’s small estate vineyard.
Bellingham’s newest winery, Coach House Cellars, features the talents of Paxton Rembert and Scott Whitman. The duo has graduated from making wines in Rembert’s garage to bona fide, and recognized, boutique winery operators.
Their Yakima and Columbia Valley-sourced wines have included Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, and a highly touted Cabernet Sauvignon.
JUST OFF THE MOUNT BAKER HIGHWAY
Owner Randy Finley supplies over 30 years of experience in the wine industry at Mount Baker Vineyards. Whatcom County’s largest winery is located about 10 miles northeast of Bellingham near the town of Deming. It was originally established in 1982, making it one of the state’s oldest.
Mount Baker Vineyards produces a wide array of varietals and also features bottlings from its own vineyards located just steps from the tasting room. Estate varietals include cool-weather grapes such as Pinot Noir, Muller Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Chasselas, and Madeline Angevine.
At Vartanyan Estate Winery, Siberia native Margarita Vartanyan continues a family tradition of winemaking experience as owner and operator.
Although Vartanyan does a nice job with varietals such Chardonnay, Merlot, and Malbec, her standout wine is the Trilogia. This combination of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot is aged in Russian, French and American oak barrels and is perfect for long-term cellaring.
Samson Estates Winery is a must-stop destination for those who enjoy fruit-based wines. Winemaker Rob Dhaliwal crafts a number of vibrant, fragrant wines using raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and black currants in both artisan fruit and fortified dessert styles.
If fruit wines aren’t your preference, Samson also offers traditional grape varietals including Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.
Just a stone’s throw from the Canadian Border is GLM Wine Company. The cozy, pristine garagistes-style production and tasting room includes wines made from Yakima Valley and Umpqua Valley grapes.
Winemaker Tom Davis specializes in innovative, forward-thinking, “outside-the-box” wines including a Marsanne enrobed with Cabernet Sauvignon; and his La Robe Chardonnay, which combines the juice of the Chardonnay grapes with the skins of previously pressed Gamay Noir, resulting in a wine with all the color and tannins of a red.
Immensely popular with the locals is Dakota Creek Winery, which is owned and operated by yet another husband-and-wife team, Ken and Jill Peck.
Dakota Creek’s wine list is as varied as its fan base, and the Pecks do an excellent job of making sure their guests leave happy. Current releases include Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Malbec, and two signature red wine blends, the Firefighter Red and Jill’s Blend.
Winemaker Larry Smith invites you to visit Legoe Bay Winery, located on the west shore of scenic Lummi Island.
Accessing the island is just a short, 10-minute ferry ride across Hale Passage near Bellingham Bay. Take a side trip to nearby Artisan Wine Gallery, visit Legoe Bay Winery, and then enjoy lunch or dinner at the Beach Store Café for a stellar Whatcom County day trip.
For additional information and links to all Whatcom Winery Association wineries as well as its two distilleries – Bellewood Distilling and Mount Baker Distillery – go to whatcomwineries.com.
Coach House Cellars
(360) 389-0884 coachhousecellars.com
Dakota Creek Winery
(360) 820-4752 dakotacreekwinery.com
(360) 758-2958 or (360) 758-7919 dynastycellarswine.com
GLM Wine Company
(360) 332-2097 or (778) 881-6718 glmwine.com
Inyo Vineyard & Winery
(360) 647-0441 inyowine.com
Legoe Bay Winery
(360) 758-9992 or (425) 985-2710 legoebaywinery.com
Masquerade Wine Company
(360) 220-7072 or (509) 416-6277 masqueradewines.com
Mount Baker Vineyards
(360) 592-2300 mountbakervineyards.com
Samson Estates Winery
(360) 966-7787 samsonestates.com
Vartanyan Estate Winery
(360) 756-6770 or (360) 961-9484 vewinery.com
(360) 318-7720 bellewoodfarms.com
Mount Baker Distillery
(360) 734-3301 mountbakerdistillery.com