As it approaches its 10th anniversary, tiny Westport Winery on Washington's coast is proving that success can come from equal parts innovation and hard work.
The 5,000-case winery has made big strides in its quality in recent years, thanks to bringing in grapes from some of the state's top vineyards, including Red Willow and Olsen Brothers in the Yakima Valley, Conner Lee in the Columbia Valley and Discovery in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Now the Roberts family — Blain, Kim and their children Dana and Carrie — are taking another leap forward. In late May, they announced that they will be opening a tasting room in Cannon Beach, the iconic Oregon coastal community. While Cannon Beach is home to a distillery, two wine shops and three breweries, Westport will be its first winery tasting room.
Westport began when the family purchased land in Grays Harbor County, about eight miles from the coast near Westport, and son Dana learned his winemaking skills at Washington State University. He and his team now craft 38 different bottlings, including two ciders and a nonalcoholic Riesling grape juice. The styles include everything from big, rich reds to sweet desserts to tropical fruit wines. The expansive tasting room, on-site restaurant and acres of themed gardens make Westport a winery that attracts thousands from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The new tasting room will take six to eight months to open, primarily because of the paperwork involved in opening a satellite operation in a different state. It will be directly across the street from Bruce's Candy Kitchen in downtown Cannon Beach.
Here are four Westport wines that earned gold medals at this spring's Cascadia Wine Competition. The wines are sold only at the winery, so call 360-648-2224.
Westport Winery 2013 Charterboat Chick, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Discovery Vineyard is a rising star in Washington's Horse Heaven Hills, and Westport brings in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for this delicious red. Aromas of coffee and black fruit overlaid by plum lead to a lush palate of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, plum and coffee, finished off with well-managed tannins. When you pick up a bottle, the rain slicker-clad woman on the label is none other than co-owner Kim Roberts.
Westport Winery NV Shiver Me Timbers, Washington, $27: The folks at this fun-loving coastal winery spent much of their life running a dive operation out of Maui, and their time in the tropics sometimes spill over into their life as Washington vintners. Such is the case with this wine, which has a base of Riesling and is infused with flavors of passion fruit, orange and guava. The result is a luscious drink with aromas and flavors that sweep us to the South Pacific, where the cares of the world are replaced by swaying palm trees. Its sweetness is backed by impressive acidity. It stands alone as dessert but also could pair nicely with orange sherbet and mango cheesecake.
Westport Winery 2014 Fleur de Lis, Columbia Gorge, $26: This Pinot Gris using grapes from the cool Columbia Gorge reveals lime, Asian pear and starfruit aromas, then lime, pear and more starfruit on the palate, plus juicy acidity, 0.6% residual sugar and minerality in its finish. It's versatile enough for sipping alone or with seafood or lighter chicken dishes.
Westport Winery 2013 Jetty Cat, Columbia Valley, $29: Jetty Cat, a title inspired by a feline waterfront resident, is the proprietary name for this red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec. It has a hint of leafiness on its nose, plus cherries and blueberries. On the palate, it's a complex drink of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and plums, with chocolate in its finish and grippy tannins.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.