Eight years ago, Rebecca Lanphear and her husband Damon planted 1 acre of grapevines on their property on SW 159th Street with the hope of creating local wine. Now, on the heels of two warm summer seasons and local record grape harvests, Alli Lanphear Vineyard and Winery is ready to officially open its doors Saturday.
The open house and release party will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. and will offer islanders a third winery to choose from when looking for 100 percent Vashon-produced wines. The Lanphear family winery joins Vashon Winery and Maury Island Winery on the list of wineries that produce wines from grapes grown on-island.
“It’s something we’ve definitely put a lot of time and resources into,” Rebecca Lanphear, a long-time gardener new to grape growing said. “It’s still really experimental; the process is incredible. It starts in January and goes year-round.”
Lanphear said she and her husband moved to Vashon in 1999. He worked as a software engineer in Seattle, and she interned at Vashon’s Hogsback Farm before getting a master’s degree in environmental engineering and taking a job in the civil engineering field. The couple has a long history of gardening together and initially rented a half-acre piece of land at Vashon Household’s Roseballen project for a garden. She said they eventually began looking for their own project to do and wanted their own property, so they bought the land on SW 159th Street from a Japanese-American family who had not farmed the land in decades. After looking at the land and the southern-facing slopes, she and her husband decided grapes would be the plant of choice. They took a few classes, but Lanphear admitted they are mostly self-taught viticulturists.
“We cleared the garden area and built the house and then asked ourselves, ‘What can we grow to contribute to the local food scene?'” Lanphear said. “We took a few classes, but we read a lot and just figured it out with our growing experience. When we had our first child in 2008, (that’s) when I started to stay home, and our garden and vineyard became a bigger part of what I do. I love it. It’s fun.”
The Lanphears have four different grapes on the property, including three whites: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and siegerrebe. Pinot noir is the lone red grape, and Lanphear said it has been tricky to grow and ripen, but the warmer summer seasons in 2014 and 2015 helped the grapes ripen enough for wine-making. Now, the family’s pinot noir is ripe for selling, along with siegerrebe from 2012, 2013 and 2014.
“Our first harvest (in 2010) was really small,” Lanphear said last week. “We have chosen to delay selling because we really wanted our red wine to be ready. We haven’t sold anything yet.”
The winery is aiming to be a true community endeavor with wines representative of the local climate and labels featuring art by local artists. She said the open house will serve as a sort of educational opportuity for the island to see and taste the difference between island-grown pinot noir and other pinot noirs.
“These (wines) really represent the climate,” Lanphear said. “They’re really going to taste different. It’s really pronounced.”
Depending on how the winery and its wines are received, Lanphear and her husband will decide what the next steps for their family business will be.
“We could expand, but we need to see how it works out,” Lanphear explained. “We have another acre, but it’s really about our family. We’re (a) really small (winery). We want to stay that way; we’re not going to become a big business.”
The open house will be held at the Lanphear’s home and winery at 9009 SW 159th Street from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12.