Food & Drink

Skagit County boasting quality wines

Skagit County — home to dairy farms, strawberry fields, acres of tulips, and wineries. Wineries?

Yes, the wine industry is taking off in Skagit County, which now boasts seven wineries and 24 grape growers. Pinot noir grapes dominate the plantings, with siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine and a host of lesserknown white wine varietals also taking root.

While I don’t think the tulip industry has anything to worry about at this point, the increase in the valley’s acreage dedicated to wine production is certainly worth noting.

I’d keep an eye on Challenger Ridge Vineyard, located in the eastern part of the county just outside the town of Concrete. The winery recently hired Randy Bonaventura, formerly of Mount Baker Vineyards, as its head winemaker. Bonaventura has a knack for coming up with just the right percentages in his blends of grapes, and if he can work his magic at Challenger, the wines will definitely be worth a taste.

If you enjoy fruit-based wines, Pasek Cellars, located in Conway, has several options available, with off-dry cranberry and raspberry wines heading the list. The winery also produces chardonnay, a cabernetbased blend, and the newly released arabica, a delicious wine made from arabica coffee beans that tastes a bit like a lighter style Kahlua.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Carpenter Creek Winery, which touts itself as Western Washington’s premier boutique winery and is arguably making some of the best wines in Skagit County.