Living on the Peninsula, Summer 2014

Page 13

Lots of hands-on learning made the idea a reality. They talked to other winemakers, read books, took classes. “It’s a way to meet people and it’s fun,” said Ken. “It was supposed to be a hobby, but we had a whole field to fill up, so we did.” They went to work on transforming the pasture and the horse barn into a functioning vineyard and winery. “I hardly qualify as even an amateur woodworker, but we do take credit for the design, if not the actual reconfiguration, of the horse barn into a tasting room, gallery and work space,” said Ken. Putting stakes into the rocky soil was brutal, he recalled, grateful that work is done. They chose six varieties of grapes to grow to make into their own wine (Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Agria). “Our tastes run to dry wines, and when we started, we wanted to create a win-win situation where what we didn’t sell, we could enjoy drinking,” said Ken. Soon the couple was seeking out grape plants and using heating pads and humidifiers to nurse them in the office before setting them out at the proper times. Ken learned how to prune. The plants are shaped onto the training wires that keep them in a workable state and pruned for optimum leafiness and clusters. The ideal is dappled shade and just enough grape clusters to keep them large and tasty. They now have 1,300 plants, 6 feet apart in 25 rows, 10 feet apart. “It takes five to six years to be productive,” noted Ken. In the meantime, they traveled to vineyards throughout the Northwest to purchase grapes for their wines. They went to Lake Chelan for Riesling grapes, to the Willamette Valley for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and the foothills of Mount Baker for Madeleine and Siegerrebe. Ken reached back to his first two years of college, when he was a chemistry major, to brush up on the knowledge required for testing the wine at various points in its development and to shape the wine’s quality. “You have to be very meticulous in the process,” said Ken. “Cleanliness of equipment is vital.” Marrowstone Vineyards is small and they

that we had a lot of help from neighbors, friends intend to stay that way, with a maximum and family,” said Judith, “and we try to give back production of 500 cases a year. to the community.” Everything is done by hand, from pruning to It’s a work in progress and a commitment to labeling the bottles with a machine they cherish. They crush the grapes one bucket at a time and community and the art of vinting. The couple encourages various community appreciate help in the bottling, but learned wait to groups to make use of the property and they offer celebrate until after completion. the place for weddings and other events. “It’s wonderful to reward people with wine, but They show local art by Bill Toll, Kat Nichols, it just doesn’t work to do it during the process,” Diane Ainsworth, Paula Purcell, Marrowstone said Judith. The results have been varied. “If I like to Marrowstone Vineyards owner Ken Collins drink it, I don’t shows the oaken casks that help give his Pinot feel bad about Noir full-bodied flavor. putting it on the market,” said Ken. So far, their worst result has been a rhubarb wine. “It was just awful,” said Ken. “You could drink it but the odor was not appetizing.” Their best has been the Black Cat Pinot Noir 2012 and the Riesling made from the Lake Chelan grapes was very pleasant, noted Ken. “It has a Pottery, Kathy Constantine and the photography wonderful complexity and leaves a very pleasant of Ken himself. aftertaste,” he said. This year, they are introducing shirts, hats and They have enjoyed sharing their better vintages. cups with the Marrowstone Vineyards logo, done “It’s very satisfying to have people who know by neighbor Jeff Dale. something about wine come in and savor the tasting.” And the animals are there, in the names of Last year, they came heartbreakingly close the varietals in honor of their pets and in the to a first crop, when the grapes succumbed to 10 percent of the purchase price donated to the powdery mildew just before harvest. Humane Society of Jefferson County. “We are not certified organic, but we try to “For people who have not discovered follow organic and sustainable practices,” said Marrowstone, it’s nice to stop here, visit the Ken. “We don’t have treated posts.” Nordland store, Fort Flagler and Mystery Bay This year, they are spraying refined mineral oil Farm for its goat cheese,” said Judith. religiously to avoid that outcome. “One of the lovely things about the project is And of course there is the wine to savor as well. n

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