Couple of Winos

Washington wine ~ one couple's journey

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Wine Tripping – First stop, Whidbey Island Winery

January 13th, 2009 · No Comments · Wine Trips

It had only been a few weeks since Dan and I had begun to map out what we dubbed our “Experience Wine Project,” but the anticipation to get it on was rapidly mounting (yes, that was TWO unintentional sexual references in one sentence).

Our goals included the obvious elements such as buying wine, drinking wine, reading about wine and learning about wine. But to really ‘experience’ wine, there was one aspect I was most intensely looking forward to – doing some wine tours. And with nearly 500 Washington State wineries to choose from, this is going to be a part of the job that I think I will enjoy the most. I mean, telling the difference between a Columbia Valley Cabernet and a Yakima Valley Cabernet is not something I can do (yet), but jaunting across the state, visiting wineries big and small, intrinsically sipping a straight-from-the-vintner varietal – I can do that.

Like I said, Dan’s and my experience as winos is still very limited. Sure, we enjoy drinking wine, but that just lumps us in with most other adult beverage drinkers out there. No, we’re not France, but still, according to a survey conducted for The Wall Street Journal Europe, 23 percent of US imbibers choose wine as their beverage of choice and who can blame them – wine is mighty tasty and apparently good for your heart. Need more reasons? Look here.

So, getting back to this wine tour thing, I was indeed getting super excited to embark on our first wine tour trip. But not being able to venture too far from home in late December (snow storm, anyone?), we decide to stay close to home and check out Whidbey Island Winery. That was mistake No. 1. Apparently, when their website says “Tour Whidbey Island Winery,” you’re better off sticking to the slideshow it links to, because they don’t offer any real (or at least regularly scheduled) wine tours.

Now don’t get me wrong. I can definitely respect and appreciate the wine growing presence they’ve built for themselves on little ol’ Whidbey Island. One of only a handful of wineries on the island, Whidbey Island Winery is small in size but big in reputation, as was demonstrated to us by the couple that walked into their tiny tasting room shortly after we did. They had come all the way from Texas to pick up a bottle of the winery’s Merlot, they said, though I’m guessing they also had some other reason that brought them to the Northwest, because, between the two of them, they weren’t completely sure it was even a Merlot they were there for (maybe it was a Cabernet?).

Either way, my disappointment mainly lay in 1) the lack of a guided wine tour, 2) the small size of their tasting room (felt more like a waiting room, sans chairs), and 3) the equally small wine tastes. Maybe that’s how small they are at all wineries, but I was expecting a taste to be a little more than a literal ‘taste.’

Lastly, I was also disappointed in the lack of education I received with my splashes of wine. Leah, our server (and assistant vintner), was extremely courteous and friendly, but short on small talk. She’d answer our questions when posed, but much of the info sharing ended there. I expected more enthusiasm and forwardness from someone in her position. I suppose I expected her to rattle off cool wine facts about our samples, or insider stories about the winery. But not much was to be heard from her on this day, so maybe we just caught her at a bad time. Either way, we were welcomed to explore the winery grounds, which we did, but being as it was late December, there was little outside to marvel at. We did run into an un-photogenic vineyard cat (Merlot), and even had a short encounter with vineyard owner himself, Greg Osenbach (not tending to the vineyard, but out to wash his car).

So did I just expect too much? Probably. But how should I have known what to expect? Like I said, I’m new at this, as I suspect many of you are. I guess I was romanticized by the idea of quixotic wine tours with anecdotal embellishments and guides who show you the winery’s inner workings, or servers who have all the answers you didn’t even know you wanted. Yeah, I’ll definitely keep trying to find that.

– Lisa

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