If you travel the Interstate 5 corridor with any regularity, you probably observed the “Coming Soon” sign for Bertelsen Winery at the Starbird Road exit near the top of Conway Hill for the past couple of years.
That sign was changed to “Now Open” in April, giving long-awaiting wineophiles in Skagit and nearby Whatcom County another tasting room option for locally produced premium wines.
The winery is owned by retired Mount Vernon orthodontist Dr. Richard Bertelsen and managed by his son, Steve. Sarah Saya assists as the cheerful wine server you’re likely to see if you stop in for a visit.
The first thing that struck me about the tasting room is its open floor plan, with a semicircular tasting bar and an adjacent lounge with sofas and a flat-screen television. According to Saya, the space will comfortably accommodate up to 50 guests, with an additional banquet-style area in the adjoining room plus seating on the outdoor patio, weather permitting.
Another interesting observation is that winery sources grapes for its wines from five Washington appellations: Columbia, Yakima and Walla Walla valleys, Wahluke Slope, and Red Mountain.
If you drop in just to taste, you have two choices: the Young Vines Flight costing $8, or the Reserve Flight, which runs $11. Each flight includes four pours of pre-selected wines from the current tasting menu.
Here are my tasting notes on a few of the wines I tried during a visit earlier this month:
2011 Riesling (about $16) — Luscious pear and crisp citrus flavors lead to a clean, off-dry finish with a whisper of sweetness.
2012 Merlot (about $27) — Aged in French oak for two years, this elegant merlot features raspberry and spicy red apple aromas and flavors that melt into a finish with hints of toasted caramel.
2012 Cabernet Franc (about $27) — Ample plum and cherry flavors are accentuated with a gentle twist of black pepper and crushed herbs in the latter stages along with a velvety-soft finish.
2012 Syrah Bulldog Reserve (about $29) — Black cherry flavors dusted with baking spice conclude in a plush finish wrapped in warm vanilla bean. The bulldog on the label of this fine effort is a nod to the Mount Vernon High School mascot.
2012 Malbec (about $32) — Sourced from Red Mountain’s Tapteil Vineyard, the wine’s brambly berry flavors commingle with mineral notes throughout, while chewy tannins suggest another year or two of cellaring for maximum enjoyment.