Garanoir for the Puget Sound AVA


In my continuing series on new and interesting grapes for the Puget Sound AVA, here is a relatively newcomer from Switzerland called Garanoir. Garanoir is a recently bred grape (well not all that recently, in 1970, but things in the grape world move really slowly) The two parents of Garanoir are Gamay Noir and Reichensteiner.  Gamay Noir is decendent of Pinot Noir so and those flavors are passed on to Garanoir. Reichensteiner is a little used white grape but it is mainly descended from Riesling.  This grape has a striking similarity in flavors to  Pinot but has some other benefits going for it that might make it a good choice for a grower in the Puget Sound AVA.

I love Pinot Noir, don’t get me wrong, but it really is one of the hardest grapes to grow. It likes to grow sideways, instead of upright. If you don’t get your spraying schedule down pat, you can run into serious powdery mildew and bunch rot problems. The vines have a tendency to shut down in cool, wet weather and they tend to hold on to their acid way longer than other grapes.

One of the other problems I have with Pinot in the Puget Sound AVA is a marketing problem. People don’t know Puget Sound AVA wines very well and the people that do think we can only grow whites over on this side of the mountains. People scratch their heads when they have a Puget Sound red wine. It’s a constant battle with the public in general and wine buyers at restaurants and retail. I had one sommelier tell me he didn’t want to put my Pinot on his menu because it would confuse people and it’s too hard to explain what is going on. Whatever… so maybe it’s time to change up the game and not grow widely know grapes and just make the best wines we can in our climate no matter what the grapes are!

Back to the grape, the researchers who bred this grape were trying to find an early ripening red grape that had the attributes of Gamay Noir and/or Pinot Noir, but ripened earlier. They were also going after a higher level of mildew and rot resistance and ripened earlier or as early as Pinot. The good news is that they pretty much nailed it with Garanoir. In my experience, Garanoir has always ripened about the same level of brix as Pinot Noir, BUT the acids are much less. The color is deeper. Also, a really important fact is that it produces a much larger crop than Pinot. Pinot can be pretty miserly when it comes to crop level so having a grape that gave you more grapes per acre is a good thing considering how few acres of grapes are planted around here.

There are about 203 hectares of Garanoir (about 500 acres) grown in Switzerland and quickly expanding. There are smaller amounts being growing in Germany, England, Canada. As far as I know there are probably only a couple of acres grown in the USA probably mostly in the Puget Sound region. For some reason, in British Columbia they have glommed onto it’s sibling, Gamaret, which is supposed to ripen later and gives a bigger wine.

Just a little history on where we got this grape here in the Puget Sound AVA. It was brought into the US (although I’m not sure if he was the first one) by Gary Moulton at the WSU Mt. Vernon Research station where he has planted trials of both grapes. Sometime around the year 2000, he made available excess vines to other growers in the Puget Sound region and that is where I picked up a few Garanoir vines from him and planted them at Maury Island Vineyards. In 2003, when we were shutting down that vineyard, I took cuttings and now have about 25 vines on their own roots that I have been doing research on for almost 10 years. I was lucky enough to make 5 gallons of Garanoir in 2004 from grapes grown at Mt. Vernon. Those wines were very well received and very close in flavor to Pinot.  Currently, you can buy vines at the Cloud Mountain Farms nursery in Lynden, WA.

In the Puget Sound AVA we need a unique strategy to grow grapes. Ones that ripen before the October rains move in or can stand up to a fair amount of rain. Regent is a good example of the later and I think Garanoir falls into that bucket too.

I would love to make a single varietal Garanoir in the future if possible, but for now, it will probably end up in a blend with pinot noir and other red grapes I am growing to lower acidity and boost color. I think if I had it to do over again. I would’ve planted enough of this grape to make a barrel of wine. I think Garanoir has shown great promise in the Puget Sound AVA in the 10 or so years I have been researching it in my vineyard and it might be time to start planting more of it!

2016 Puget Sound Wine Grape Growing Class – Cancelled

Dijon Pinot Noir Clones
Dijon Pinot Noir Clones

No Class in 2016. Not enough signups. Please look for it next year! Following on a tradition I learned at other local vineyards, I’m putting on my 8th annual Puget Sound/Cool Climate Grape Growing class. This is a full day class for people interested in growing grapes in their backyard or people that want to take the next step and run a small commercial vineyard in the Puget Sound/British Columbia/Northern Oregon region. This class is focused on growing grapes in the Puget Sound region, but these principles could be applied to a wide variety of locations from Oregon to British Columbia. 

For those that are interested, here is a little about me: I’m going into my 15th year of growing grapes commercially. I first started at Maury Island Vineyards in 1998 where we had 3 acres of grapes in the ground. In 2003, my wife and I moved to Woodinville and started Hollywood Hill Vineyards where we farm 1 acre of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also test about 20 different varieties to see how they do in this climate. I have lectured at a variety of conferences, conventions and meetings including: Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual convention, Focus On Farming, Western Washington Horticultural Association and the Northwest Agribusiness Center. I was a part time teacher for two years at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College where I taught Viticulture classes. 

In this class, we will be focusing on how to grow grapes in Maritime Western Washington. The class will go from 9am to about 4pm. We cover a lot of ground in the class. We’ll provide the food, coffee and wine and also give you a notebook of the slides from the class. At lunch we will taste some of my Puget Sound wines and other wines from the Puget Sound AVA. During the last hour of the class, we’ll get some hands on time pruning in our estate vineyard and you can take some cuttings home with you to start for yourself. 

Topics covered by the class will be:

  • History of Puget Sound wine growing
  • Puget Sound Climate
  • Site Selection
  • Grape variety selection
  • Site Prep 
  • Starting cuttings
  • How to train vines
  • Cost to establish a vineyard
  • Pest control
  • Harvest Parameters
  • And Much More!

Class time is TBD right now, but will get on the calendar when I get at least 5 people signed up. Usually it runs in early March. It runs from 9am-4pm. Cost $150 per person.

Coffee, morning snack, lunch and puget sound wine tasting provided.

Email Steve at or call (425-753-0093) to purchase a seat in the class. We have room for about 20 people and I usually sell out.


Happy New Year 2016 and looking forward

New Label
Our new label design

Many of you know me and have been loyal customers for many years. As some of you know, we have been making wine commercially since 2005 and as an avid amateur since 1998 which is almost 18 years. Way back when I got bitten by the wine bug, I had an idealistic dream to have an estate grown winery here in the Puget Sound. Puget Sound wines have something special to them that remind me of my favorite European wines and I felt compelled to jump in. I never had any aspirations to sell a lot of wine, just produce a few hundred cases and sell it out of the winery as a part time job.

Things changed and I got caught up in all the hoopla with the wine industry and Becky and I decided to go big. In fact, in 2010 we made 1500 cases of Eastern Washington wines. But with two little boys and the recession hit us and sales took a nosedive around that time. Becky and I both had to go back to work full time to support the family. But I never gave up on my vineyard, although I wanted to rip it out several times.

Now it’s 2016 and we’ve paid off some debt and both have good paying jobs. The kids are in their teens and don’t require as much attention as before and after some soul searching we’ve decided to keep the vineyard and going and go back to our roots as estate only winemakers. There won’t be a lot of wine, maybe as much as 200 cases. I won’t have a lot of time to sell it but it will be something that is unique in Woodinville. The only working vineyard in Woodinville!

To that end, you can see our new label (pending approval by the TTB) above and we will kick off the new year with a release of our 2014 Chardonnay. We will also have some 2012 Pinot for sale too. For all of you that loved my Eastern Washington wines, we still have plenty to sell and we will be discounting those as before to move them out of the winery. Watch for a future email.

The weather predictions for 2016 are looking pretty good this year. El Nino will still be with us for a few months. January is starting off dry and cold, but there was plenty of rain in November and December for a whole winter.

I love the wines we can make here in the Puget Sound. I plan to continue my experimentation with new varieties and growing techniques and plan to double down on my quality in the vineyard to ensure success in the coming years.

Look for future release dates and I think you love what is coming!