Discover the Pacific Islands' Wineries

September 16, 2008
Philip R. Alper, MD

Physician's Money Digest, February15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 3

vin du pays

Wine tourism is a given in France.Even the wealthiest and most cultivatedParisians seek out the often modestlocal to pair with regionalfoods when they travel. In the UnitedStates, wines are produced in all 50states, but wine tourism is in its infancy.

Several islands in the Puget Sound,north of Seattle, Washington, and notfar from Canada's Vancouver Island, producewine. The climate is cool but moderate,owing to the shelter provided bythe Cascade Mountains on the OlympicPeninsula. This atmosphere favors northernFrench and German varietals, andproved to be a worthwhile destination—not just for the wine.

FINE WINE, FINE ISLAND

Whidbey Island and its world-famousInn at Langley was my first stop (360-221-3033; www.innatlangley.com). I arrivedby ferry in a car I rented at the Seattle airport.Sandy and Steve Nogal, theinnkeepers/chefs, welcomed me to Langley,introducing me to its solid comfort(devoid of any unpleasant pretentiousness).That evening, in an open kitchen,Chef Nogal prepared delicious local PennCove mussels (the best I've tasted sinceBrittany) in an immense wok.

Whidbey Island Winery is only a shortdrive away (360-221-2040; www.whidbeyislandwinery.com). It is a small operationand does not figure on Langley'scarefully chosen wine list. But I visitedthe tasting room and brought back abottle of the Madeleine Angevine, a drywine with good acidity and a sprightlinessthat reminded me of the varietal'sLoire Valley origins. It was aromatic andterrific with the mussels.

The second bottle, a Siegerrebe, Ireserved for sipping on my balcony whilegazing at the Saratoga Passage during alazy afternoon that ended with a fabuloussunset. The additional spiciness andhint of sweetness in the Siegerrebe comefrom crossing the Madeleine Angevinewith German Gewurtztraminer. In all, itwas a nice surprise for an area that Inever knew could produce wine.

WORLD-CLASS ADVENTURE

Crossing Deception Pass, located atthe northern tip of Whidbey Island, Icaught the ferry to San Juan Island atAnacortes. Friday Harbor House overlooksa port bustling with ferries,yachts, and Kenmore Air seaplanes.There's a lot to see on San Juan, includingmesmerizing whale watching fromthe shore and a charming hotel visitedby Teddy Roosevelt.

Near the end of a loop tour of theisland, San Juan Vineyards offers winetasting (888-983-9463; www.sanjuanvineyards.com). The wines tasted aremade both from locally grown and moredistant Washington State grapes. Thispromising new winery isn't yet knownmuch beyond the Seattle area. A finedinner at Friday Harbor House, featuringlocally grown ingredients, freshly caughtsalmon, and the local Gewurtztraminercompleted a wonderful day.

Orcas Island has no wineries, but it'son the way back to the mainland and itfeatures Mount Constitution and itsnot-to-be-missed view of the entire SanJuan Island group, snowcapped MountBaker, and the Canadian Rockies. Istayed at the tranquil and picturesqueResort at Deer Harbor (888-376-4480;www.deerharbor.com), enjoying thehot tub on the deck of my cottage aftera bit of climbing.

Once the morning fog cleared, it wastime for whale watching on one of themost exciting boat rides I have evertaken. Weaving between the islands,with Deer Harbor far behind us, weencountered one of the resident pods ofOrca (so-called "killer" whales). Theseblack and white salmon-eating beautieslive as long as humans and swim togetherat a steady 10 miles per hour. I knowbecause we clocked them. That evening,I forgot about the wine.

Philip R. Alper, an internist and

professor of medicine at the

University of California at San

Francisco, has been published

in the Wall Street Journal,

Diversion, Medical Economics,

and Internal Medicine World Report.