“I just wanted to show people that we have some really great wineries right here in Whatcom County,” said Blaine resident Hollie Joy Hilde who, with her husband Adrian, have opened a wine touring service called Whatcom Wine Tours.
“If you go with us, either right from your home or your hotel, you’ll get to enjoy the scenery and the wines without worrying about mixing that with driving,” Hilde said, “and you’ll see that we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.”
The activity is definitely not for children, and in fact Hilde says that part of their appeal is based on not having children or infants along in their twelve-passenger Chevy van. Tours are scheduled for weekends only right now but they hope to expand and include mid-week tours as well.
There are nine wineries either active or planned in Whatcom County and Hilde’s service goes to six of them. Two, Dakota Creek and Glacial Lake Missoula, are in Blaine. Vartanyan Estate Winery and Samson Estate in Everson. The venerable and productive Mt. Baker winery has an Everson address but is really closer to Deming. Its vineyards are on the Mount Baker Highway near the Deming library.
Chuckanut Ridge and Honey Moon Mead are both in Bellingham, and Dynasty Cellars will soon open out on Haxton way. Legoe Bay Winery is on Lummi Island. The wine tour currently visits all but the last three, going to three of them on each trip.
“We’ll go out all year doing this,” said Hilde, adding that the only thing that would keep them at home is snow. “They’re making and aging wine all year, so anytime is a good time to go.”
The tours cost $65 per person and last five to six hours. They leave at 11 a.m. from your hotel or, for an extra $10 and if you live in the county, from your home, and include a lunch at the second stop catered by Bellingham’s Old World Deli.
The tour guide calls you when they’re about to pick you up and will have you back between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Guests receive a tasting glass to take home as a souvenir. During the tour, guests will learn about wine, the wineries, and enjoy a scenic tour of Whatcom County.
It’s important to note that the tour does not include tasting fees. Some wineries have a tasting fee of $3-$5 (may be waived with a wine purchase.)
Saturday tours include Dakota Creek Winery, Glacial Lake Missoula Winery and Samson Estates or Vartanyan Estate Winery. Dynasty Cellars is anticipated to be added as the third winery soon. Sunday tours include Mount Baker Vineyard, Samson Estate Winery, and Vartanyan Estate Winery.
While Whatcom County doesn’t seem to be typical wine country, the availability of good grapes a few hours away east of the mountains as well as from area sources closer to home means that smaller operations can make a quality product. Ken and Jill Peck’s Dakota Creek Winery is a good example.
They drive over to buy grapes, usually somewhere near Yakima, so that they’re picked at a certain time of day. Like a gourmand shopper Peck knows what he wants and keeps sampling until he finds it. That gives his product a consistency that may or may not happen at a winery that grows its own grapes.
“I hope that by offering the tours, we can bring more attention to these amazing winemakers and give them the notoriety that we feel they should have,” said Hilde. “So often when we tell people we went to a winery or two over the weekend, they look at us funny and tell us they didn’t know there were any around here. We hope we can help change that.”
Contact Whatcom Wine Tours at 360/224-0734 visit their site at www.whatcomwinetours.com.