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 steve@hollywoodhillvineyards.com 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!

Zweigelt in the Puget Sound AVA

Harvesting Zweigelt 2002 Maury Island Vineyards
Harvesting Zweigelt 2002 Maury Island Vineyards

It’s hard to believe that I have been growing the Zweigelt grape for 16 years and only once made a wine from it way back in 2001, but I think this grape needs a second, hard look for us growers in the Puget Sound AVA. Let me give you a little history and how I got my vines…

Zweigelt was developed in 1922, at the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology at Klosterneuburg, Austria, by Fritz Zweigelt. It was a crossing of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch (aka Lemberger in this state). It is now the most widely grown red grape variety in Austria. Great examples of Zweigelt wine can usually be had at better wine shops and online stores if you are looking for good examples. I have had many great Zweigelts over the years so it’s pedigree is not in question. Zweigelt makes a dark, peppery, full bodied red wine that is similar to spicy Rhone grapes, but with more acid and less alcohol since it prefers a cooler climate.

I came into possession of Zweigelt after doing doing some research and some literature had mentioned that it would ripen before Pinot Noir. We were interested in anything that might be a heavier red than pinot and in our naivete tried to find anything that would blow the doors off of pinot in terms of structure and tannins, but in hindsight this was a fools errand since pinot really is one of the earliest ripening vinifera red grapes out there and why mess with something as good as pinot noir? Yet, we came up with a short list in 1999 of grapes we wanted to try. Zweigelt was on the list…

Lo and behold around that same time a research station in British Columbia, Canada was shutting down and the guys at the Mt. Vernon Research Station up in the Skagit Valley went up there on a moments notice and “rescued” hundreds of plants. They brought them back to the USA and took what they needed and basically handed out the rest of the vines to growers to run their own trials. From that I think we got about 20 different vines which we planted at Maury Island Vineyards and grew them for about 5 years before we gave up the vineyard. Before that vineyard shutdown, I took several cuttings of each vine that I wanted to keep experimenting with and planted them at my current vineyard and I still have those vines going now.

We only got two crops of all those grapes before I had to leave them but I was impressed enough with Garanoir, Zweigelt, Regent and St. Laurent to take them with me but I only made one once with the grapes from MIV before we had to leave. I liked the wines I made with Zweigelt, but not enough to plant a large plot of them. I stuck to pinot noir as my main grape only keeping zweigelt around for testing and novelty.

So the reason this is coming up now was in the spring of 2015  I had attended a PSWG meeting and Mike Lempriere (of Perennial Vintners)  had a zweigelt wine he had made recently. I was blown away at how good it was. Full bodied, spicy and rich! I had heard this from Mike before, but he was telling me that he was ripping out all of his Pinot Noir because it ripened two weeks later than zweigelt. It was less work to maintain and it gives 3 times the crop. So, when I tasted his zweigelt wine I was blown away. Is this really true? He had gotten cuttings from my original vines back on Maury Island around 2001. I mean I was so blown away by this wine I was tasting I have to prove it for myself.

Then another bit of information came to my attention. My friend Alan of Anderson Island Vineyards said in 2015 his St. Laurent ripened better and was darker and had a bigger crop than his pinots. I’m like how can this be? I have both right next to each other, albeit not in my best location (there is a fair amount of shading in that row), but the numbers shouldn’t be that far off. I wasn’t seeing the two week difference in ripening. I was skeptical.

So, I am going to make all the cuttings I can from my zweigelt this year and plant them in all the dead spaces I have in my pinot block (I have couple hundred dead vines from crown gall) and see what happens.

I know that Pinot Noir is the king of cool climate wines and it can make some ethereal wines that will blow your socks off, but what if you could sell a really good, dark, rich wine that ages well and takes to oak and sell it for 2/3rds of what you could sell your pinot and yet get double or triple the harvest and ripens earlier and has less rot problems… Why not!