Whatcom Magazine

Dakota Creek Winery closing its doors

Ken and Jill Peck, shown in 2008, started Dakota Creek Winery near Blaine in 2005. They now plan to enjoy their retirement, having sold all of their inventory.
Ken and Jill Peck, shown in 2008, started Dakota Creek Winery near Blaine in 2005. They now plan to enjoy their retirement, having sold all of their inventory. The Bellingham Herald

Ken and Jill Peck of Blaine started Dakota Creek Winery almost on a whim. Ken had just retired from his U.S. Customs and Border Protection job in 2005, and while pondering his next career move, Jill announced, “I’m going to get on the Internet and see what it takes to start a commercial winery.”

Over the next 10-plus years, they did more than build a winery. They earned a reputation for producing consistently good Washington wines, and became a favorite of many Whatcom County wine enthusiasts.

When you start a new business when you’re nearing 60, you also need an exit plan.

Ken Peck, Dakota Creek Winery

But all good things must come to an end, and earlier this year the Pecks announced they would be embarking on what Ken calls “a true retirement.” When their current inventory is sold, Dakota Creek Winery will close for good.

The Pecks have been working toward winding down the operation since 2012, the last year they crushed grapes.

“When you start a new business when you’re nearing 60, you also need an exit plan,” he says. And rather than deal with transitioning the business to new owners, the Pecks decided to close up shop and make a clean break from the wine industry.

The winery’s last release, aptly named, “Finale,” is a classic Dakota Creek red wine blend, with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah sourced from Eastern Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills Appellation.

The Pecks thought their wines would last through at least late summer, but it looks as if a wave of “panic buying” will deplete their stock by the end of May. “Jill’s Blend,” a syrah-based red that was a perennial favorite with near cult-following status, has already sold out.

As one might expect, closing the winery has been a bittersweet experience.

We’re loading up the motor home … and going wine tasting!

Ken Peck, Dakota Creek Winery

“When we started the winery, we had no concept of the open nature of the winemaking business,” Ken says, referring to the help he often received from other Whatcom County wineries.

“We’re also going to miss the people so much,” he says, referring to Dakota Creek’s 1,100 wine-club members. “Our business has depended on local customers; we’ve made some real connections and some great friends.”

Ken’s brother Clint owns Yellowstone Cellars & Winery in Billings, Mont., so he and Jill expect to spend some time in that part of the country, as well as in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

“We’re loading up the motor home … and going wine tasting!” Ken says.

Dakota Creek Winery

Address: 3575 Haynie Road, Blaine

Phone: 360-820-4752

Online: dakotacreekwinery.com

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