Dick and Peggy Patterson's winery was the 16th to be licensed in Washington state; now there are 900.
They began with the Island Belle grape, produced in what may be the state's oldest vineyard, started on Stretch Island around 1872. It is thought to be a cross between Hartford and Concord grapes, sometimes identified as Campbell's Early, but nobody knows for sure.
The Pattersons thought starting a winery would be fun. At first, they commuted to their Hoodsport property from Tacoma where they were both educators. "We were putting in sixteen- and eighteen-hour days," Peggy recalls.
Dick and a neighbor, Wayne Hazel, made wine at home. Wayne had also worked at Mount Rainier Vintners and Marysville Winery, so his experience helped until the Pattersons could buy him out.
Dick though passed away in 2017, and Peggy continues as CEO of the winery.
"In those early days, we made wine we would like to drink, so we added fruit and berry wines," she said.
Peggy continues that legacy. "Raspberry wine was one of our first successes. We've used loganberry, apple, cranberry, blackberry, gooseberry, raspberry and pear."
She's added chocolates, jam and coffee to market beside the wines and ciders.
Many of their ribbons and awards are displayed in two big cases on the tasting room's back wall. Peggy is proud of the Médaille d'Or won at the Challenge International Du Vin in 1996 for their 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon. They won the Prix d'Excellence at the same time.
"We had lots of help," Peggy recalls. "The Olympia Brewery was going out of business. Some of their people put our infrastructure into place. Some of those key people became shareholders, as did Amy Burnett who designed some of our labels."
They've designed many labels over the years: the orca series, the flyfishing series and the limited artistedition, for instance. But, Peggy says, "I still like our original label."
While Peggy uses Island Belle, as she and Dick did for 40 years, they've added other grapes to the mix. These produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Reisling for white wines, and Pinot noir, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the red wines.
Peggy is aware of the effect global warming has on the Pacific Northwest.
"It might be great for the Puget Sound American Viticultural Area, since the cool climate has not been especially good for growing grapes, including those that need more heat to ripen properly."
She doesn't agree with predictions that we'll see Cabernet Sauvignon grown in western Washington or British Columbia.
"We need a more stable growing season for some of those grapes," Peggy says. "We'll watch and see what happens. I'm from Montana, and there we morph with the crops, soils and temperatures."
In the meantime, she continues work at the winery with a unique management style.
"I don't want to boss everybody or make policy," she says. "We function more like a cooperative. There's a whole lot of give and take. When I get stuck directing people, it always backfires. Working cooperatively is usually best."