Grapes grown on North Olympic Peninsula showing wine success

DUNGENESS — This juicy piece of the Peninsula economic puzzle bursts onto your tongue like a cool, citrusy breeze.

It’s Madeleine Angevine, the white grape that loves our weather — so much that one acre of this varietal can yield six tons of fruit and 4,000 bottles of wine.

But hold on now, Angevine’s just the beginning, said Gerard Bentryn, co-owner of Bainbridge Island Vineyards & Winery.

The North Olympic Peninsula’s microclimates can also nourish Siegerrebe and Madeleine Sylvaner — two other white wine varietals — and Regent, a red grape that ripens well in cool summers.

Bentryn, who’s harvested more than 500 tons of grapes in 31 years on Bainbridge, is among the presenters of “From Vine to Wine,” a Washington State University Extension course to be offered for the first time on April 25 and 26 in Sequim.

Grapevines are seductive, Bentryn has found. He wants to see more of them on this side of the state.

And having been to England, where he saw that grapes can grow “in the worst possible [cold weather] conditions,” he’s optimistic about the Peninsula’s future as a viticultural frontier.

People desire “a life experience,” Bentryn said.

Tourists and locals alike are already enthused about boutique wineries where they may sip locally made vintages.

And now that “there’s a winery under every toadstool,” Bentryn said, having a vineyard wrapped around the tasting room “gives us a marketing niche.”

As fuel costs climb, imported wine prices will go up, too, making local wines — from local grapes — a sweeter deal.

 “If you’re a small winery, you make money by people coming to you,” Bentryn said.

“And people may budget their travel, but they’ll still come.”

Current and would-be farmers across the Dungeness Valley are also abundantly interested in wine grapes.

Tom Miller, who planted his Dungeness Bay Vineyard in 2000, is sharing vine cuttings with neighboring farmers who want to add this crop to their repertoires.

The Graysmarsh farm in Dungeness, long beloved for its berries, has planted a few acres of grapes.

And last summer, when Olympic Cellars bottled 35 cases of Vin Nouveau made from Dungeness Bay Madeleine grapes, the wine sold out fast.

Last year Greg Jones, a Southern Oregon University climatologist who specializes in identifying good grape-growing land, completed a study of the North Olympic Peninsula.

He reported that the region is a viable place for vineyards — that will only grow better as global climate change brings warmer temperatures.

Grapes can be grown in the warmer microclimates. A microclimate is the climate of a small area that is different from the area around it. The North Olympic Peninsula has many such areas because the Olympic Mountains create “rain shadows,” and differences in elevation.

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