Remember the last ice sheet (Frazer Glaciation) that covered Washington state about 11,000 years ago? Probably not. During the peak of this Glaciation the ice sheet was 6000 feet thick near Bellingham (just north of Seattle) and left its’ mark in many scenic features: the San Juan Islands, the lush valleys of Mt. Baker, and Lake Whatcom which is now a recreation area and serves as the water supply for the region. However, the most dramatic impact came during the end of the Glaciation when floods of 1000 foot high torrents of water traveled at up to 80 miles per hour through the Columbia Gorge in Eastern Washington. This was known as the Glacier Lake Missoula floods.
What is the relationship between these floods in Eastern Washington and the Bellingham area located in Western Washington? The floods and the associated erosion in Eastern Washington brought very rich soil to this region. This and the warm sunny summers create a prefect wine grape growing region. That is one reason why Glacier Lake Missoula Winery sources their grapes from this region. The winery is located in Blaine which is north of Bellingham and just south of the Canadian border. We met with one of the owners ,Tracey DeGraff, and hit the ground running by tasting their signature wine, Deluge. This is a delightful Boudreaux style blended Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
The next wine sampled was the Harbor Light Red which is also a Cabernet blend and has a great balanced taste to it. An added plus to our enjoyment was the knowledge that some of the proceeds from this wine go to The Semiahmoo Lighthouse Resurrection Society whose goal is the reconstruction of the Semiahmoo Lighthouse. The original Lighthouse dates back to the period of 1905 to 1944.
Almost as enjoyable as the wine, the artwork on the labels is stunning. Harbor Light has a picture of the elegant Victorian style Lighthouse from the early 1900’s. The outer-space scene on Mars Red label is colorful and fanciful – just like the contents. This wine is an enrobed wine which is a process that combines red and white wine grapes to fully express their tastes. This combination of Cabernet Sauvignon (red) with Marsanne (white) is certainly outstanding and is one of their best sellers. Much of the label art is displayed as prints at the tasting room of the GLM winery. Tracey DeGraff’s husband, Tom Davis runs a printing business and doubles as winemaker. Great job on both!
Dynasty Cellars was the next stop and is located just north of downtown Bellingham. The owner, Peter Osvaldik, grew up in the Slavic Republic (then Czechoslovakia ) in a family that has close to 200 years of winemaking experience. Peter learned well!
Peter’s wines are sourced from Walla Walla and one of his best is the DC 3 Meritage Red Wine. This is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot with a rich taste but not overpowering. We also tasted the DCM Merlot. This 100% Merlot wine has a perfect balance of berry and dark cherry flavors. Advertised on the website as “a stunner” the DCS Merlot lived up to the hype.
Our next stop was a short ten minute drive to The Table by Bellingham Pasta. The Bellingham Pasta Company started as a retail shop in 2008. In 2010, it was expanded to a lovely, picturesque restaurant in the Old Town district of Bellingham Nikki Williamson, one of the three owners, sat down with us to explain the restaurant and how local produce and creativity combined created the delicious food coming to our table. The beet salad with balsamic was a great starter. Next was spinach salad with hazelnuts, walnuts, bacon and cucumbers. Nikki then brought out the homemade minestrone soup that was a perfect blend of tomatoes, chicken stock, vegetables and pasta. And then, an old-world favorite – borscht. This was so good that the head chief was going to deliver an order of it to his favorite hockey player the next day in Vancouver. A Russian player of course. For the main course of pasta we were served the ravioli and linguine, both very well prepared. The menu includes a favorite for the kids: “Mt. Baker Mac n Cheese.” Finally to finish things off the blackberry ice cream (with berries from a local farm, of course!) was wonderful. And one last note – make sure you try the local Mead Wine Honey Moon.
Our next winery was Mt Baker Vineyards, just a short thirty minute drive northeast of Bellingham. The tasting started off with the Semillon Blanc. Like many of their grapes they are sourced from Eastern Washington. This was excellent, light and crisp – perfect for a warm afternoon. Also excellent was the Chasselas Estate which expresses a prefect mineral balance. Finishing our trio of whites, we found that the Riesling would be a prefect pairing with spicy Thai or Chinese cuisine. Sadly, many wines were left un-tasted but we did get a chance to sample the Syrah Port. This after dinner wine was rich and many layered. It would be a wonderful finish to a delicious meal.
Along with the great food and wine in the area Whatcom County is certainly known for its majestic scenery. One of many hiking trails easily available is Fragrance Lake. The hike to the lake is two miles and the rewards are great. Just a mile into the hike there is a breathtaking viewpoint of Bellingham Bay and Lummi Island. Continue on to the lake where you will find hand-hewn benches with spectacular vistas of the lake and surrounding forest. It is a lovely place to breath in the tranquil fragrance of this area. It is also a wonderful place for lunch but we decided to limit ourselves to a few snacks.
Limit snacks? Yes, especially if next on the agenda is lunch at Magdalena’s Creperie. The Creperie is only about five miles from the trailhead and is located in the historic Fairhaven District on the south side of Bellingham.
Magdalena, the owner, came from Lubin Poland to Bellingham at the invitation from a young man who was romantically pursuing her. Enticed by Greg to check out the area, she quickly fell in love with both the area and Greg! The rest is history as they say and we thank Greg for bringing such a wonderful opportunity for us to enjoy this European style café.
Magdalena bright smile greeted us with coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Seeing a hiker who looked wet and chilled, Magdalena offered a delicious warm-up of Polish style cabbage soup with potatoes. Oh was that great!
The menu includes a vast number of breakfast and lunch crepes. We choose two: roasted bell pepper with arugula and goat cheese and a lightly spiced chicken with vegies. Much more difficult was choosing from the 13 selections of sweet crepes for dessert. We “settled” on a mascarpone crepe with seasonal fruits, lemon curd and white chocolate. Oh so yummy!
Whatcom County- Wine,-Food &-Hikes. Which is the Best? Come visit and decide for yourself!
Glacier Lake Missoula Winery
1678 Boblett, Blaine, WA 98231,
2169 E. Bakerview Road , Bellingham, WA 98226,
The Table by Bellingham Pasta
100 N. Commercial St, Bellingham, WA 98225,
Mead Wine Honey Moon
1053 N. State Street Alley in Bellingham, Washington 98225,
Mt Baker Vineyards
4298 Mount Baker Highway, Everson, Washington 98247
1200 10th Street, Suite 103, Bellingham, WA 98225,
Sponsored by Bellingham Whatcom
Author: Michael Fagin is a freelance travel writer who has traveled over the last ten years across Canada and visited all the major Canadian wine regions. Mr. Fagin is currently touring the Pacific Northwest enjoying the wine country, dining, and hiking the region. While he is not writing Mr. Fagin is a meteorologist for West Coast Weather, LLC forecasting weather for the West Coast of the US as well as on an international basis.
Photos by Elizabeth Fagin.