Drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, Gerard Bentryn’s exposure working on Satellite Technology landed him a post in Germany working on guided missiles. While there, Gerard and his wife, JoAnn, fell in love with the crisp and delicate white grape varietals found in Northern France and Southern Germany. Upon their return to the United States, Gerard and JoAnn went in pursuit of the perfect location to settle down, continue their careers and begin a new adventure growing the varietals of grapes they’d grown to love. After studying climatology and physical geography, Gerard discovered that the Puget Sound area provided a similar growing environment and climate to Northern France and Southern Germany, they decided to make Bainbridge Island their home.
In 1977, the Bentryns founded Bainbridge Vineyards in Winslow, where they planted a one-acre vineyard. They released their first locally-grown vintage in 1982, becoming the 84th bonded winery in Washington State. The Bentryn’s passion didn’t end there, and that same year, they purchased farmland on Day Road from Japanese-American farmer, Akio Suyematsu, whose family founded the farm in 1928, and with the exception of the Japanese-American exclusion during World War II, the Day Road farm is the oldest, continuously farmed property in Kitsap County—Akio continued to work the land until his death in 2012. The Day Road farmland is the location of the present day vineyard and winery, where they currently have 8-acres of carefully selected grape varieties. The Bentryn’s pioneering spirit was influential in the region’s grape-growing efforts, and Gerard’s work assisted in gaining the certification of the Puget Sound Viticultural Area (AVA)/Appellation in 1995. Bainbridge Vineyards is the only winery on the island that exclusively uses their island-grown grapes for their wines, producing approximately 1,200 cases a year.
When the Bentryns decided to retire, they turned to Betsey Wittick, who has been a valued employee at the winery since 1989, and a cherished friend. Betsey holds an undergrad degree in plant science from Rutgers, and a Master’s Degree in horticulture from Cornell University, and in addition to growing grapes and making wine, she is the proprietor of Laughing Crow Farm, a small-scale vegetable farm, located on the Day Road farmland. Betsey’s passion and commitment to locally-grown food production, has made farming an important and worthwhile asset to our island community. She reopened the winery under a cooperative in 2013, in 2014 the vineyards were certified organic under her direction, and they are a certified B Corporation, meeting the highest standards of social and environmental fulfillment as well as transparency and accountability.
I met with Sara Bean, the Sales and Tasting Room Director at the winery to learn a bit more about their award winning wines (and of course, to sample some of those wines). We began with a Madeleine Angevine, a French varietal from the Loire Valley, with a crisp, floral beginning and dry finish. We then moved on to the Müller-Thurgau, a German grape, which is one of the first vines planted by Gerard and JoAnn, this varietal has a dry finish, with slight hints of green apple. From there, we sampled the Siegerrebe—the Bentryns were the first vintners to plant and grow this variety in the United States—this fragrant wine was the sweetest and most fruitful in flavor. We ended the tasting with their Raspberry Dessert Wine made from organic raspberries grown right here on Bainbridge Island and pairs beautifully with chocolate.
In addition to the wines mentioned above, the winery offers Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, as well as small plots of cool climate Regent, Garanoar, Zweigelt, Agria, and Dunkelfelder red grapes, which will be used to create their new Emerge Rose wine. New releases are expected to be available in late May and early June, including their flagship wine, Ferryboat White.
The winery and tasting room is located at 8989 NE Day Road, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, and open all-year-round Thursdays through Mondays from 12 to 5pm. For more information about the winery and events held throughout the year, click here.
Bainbridge Vineyards is a member of the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island, for more information, click here.
***Logo and content contribution provided by Betsey Wittick, Owner and Winemaker, and Sara Bean, Director of Sales and Marketing, Bainbridge Vineyards.
***Winery photographs by Margaret Millmore.