Winery reopens on Day Road

After delays, Bentryns’ business is uncorked for the July 4th weekend.

The Bainbridge Island Winery is open again.

The winery’s move from its longtime home in downtown Winslow to a 23-acre farm on Day Road will have its advantages.

“We want to give the public a wine experience from the ground up,” said JoAnn Bentryn, co-owner of the Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery with husband Gerard Bentryn.

The winery and wine-tasting room were closed for nine weeks while the Bentryns moved out of their old location off Highway 305, which the couple sold last year.

Opening of the business at Day Road was delayed this spring by building permitting issues and an ordinance restricting retail sales year-round on farms. Mediation between the city and winery allowed the winery to open for retail sales, pending the revised ordinance, which was passed by the city council last week.

The new tasting room opened yesterday and will be open through the Fourth of July weekend.

Visitors reach the new winery down a gravel road off Day Road. The green, shingled wine-making and storage area is cavernous, running the length of the building. Palettes of wine, stacked tall, are dwarfed by the shiny steel of tanks where the grape juice ferments. Racks of oak barrels for aging and a wine-bottling apparatus complete the room.

To the right, an entrance leads to the wine-tasting and sales area, where visitors can choose four of eight wines to sample for a tasting.

Current vintages include Pinot Noir ‘99, Madeleine Angevine ‘01, Pinot Gris ‘02, Muller Thurgau ‘02 and the 2003 bottling of raspberry wine, made entirely from berries grown at Suyematsu Farms, next door to the Bentryns’ grapes.

The winery is open Friday through Sunday and will gradually expand its hours. There are also plans to add horse-drawn tours of the farm.

Gerard Bentryn hopes that the agricultural aspects of the business will set it apart from other wineries in the state, few of which produce their own grapes.

“Most (wineries) don’t grow grapes. That makes us different. We need to make it part of our marketing niche,” he said. “We’re really thinking of spending more time with people...for the farm experience.”

That appeal may help make up for the loss of foot traffic from the ferries, which Gerard estimates used to make up 15 percent of their customers. Now four miles down the highway, they will be less accessible to those visitors.

First opened 23 years ago, the winery was modeled on those the Bentryns visited in Northern Europe in the early 1960s – small farms in Germany and France which raised their own grapes and participated in highly regional economies.

Rather than grow the “big reds” for which Eastern Washington in known, the Bentryns specialize in Muller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe and other varietals well-suited to the island’s climate, which JoAnn says is analogous to the Loire Valley in France.

A strong proponent of locally grown food, Gerard likens eating – and drinking – locally to a form of “spirituality for agnostics.”

“Food has the ability to bring us together because we’re made out of the place we eat from,” he said.

While many wineries in Europe and elsewhere have discontinued the practice of grape-growing, the Bentryns keep the faith.

“We have always tried to involve the public in the fact that we grow grapes, make wine and sell wine ourselves,” JoAnn said.

“There are people who have lived here but never been to the winery. We offer them a piece of the Rock – in a bottle.”

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