Looking for a different sort of excursion with unusual holiday gift potential? One that may also intrigue family and friends visiting during the holidays? Rather than do the usual Woodinville wine-tasting, discover out-of-the-ordinary tasting experiences at two nearby distilleries, a meadery and a downtown winery.
The distilleries each feature award-winning, hand-crafted spirits. Snohomish County’s only meadery makes exotic flavors of mead – honey wine – deemed “nectar of the gods” since ancient times. The winery creates boutique wines from unusual grapes such as Carmenere and Petit Verdot.
All offer tastings to the public and welcome those who want to learn how their distinctive beverages are crafted. While the distilleries also sell their spirits via retail outlets, the meadery and winery sell mostly onsite.
Scratch Distillery was opened in Edmonds in July 2015 by owners Kim and Bryan Karrick, long-time aficionados of fine spirits. Head Distiller Kim produces small batches of handcrafted gins, vodkas and specialty spirits. She uses an amazing variety of botanicals to vapor-infuse the gins and vodkas. They range from traditional juniper to angelica root, cassia bark, cardamom and rose geranium.
Scratch produces three gins, eight vodkas and two specialty spirits: Breakaway Spirit and Barrel Finished Breakaway Spirit, distilled from American Brewing Company’s Breakaway IPA. A new Edmonds Way Whiskey will expand the distillery’s offerings in January 2018. Bottle prices range from $25 to $60. The distillery is open Thursday-Sunday.
Among its numerous honors, Scratch won three awards in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2016: gold for its Gin & Tonic Style Gin and bronze for Martini-style Gin and bronze for Potato Vodka. The Potato Vodka also won both gold and best of category at the American Distilling Institute in 2016. In 2015, Scratch was named Washington Gin Distillery of the Year by the New York International Spirits Competition.
You can sample Scratch spirits at tastings ($10 for four, half-ounce pours) or featured cocktails ($7.50). Really curious about the distilling process? Take a GINiology class to learn how to make your own personalized gin. The class introduces you to all the botanical ingredients and lets you create a gin with your flavor preferences. At class’ end, you take home your custom bottle of gin, and your gin recipe is recorded for future orders. See Scratch’s website for details.
In Lynnwood, Temple Distilling debuted in October 2015 as the city’s first distillery. Founders AJ and Jamie Temple – originally high school sweethearts – focus on their goal to “craft the best London Dry gin available this side of the pond.” Head distiller AJ produces three premium gins and a gin-based limoncello liqueur. Jamie hosts the tasting room, open most Saturday afternoons and by appointment.
Temple Distilling started by producing Chapter One London Dry Gin, followed by Chapter One Navy Strength Gin and Woodcut Barrel Rested Gin. Each gin features a unique cast of botanicals and herbs to produce its distinctive flavors.
Chapter One London Dry Gin and higher-proof Chapter One Navy Strength Gin both won bronze medals at the 2016 American Craft Spirits Awards. In 2017 both Chapter One gins took “Best in Class” at the Seattle International Spirits Awards.
Visit Temple’s tasting room to try a gin tasting flight ($5 for four, half-ounce pours), featured gin cocktail ($5), cocktail sampler ($10) and/or purchase its distinctive gins ranging from $29.95 to $38.95.
Aesir Meadery is unique as the local crafter of mead, wine fermented from honey instead of grapes. Owner Erik Newquist named it Aesir (“pantheon of Norse gods”) to honor his Scandinavian heritage. He started making mead as a college hobby in 1998, and after numerous tech jobs, opened his tiny meadery in a downtown Everett alley in 2014.
Mead has been produced throughout Europe, Africa and Asia since ancient times – the oldest documented date being about 9,000 years ago in China. Aesir produces small-batch, high-quality mead mainly from local and sustainably-sourced honey, fruits, herbs and spices. Erik has made mead flavored with blackberries he picked himself and more exotic ingredients such as lingonberry, spruce tips and sarsaparilla root. His sarsaparilla root mead won the gold medal in the 2017 Mazer Cup International, which drew 1,500 entries from around the world.
Currently Erik offers two single-origin coffee meads, thanks to local Velton’s Coffee Roasting Company. It supplied him with coffee beans from Ethiopia’s Celinga Village and Sumatra’s Bergandal Farm. In about a month, he will release Haitian spice mead. Seasonally, Erik makes a traditional mead with local fireweed honey.
Aesir’s meads range from 11 to 14 percent alcohol; most are fairly dry rather than sweet – contradicting the honey base. The meadery is open afternoons Thursday-Saturday. There Erik is happy to offer tastes of mead and a wealth of mead knowledge. His meads are generally priced $20 to $30; occasional barrel-aged meads cost more.
Port Gardner Bay Winery reopened this fall in a new downtown Everett location after a lengthy move/permit process. Owners Chris and Linnea Covington originally began making wine in 2005 at home and opened their Everett winery in 2009. Forced to relocate, they finally found a new base for both the winery and Chris’ structural design business this year.
Port Gardner Bay currently feature eight boutique wines – some from unusual grapes or blend combinations. Reds include Carmenere, Merlot, Syrah, Wine Dog Red (made from syrah, petit verdot and merlot grapes) and Rockefeller Red (lemberger, barbera and cabernet sauvignon grapes). Whites are Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Harvest Moon (viogner and gewurztraminer grapes). Next summer the winery will release new sangiovese and tempranillo wines. Red wines cost $21-27 and whites $16. Wine by the glass or a flight of six, one-ounce tastes are offered for $8.
Port Gardner Bay’s tasting room is open Thursday-Saturday and features an open mic on Thursday and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings with no cover charge. Chris and Linnea plan to resume holding wine tasting and wine-making classes in January.
190 Sunset Avenue South, Suite A, Edmonds
19231 36th Ave W, Suite F, Lynnwood
2625 Colby Ave., Everett
Port Gardner Bay Winery
3006 Rucker Avenue, Everett
— By Julie Gangler
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.