Lopez Island Vineyards & Winery

About

Visitors are welcome to our Tasting Room in Lopez Village. We hold special tasting events, theater, music and other special occasions at the winery overlooking our garden and vineyards. Our Winery garden is available for rental for your special occasions, such as weddings, receptions, retreats or fundraisers.

Location Description

Lopez Island Winery is situated in the San Juan Archipelago.

Additional Information

  • Meeting / Conference Facilities:
  • Caves:
  • Wedding Facilities:
  • Picnic Facilities:
  • Dog Friendly:
  • Winery Tours:
  • Wine Tasting:
  • Art or Architecture:
  • Organic / Biodynamic:
  • Awards:
  • Wine Club:
  • Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:

Average Bottle Price

$ 25

Winemaker

Brent Charnley

My interest in winemaking and organic farming began as a college student in 1977; I had been drawn to farming as a trade through my interest in the Back to the Land movement and I had begun home winemaking as a homestead skill. With a strong heart-felt connection to Lopez Island which I had developed as a child, I knew early on that I wanted to make Lopez Island my home.

These dreams and desires began to coalesce in 1979 while hitchhiking through France. I serendipitously found an opportunity to work on a vineyard in the Bordeaux region. After spending a growing season with Peter and Fox King (my generous mentors), I began learning pruning, tractor driving and other farming skills. I quickly found I was in love with growing grape vines!

Casting my eyes homeward and to Lopez, I began wondering if grape growing could work here, so I looked for ways to learn more about these crafts and arts. I enrolled at UC Davis in 1981 and created an individual major (first of its kind) studying both winemaking and grape growing. Graduating with high honors in 1983, I returned to Washington and accepted a job with Mount Baker Vineyards, so I could work with grapes that were suited to the Puget Sound region. My winemaking skills have been honed through working in the industry, from Napa Valley to Bordeaux France, now over 30 years of hands on study, work and effort. While I tend to be more humble and demurring about myself, I feel I have finally found my groove and now consider myself an Elder, one to whom others look for my quality products. The numerous awards on my wines attest to these years of learning: well over 100 medals and accolades.

My personal interests include gardening, sailing, skiing, archery, hiking, painting and drawing. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found these passions and to have integrated them into my livelihood. I love to share my skills and knowledge with young folks and older; we often have apprentices or our own grown children helping us with grape growing and wine making.

History

While the concept and dream of Lopez Island Vineyards began much earlier (see Our Winemaker for more details), it was in 1985, with the results of the grape trials I was growing on Lopez Island, and my experience with making Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe wines, I decided to make the move to plant my own vineyard. I had been growing a nursery of vines at my home while working as winemaker in Whatcom County, Washington in anticipation of beginning my own venture. It was through a relationship to friends on Lopez Island that the idea of a lease came up as a way to start a winemaking operation; we had little money to begin such a capital-intensive venture. With help from friends and my wife Maggie Nilan, we planted 3 acres in 1987. Our “boot-strapping” included using plants we had rooted and grown ourselves and we collected cedar posts and stakes off of the beaches. The only purchase we made was a small John Deere tractor and implements.

Our vineyard site was selected partly through research and the good luck of geography and climate. I had selected the island as a vineyard site in part because it has ideal soils, in that they are sparse and rocky, helping to reduce vine vigor and improve the fruit quality. This location has a wonderful southwest exposure and slope, which gives this site the advantage of good air and water drainage. Additionally, the climate, while much cooler than traditional hot climates, had a long frost free and low rainfall growing season, this being due to the location of the Lopez Island being in the heart of the Olympic Mountains’ rain shadow. All of these factors together are what makes Lopez an appropriate climate for early ripening wine varieties from Europe. As a bonus, these fields had been farmed without pesticides since they were first cleared over a hundred years ago, making this a good choice for an organic vineyard.

As we looked ahead to our first harvest of grapes in 1990, we began to plan on how we would build and equip a winery. We decided to turn to our community: we ran a small stock offering through the Washington State Securities Dept, and raised the money to begin our operations through the investment of our community members. We built, in 1992 (after 2 years in temporary facilities), a 1300 square foot winery using stones and timbers from the island. With our community of islanders, we now own 30 acres of farmland, that is operated using organic standards and certification. Since 1987, we have expanded our vineyard to 6 acres, we continue to experiment with new varieties of grapes that show promise for Lopez, we consistently win awards on our wines (particularly our estate grown grapes) and we have established our vineyard as one of only four certified organic vineyards in the State.

Our connection to our community is part of who Lopez Island Vineyards is: not only are we partially community owned, but our harvest each year is accomplished by a strong turn-out of community members who come to harvest grapes for a few mornings each fall. Having now raised our family, built our own home and now having a thriving, small scale vineyard and winery, we look outward to other passions in life. We look to ways to lower our impact on the environment in the way we run our winery, our home and our lives. We find that learning and growing and experimenting gives us challenges that make our lives more interesting. We always try to carry the hope of the future in everything we do.

Practices & Techniques

Grape Growing

Many people now know what organic farming means, but I feel Wendell Berry's description of an organic farm is a good introduction to our discussion of organic grape growing. Another definition to have in developing an understanding organic farming is that of sustainability: “Capable of being maintained indefinitely; capable of meeting the environmental, economic and social needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Organic farming has been our intention going back to early dreams of a small farm and a low impact livelihood. We have farmed or grapes organically since day one, back in 1986, when we first planted our nursery stock. With our farming methods, we strive to produce food (wine) that is clean and healthy. In trying to be part of being a natural system, as described by Mr. Berry, we work to have a healthy soil and ecosystem and we choose methods that are gentle with our bodies, our neighbors and those of our workers.

Soil Building and Disease Control

Soil Building is key to organic farming: feed the soil, and you feed the plant. A healthy plant is less prone to disease and insect attack. We feed our soil by use of cover crops, natural mineral amendments, and by returning as much to the vineyard as we can. We use cover crops that will fix nitrogen from the atmosphere while they protect our soil from the erosion of the winter rains. Our grape residue and vine clippings are returned to the vineyard floor, where they compost and are used by the vines in coming years.

Disease Control is done in our vineyards using an emphasis on prevention. We use a lot of careful hand work to position the leaf canopy, so as to maximize air flow and sun penetration to vine leaves and fruit. This time demanding work helps minimize the conditions that encourage molds. To help keep mildew diseases from starting, we use beneficial fungi, horticultural oil or sulfur. To eliminate mildew if it gets started, we can use soap, baking soda or peroxide to kill the mildew. Some years we loose some of our crop to disease, but our grapes are free of harsh chemical fungicides.

Pest and Weed Control

Pest Control is always a problem for farmers; we create an unnatural situation of having a lot of good food in one place! Organic farmers must maximize a healthy ecosystem, one that includes and encourages predatory insect species, which then eat pests. We do this by maintaining hedgerows, by encouraging a diverse farm crop (no mono-crop here), by not spraying pesticides that would kill the beneficial species. We also make a conscious effort to be careful to not introduce problem pests that don't exist in our location.

For the vertebrates that live in our environment, we try to exclude them so that they don't become a problem. We net our vines to keep birds out, fence out deer, run off raccoons with our dog, and tolerate some loss to yellow jackets (our only insect pest). For the most part, in an intact ecosystem, a farmer does not have to worry about animals; we certainly do not need to kill them if we are careful to leave them a home, food and put barriers to entry to our fields.

Our weed control is done like it was in the era before chemicals, by mechanical removal. We look to control weeds, not eliminate them. For this we use tilling, harrowing, cover crops, grazing and a “French Plow,” which can reach under the vine to remove weeds from under our rows. Our winter cover crop of clover and rye is used to compete with the weeds of our vineyard, which keeps them from becoming established and has the benefit of adding organic matter and nitrogen to our soils.

Community

Community is part of who we are: the size of our vineyard and business is small, so that others may also be in this business. We do not want to dominate the market, the environment or our workers. We believe strongly that the best farms are small, individually owned and operated, and are the ones who do not use industrial methods of production. We try to fit our farm into the community of our ecosystem. We distribute our products mainly within our local community. Many of those who come and help us harvest every year, come from this community. For those who live in the Puget Sound region, we are one of a few who actually produce a true locally grown wine!

Estate Vineyards / AVA

Our estate vineyards are located in the Puget Sound Appellation, which is characterized by its cool maritime climate. Our six-acre vineyard is contiguous with our winery. The summers are very dry (some years we must irrigate) and are tempered by the cooling influence of the sea which surrounds our island.

Awards

Siegerrebe 2011:

GOLD Seattle Wine Awards
GOLD Long Beach Grand Cru
DOUBLE GOLD Best in Class Indy Inter.
SILVER Sunset Magazine International
BRONZE Washington State Wine Comp.

Madeleine Angevine 2011:

SILVER Sunset Magazine International
SILVER Long Beach Grand Cru
BRONZE Indy International Judging

Cabernet-Merlot 2008:

DOUBLE GOLD Seattle Wine Awards
BRONZE Long Beach Grand Cru
SILVER Indy International Judging

Merlot 2009:

SILVER Long Beach Grand Cru
SILVER Indy International Judging

Wine Awards 2011:

Madeleine Angevine 2009:

Gold Winemaker's Challenge 2011
Bronze Washington Wine Awards 2010

Malbec 2009 Wahluke Slope:

Platinum Winemaker's Challenge 2011

Wine Awards 2010:

Siegerrebe 2009:

Double Gold: Seattle Wine Awards
Silver: Riverside CA International Wine Competition
Silver: Organic Wine Awards
Bronze: West Coast Wine Competition & LA International Wine Judging

Malbec 2008:

Gold: West Coast Wine Competition
Silver: Seattle Wine Awards

Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2007:

Outstanding: Seattle Wine Awards

Reviews

1 Review
Traci  Thompson Traci Thompson
Lopez Island, Washington
Organic grape growing!

I loved the wine, and the people are very friendly they took the time to talk about the winery and how they grow organic grapes.

January 2015

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Hours

Fri - Sun: 12 pm to 5 pm

Address

724 Fisherman Bay RD
Lopez Island, Washington 98261
United States

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