Peninsula winemaker putting a cork in career
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Richard Sorensen shows off some of his wine for sale at The Wine Seller in Port Townsend.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND –– Having aged to perfection, one of the North Olympic Peninsula's original winemakers has decided to stick a cork in his career.

“At some point, it doesn't get any better,” said Richard Sorensen, who has been bottling his own wine under the Sorensen Cellars label for the past 15 years.

Now 68, Sorensen is retiring from the grape game, having closed the doors on his Port Townsend winery and selling equipment to other area winemakers.

Though he said he loved picking grapes, crushing them and creating his own special style of wine, Sorensen admitted the business had its drawbacks.

“I guess it's been fun. If washing and scrubbing and cleaning equipment is fun for you,” Sorensen said.

The Olympic Peninsula Enological Society celebrated Sorensen's retirement with a dinner and wine tasting Sunday in the Gardiner Community Center, 980 Old Gardiner Road.

Food was provided by Cafe Bon Appetit of Fort Worden State Park.

Sorensen uncorked several bottles from his cellar, including a merlot from his rookie batch.

“I just opened a 1998 to see how it was holding up, and it was terrific,” he said. “There's still a lot of life left in those bottles.”

Sorensen began making wine at his Port Townsend facility 1998, when the state's wine industry was in its infancy.

His liquor bond, a certificate issued winemakers, was No. 135. Today, there are more than 740 wineries that hold bonds through the state Liquor Control Board.

“That was pretty early. A lot of the farmers were still learning how to grow wine grapes,” he said.

Sorensen got his grapes from vineyards in central and eastern Washington, now acclaimed around the world for their production.

His first vintage came from grapes grown by Andrew Will's Ciel du Cheval vineyard on the Red Mountain appellation outside Benton City.

In those days, growers focused their growing efforts on quantity, trying to produce as grapes as possible.

With feedback from winemakers like Sorensen, though, they realized that quality would be more important, and began to prune their vines to give the grapes room to properly mature and ripen.

Along with the now nine other Peninsula wineries, Sorensen Cellars helped establish a loop for wine lovers to hit on the peninsula.

“It's a really great, a really friendly network,” Sorensen said. “I know it really helped to have those other wineries in the area.”

“People won't come up just to go to one winery, but will if they can make a day, or a weekend out of going from winery to winery, tasting at each one.”

Sorensen's wines have been carried at several restaurants and grocery stores on the Peninsula and in the metro Seattle area.

He still has cases of his last batches in a storage facility south of Port Townsend, and he still supplies restaurants and grocery stores through his distributor.

“It's been more fun than I really imagined, in all honesty,” he said.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: September 08. 2013 6:31PM
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