The Washington wine country is spread out all over the state, but the closer destination of Lopez Island makes this an easy day trip for those in Western Washington. On Lopez, you can enjoy, experience, and sample some of the best wines in the state — and savor the scenic countryside at the same time!
When we think of the island life, a slower pace often comes to mind. Picture, if you will, friendly locals, a laid-back lifestyle, a slower pace… are you beginning to feel the island vibes yet? Well, this is certainly the case when you “land” at Lopez. Known as “The Friendly Isle,” there is a long-standing custom: people in approaching vehicles wave to you, whether you are driving or walking along. (Make sure to wave back!) This is unique to Lopez, and part of what gives it charm and a truly distinctive personality.
But the distinctiveness doesn’t stop there. It is also found in the creativity and expressiveness of the wines made on the island. Many Washington wine enthusiasts don’t think of the Puget Sound as a renowned wine-producing area, but the terrain of this area creates unique wines that have wine critics and aficionados alike taking notice. I discovered this for myself by taking the short ferry ride to Lopez to visit Lopez Island Vineyards. My lifelong passion for wines (and self-appointed status as an amateur winemaker) always compels me to experience new wines and places. The tasting room was located on the Vineyard, a picturesque boutique locale with wonderful vistas and a gently sloping valley (it has since relocated to the center of Lopez Village). It was here that I started to develop an appreciation for the strong link between Lopez Island vineyards and the people who run it.
After tasting wines I had never experienced before (for example, madeleine angevine and siegerrebe, both grown at the vineyard) and chatting at length with Deborah, the tasting room manager, I somehow ended up volunteering to prune vines. Could it be that the island life was beginning to have an effect?
I was sold on island life, however, after meeting Brent Charnley. Brent and his wife Maggie Nilan own and operate Lopez Island Vineyards. Brent is the winemaker and grape grower for Lopez Vineyards. He learned his trade by apprenticing in the vineyards of France, finishing a double major in viticulture and enology at the University of California–Davis and honing his wine-making skills over his 30-plus years in the industry. This breadth of experience seemed to fully prepare him for his island adventure. Lopez Island Vineyards has been in operation since 1990.
At 54 years young, Brent has also expressed how his passion for winemaking has kept him feeling youthful. “I have felt renewed lately,” he says, “by taking on new challenges and working with new grapes, like sangiovese and sauvignon blanc.” Notably, several of the wines they make are organic, as well. In his wine blog, Brent refers to his extensive background working with organically grown grapes. He writes, “My knowledge…. about organic grape growing and winemaking runs deep.” This knowledge and passion is evident in every bottle.
In addition to the madeline angevine and siegerrebe, Lopez Island Vineyards makes an award-winning malbec and a cabernet sauvignon. Make sure to give those a try, or simply go with the flow and let them pour whatever feels right. To get there, from the ferry landing, go south on Ferry Road for one mile and bear left on Fisherman Bay Road; it’s about 2.75 miles to Weeks Road, or 0.5 miles to Lopez Road. Turn right and they are on the right. They are open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m. Enjoy the island life!