In 1977, Gerard and JoAnn Bentryn founded Bainbridge Island Winery and Vineyards on a one-acre plot in downtown Winslow, Washington. The Bentryns, inspired by their travels, planted vinifera wines typically grown in the Loire Valley in France and Mosel in Germany. Their inaugural vintage in 1982 made them the 84th bonded winery in Washington State.
That year, they purchased more property from Akio Suyematsu, a Japanese-American farmer whose family had owned land on Bainbridge Island since 1928. Suyematsu sold them eight acres, a portion of his family farm on Day Road — one of the oldest continuously farmed properties in Kitsap County. By 1995, Bentryn helped create the Puget Sound AVA and inspired others to start regional wineries.
New Ownership For Bainbridge Vineyards
Betsey Wittick, a New Jersey native and scientist, relocated to work with the Bentryns in 1989. After her friends retired, she reopened the vineyard in 2013 as Bainbridge Vineyards, a cooperative. By 2014, the vineyard received Organic Certification, and by 2018 the winery became the first B-Corp-certified winery in Washington State. Bainbridge Vineyard’s nine acres are part of a 15-acre cooperative farm within a 40-acre parcel. It’s permanently under farmland conservation and cultivated by a collective of local farmers. Wittick is Bainbridge’s head owner, winemaker, farmer, and teacher, offering yearly summer internships to future farmers.
From The Ground Up
Wittick holds a Master’s degree in Horticulture from Cornell University and believes in a “whole systems” approach. She and co-owner Stephanie Von Tacky lead an all-female team with assistants Keyla Beebe and Amy Mellor, who know each vine in the vineyard. Under Wittick’s tutelage, the winegrowers learned how to hand prune the vines and till the land using draft horses, keeping the growing process as natural as possible. Each person at Bainbridge Vineyards is a steward of the land as it’s a Certified Wildlife Sanctuary with many types of resident and migratory birds.
Varietals Grown At Bainbridge Vineyards
Bainbridge Island is 245 feet above sea level in the temperate-maritime climate of Puget Sound, which averages 37 inches of rainfall yearly and possesses rich, glacial soil. The site is perfect for growing cool-climate Vitis vinifera. Bentryn was the first to grow them in Puget Sound.
When the farm began in 1977, Bentryn planted Müller-Thurgau, and in 1988-90 he added Madeleine Angevine and Pinot Gris. Today the vineyard grows 10 different varietals. In 2004 other vines, including Hungarian and Austrian grapes, added to the mix of varietals. The team continues experimenting with blends adding innovation to the Estate’s offerings. The fruit is grown, harvested, fermented, bottled, tasted, and sold on-site. Bainbridge Vineyards produces around 1,200 cases annually.
The Taste Of Washington State
Bainbridge Vineyards has a “Vine to Glass” mission which you can taste when you sip each varietal. First, we enjoyed Madeleine Angevine at the vineyard, which was light and bright with citrus flavors. This varietal originates from the Loire Valley in a similar maritime climate. Our next sip was the Farmstead Red, a Pinot Noir, Regent, and Zweigelt blend. It tasted like tart cherries and wild huckleberries — so light and delicious.
Lunch On Thorndyke Bay
We were gifted a few bottles for an outdoor lunch prepared by Chef Brendan McGill of Hitchcock Restaurant Group. McGill served lunch on the beach on Thorndyke Bay. Starters included local oysters from Baywater Shellfish, both raw and grilled. We opened the Siegerrebe and fell in love with the wine. It’s dry with grapefruit and apricot flavors pairing perfectly with shellfish preparations. This wine won Silver in the Cool Climate Wine Awards in Poland in 2020.
Next, we opened the Pinot Gris for lunch, a mélange of Dungeness Crabs, clams, leeks, and sunchokes. The Pinot Gris is an incredible wine with a pinkish hue due to its four days of skin contact at the beginning of fermentation. It was awarded a bronze medal at the Washington Wine Awards in 2019. The delicate flavors of Asian pear and sweet cream were sublime — perfect notes for the buttery, luscious crab dish. We couldn’t stop enjoying these beautifully balanced boutique wines from this sustainable estate vineyard on Bainbridge Island.
I was a guest of Visit Seattle and Visit Bainbridge Island for this tasting, but all opinions are my own.
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