Winemakers have discovered the cool, maritime climate on Whidbey is perfect for cold-climate grapes, as Greg Osenbach, of Whidbey Island Winery, discovered 22 years ago when he planted his first vineyard in Langley. “People suggested I keep my day job,” recalled Osenbach, a former owner of a steel engineering firm in Monroe. There are now half a dozen wineries open on Whidbey Island, with a few more either waiting for their wines to mature or building tasting rooms.
Small family operations
Like several Whidbey winemakers, Osenbach makes white wine from grapes out of his backyard and relies on Eastern Washington grapes for his big reds. His signature estate “Island White,” an off-dry white with fruity aromas, remains his best-selling wine, and for $10, a good value and popular souvenir. Located off Langley’s main drag, Whidbey Island Winery is one of the town’s top tourist attractions, and with a picnic area, his vineyard makes for an attractive pit stop for cyclists. Often, local art exhibits are featured at the winery.
It’s easy to get to know the winemakers on Whidbey, all small producers who make 1,000 to 3,000 cases annually and grow about three to five acres of grapes. Like any mom-and-pop business, their imprint is on everything. The families pick the grapes, bottle the wine, market and run the tasting rooms.
They are winemakers such as former Navy pilot Greg Martinez of Holmes Harbor Cellars. Most men dream of flying planes; Martinez flew them to fulfill his dream of saving enough for a winery. He and his wife purchased 20 acres in Greenbank, at the center of Whidbey, on which to build his dream house and dream business. The California native makes bold reds and heavily oaked whites using grapes from Walla Walla and Yakima Valley. He is growing pinot grapes for his future estate wines.
Martinez hosts art exhibits and live bands by his vineyards and Tuscan style tasting room. But it’s more down-to-earth than grand. In evenings, neighbors often knock on his door to buy a bottle and stroll back to drink his cabernet with their meals. “Only on Whidbey”, he explains.
The beauty of boutique wineries such as Whidbey’s is that they still feel more artisan than commercialized. Only in a boutique winery would you have found a hands-on and eccentric winemaker like Frank Rayle, 70, of Greenbank Cellars, a free-spirited Southern California transplant who spread his “toys” on his five acres in the middle of the island. Frank passed away in 2009, but his estate winery and tasting room, featuring Alsatian-style wines and his barn full of two century-old peep show machines live on.
Whidbey Island Vineyards and Winery
Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach grow grapes on 7 acres on the south end of Whidbey Island. Half their wines are made from their own grapes, the rest from grapes bought in Eastern Washington. They use their own grapes to make Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe and Island White. They also make Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Lemberger, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. Located at 5237 S. Langley Road, Langley, 360-221-2040. Tasting Room open: 6 days a week Closed Tuesdays. Hours 11:00 – 5:00pm. www.whidbeyislandwinery.com
Holmes Harbor Cellars
The very definition of harmony, owners Theresa and Greg Martinez have combined their passion for art and science to create a perfectly balanced wine experience. Enjoy their Tuscan-style tasting room and estate overlooking beautiful Holmes Harbor Bay. You’ll enjoy award-winning wines, made from hand-picked grapes from only the finest vineyards in Washington state. 4591 S. Honeymoon Bay Road, Greenbank WA 98253. www.holmesharborcellars.com
Greenbank Cellars Winery
Situated at the center of Whidbey Island, Greenbank Cellars is a small, family-owned winery and vineyard specializing in Alsatian-style white wines and two-year barrel-aged reds. Located at 3112 Day Road, Greenbank, WA 98253. Open July – September, Weekends or by appointment. (360) 678-3964.
What started as a hobby in 1998 soon grew into an award winning winery. Ken Bloom decided to learn a little bit about making wine when his brother Jim decided to plant his own vineyard in the Hopland area of Mendocino County, CA. The first harvest was 1998, and Ken and Virginia traveled to California to help with that first harvest and each year since then. Now with a shared tasting room at the Bayview Corner Cash Store called TASTE For WINES, Blooms Winery has a retail outlet.
Comforts of Winery
Planted in the late 1990′s Comforts Farm & Vineyard is a 22 acre farm planted with the vines of Siegrebbe, Madeleine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner and Pinot Noir. Carl and Rita Comfort feature artisan wines made solely from grapes grown in their own vineyard. Located at 4361 Witter Rd, Langley WA 98260. Tasting Room open Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 – 5:00pm or by appointment. (360) 969-2961. www.comfortsofwhidbey.com
Spoiled Dog Winery
Extraordinary Pinot Noir from the heart of Puget Sound. Devoted to cultivating the benefits of the rich soil and maritime-influenced climate of our vineyard, the Krug family invites you to expand your experience of wines and savor the pleasures of a small estate winery. In 2003 the Krug’s bought their 25-acre farm, explored, researched, and planted Pinot Noir grapes and by their 6th leaf (2009) won double gold – top in the State. Enjoy a variety of fine wines, both red and white at their farm and winery. Blue and Sami, our Australian Shepherd dogs who inspired the name, love to greet visitors. Located just off SR 525 on Maxwelton, 5881 Maxwelton Rd., Langley, WA; 360-661-6226. www.spoileddogwinery.com
Langley, Washington 98260
(360) 221-5331 : 1-800-243-5536
Freeland, Washington 98249
(360) 321-4277 : 1-888-547-4179
Coupeville, Washington 98239
360-678-4284 : 1-877-678-4284
Greenbank, Washington 98253
(360) 678-3115 : 800-997-3115