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February 13, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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February 13, 2014

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BUSINESS NE'00'S Locals find truth in wine By LLOYD MULLEN lloyd@masoncounty.com This year, a crew of four, Jacy and Scott Griffin and Brian and Jacquie Peterson owners of Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair, placed 23rd among the top 100 wines in the Northwest, as voted by the website Great Northwest Wine. The two families have worked together in other business ventures, but none took off as well as Mos- quite Fleet Winery, Brian said. The couples traveled to Napa and Sonoma in the California wine country in 2007. Brian said they enjoyed the wines. "We could do this," he said. "We looked at each other and said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' " In 2009, the families started their first crush. Brian, the head winemaker, traveled to vine- yards around the Northwest to learn more about the process. "We've built wonderful relationships with some growers in Eastern Washington. Some of them in the Yakima Valley area, Red Mountain, Walla Wal- la," Brian said. He attended winemaking classes at the Univer- sity of California, Davis. "(Brian's) not a shy guy. Brian called the wine- makers to ask questions," Jacquie said. "I started picking their brains about what they did. I learned a lot from a lot of different people. Little pieces. Peter Prager from the Sweet and For- tified Wine Institute of America took me under his wing and coached me a lot. Asked me questions and challenged me," Brian recalled. After the first year, the families began increasing their production. In 2009, they produced 200 cases. In 2010, they made 850. In the past two years, they have produced 1,280 cases of wine. In the tasting of their wines, one of the most over- looked pieces, according to Brian, is the nose of the wine, otherwise known as aroma. "I think a lot of times we need to take a little longer to let wines open up and smell a lot more before we taste them. That (letting them breathe) impacts your flavor profiles a lot. It's important to take your time and taste it to see what comes out," Brian explained. When he's tasting, Brian counts to six to sense the different notes and varietals. "The first thing that hits you is the midpallet, then the big finish: How much tannins are left on for a long finish that stays in your mouth after you've even swal- lowed. You get better with it in time," he said. Those notes are brought about by several processes, but it starts with the fruit. "We never let our grapes sit," Jacquie said. "We pick out all of the raisined (dried) fruit -- every leaf, every stick," Brian said. "We hand-sort to a great degree before it goes into our de-stemmer. We pull out all of the little jack stems the best we can. That makes for a cleaner ferment," he added. The winery then lets the grapes ferment for a few days. Either in a cold-soak, or warm soak. The cold soak, Brian said, brings in the color from the grape skins. They then chill the grapes with dry ice. "About the third day well warm it up and ferment. We're really picky about the ferment temps," Brian said. Keeping the grapes cool will preserve the nose, he said. If the temperature rises, the flavor will be more complex. Once the wine makes its way into the barrels, it sits there for 22 weeks. It's a tedious process, Scott said. "We learned the difference that a barrel makes in a wine. Brian will take them through the same juice and put them in different barrels or the same barrel with different juice. Even the years will change the flavor," Jacquie said. There are three types of bums they use in their wine barrels -- light, medium and dark. The lightest keeps the sugars in the French oak barrels. This gives the wine more flavor from the bar- rel. The more the barrel burns, the more the sugar comes out. "The heavier you go, leather, tobacco -- the stron- ger smoke flavors (are) more powerful. These toasts will affect the flavor profiles we impart into the wine," Brian said. It's more than a name The Mosquito Fleet Winery got its name from Washington ferries that emerged in the 1840s. "Its a great story and a rich local history. We could continue making wines and never run out of boats to use," Brian said. The original fleet that the winery displays on its bottles eventually became the Washington ferry sys- tem, according to Jacquie. "Retelling the local history is something people have really enjoyed. It's been a fun piece -- sticking with the nautical theme," Brian said. The best part of their business venture, according to Brian, is the tremendous local support. "We've got a lot of people enjoying a local winery. Participating in the crush, from jumping in when we're bottling. Especially lately. We've started serv- ing out of the serving room since May. A lot of local pride. Families bringang in their friends to test the local winery. It's been a lot of fun," Brian said. The winery had its annual wine-tasting Feb. 8. Mosquito Fleet Winery Where: NE 21 Old Belfair Hwy in Belfair What: Six new releases from 2011 -Cabernet sauvignon -Meritage -Cabernet frank -Syrah -Griffersen reserve Journal photos by Lloyd Mullen TOP: Owners of Mosquito Fleet Winery Brian and Jacquie Peterson and Scott Griffin stand in front of a new batch of barrels in late January; MIDDLE: Four wines and one port are on display in the front of the shop; BOTTOM: Wine presses through the top of a barrel in the 22 week aging process. Mason County Journal- Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - Page A-17 i i