Food & Drink

Fourth Corner home to top-notch wineries

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

If you prefer your food and beverages produced closer to home, our regional and local wineries have plenty to offer.

Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties boast many award-winning wineries that source their grapes from estate vineyards or from vineyards in Eastern Washington. The grapes are made into wines at local production facilities and are available for purchase primarily in area tasting rooms, grocers and wine shops.

For starters, consider Silver Bell Winery in La Conner, where husband and wife owners and winemakers Alan and Diane Holtzheimer have established a must-visit tasting room.

Newly released selections include their 2012 Merlot (about $29), sourced from Copeland Vineyards near Zillah. The wine has a lovely, almost perfume-like air about it, with brambly berry aromatics and flavors, a sprinkle of crushed herbs, and a gentle splash of acidity. The finish has plenty of grip and a touch of toasted oak.

Also notable is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $34), with an intriguing bouquet of spice box, violets, and field berries. The Red Mountain Appellation fruit really shines through with its understated currant and blackberry flavors and a streak of minerality. Potentially ideal food pairings include burgers, steak or roast beef.

Winemaker Chris Primus of San Juan Vineyards in Friday Harbor has really come into his own the past few years. Case in point: His 2013 Siegerrebe received five unanimous double golds from five different sets of judges. The wine has already sold out, but the 2014 vintage is scheduled for bottling in April.

Primus has also skillfully crafted several other wines, including a trio of just-released reds:

2011 Cabernet-Merlot (about $19, currently on sale for $14) – This blend of cab franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon features distinctive anise aromatics, gorgeous plum fruit, and accents of white pepper and vanilla bean. It’s instantly enjoyable at a steal of a price.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $19) – There’s a bit of an herbal note on the nose accompanied by savory cherry tomato to start. As the wine opens, more of the dark, black plum and berry fruit comes through, with firm tannins on the finish. An excellent wine to pair with beef tenderloin.

2011 Cabernet Franc (about $27) – Red fruits of cherry, currant and cranberry lead off with an underlying whisper of smoky/earthy coffee bean. It’s perfectly balanced with a near-elegant quality that makes it a pleasure to taste.

A final note: The newly opened Safeway on Sunset Drive in Bellingham has dedicated a floor display and aisle end-cap to exclusively promote six Whatcom County wineries: Dakota Creek Winery, Dynasty Cellars, GLM Wine Co., Legoe Bay Winery, Masquerade Wine Co., and Vartanyan Estate Winery. For people who like to support the locals, it’s a one-stop shopping opportunity worth checking out.