Wineries and wine-tasting rooms have a friendly type of competition.
“There are already two wineries here in Blaine, but I would do double back flips if another one wanted to come here,” said Ken Peck, owner of Dakota Creek Winery.
In Washington state, wineries seem to be popping up everywhere. There are now more than 600 wineries in the state, which is up from 500 just two years ago.
Peck said more wineries means more overall interest in his type of product.
“Having more wineries around is actually better for business because it raises people’s awareness that there are premium wines available here in Whatcom County, and we are likely to have people touring and visiting the wineries,” Peck said.
To take advantage of this interest, Whatcom County’s nine wineries have joined together to form the Whatcom Wineries Association, which hosts the Whatcom Wine Trail, a new wine-tasting tour of local wineries with links to local wine shops and breweries.
Eileen Turk, sales and marketing associate at Mount Baker Vineyards, has seen the same trends as Peck and teamed up with him to get the association off the ground.
“We just thought it was a great idea,” Turk said. “If we could work together, maybe we could improve the interest in wine touring in the county and introduce not only tourists but locals to local wine.”
Turk said the alliance also makes good business sense.
“We look at it as sharing resources instead of competing,” Turk said. “If there are more people touring, then it makes the whole pie bigger, instead of each of us trying to make our individual piece of the pie bigger.”
Peck said he and Turk teamed up to call all the wineries and get them to a breakfast meeting.
“We just had some informal breakfast meetings over at Dutch Mothers in Lynden and talked about it and bounced some things off the wall,” Peck said.
Out of those meetings, the businesses agreed to split the cost of printing the Whatcom Wine Trail brochure and to form a loose association, so they have the option of pooling resources for winemaking, marketing and events.
“It’s a very loose structure and that is by design. We want to make sure we are becoming friends before we get too far into this,” Peck said.
While working to print the association’s brochure, the association contacted Naomi Pollack, a local wine enthusiast and Webmaster for Whatcomwinetrails.com, an online directory of Whatcom County wineries.
They asked if they could list the site on the brochure and connect it with the new wine tour. Pollack agreed.
Pollack said she was delighted to hear the wineries had formed an association to promote wine touring. Pollack grew up in Yakima and became fascinated with Washington wines after returning from college.
Pollack’s brother soon started a “community resource” Web site called EverythingYakima.com and Pollack began to work on the wineries section of the site. After moving to Bellingham with her husband, Pollack thought she could do the same thing for Whatcom County wineries.
“I thought, ‘I need to get the word out there because I was amazed how many people didn’t realize we have nine wineries,’” she said. “When I started there were only six or seven, so it is growing.”
“The goal is to bring tourism to the area, so they can see all the wonderful things there are to do here,” Pollack said.
Pollack, who remembers the giant wineries of Yakima, said part of the appeal of Whatcom County wineries is that they are small operations producing handcrafted, artisan wines where you can taste the wine, learn about the process and meet the winemaker.
“People are interested in learning about wine and that’s the fun thing about touring these smaller places. It’s not just about tasting wines; it’s an educational experience,” Pollack said.
Wineries within the Whatcom Winery Assoc.
- Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company, 1017 N. State St., Bellingham,
- Dakota Creek Winery, 3575 Haynie Road, Blaine, (360) 820-4752
- Dynasty Cellars, 2987 Haxton Way, Bellingham
- Samson Estates, 1861 Van Dyk Road, Everson, (360) 966-7787
- Honey Moon, 1053 N. State St., Bellingham, (360) 734-0728
- Glacial Lake Missoula Wine Company, 1625 Boblett St., Blaine, (360) 332-2097
- Legoe Bay Winery, 4232 Legoe Bay Road, Lummi Island, (360) 805-2710
- Mount Baker Vineyards, 4298 Mount Baker Highway, Everson, (360) 592-2300
- Vartanyan Estate Winery, 1626 Huntley Road, Everson, (360) 733-1097