Business

Greenbank opens cellars to other vintners

"The old Greenbank Farm label is largely gone from wine bottles at the Greenbank Farm, and now about 30 varieties of wine from 11 different wineries throughout the northern Puget Sound area are offered.Laura Blankenship, executive director of the publicly owned farm, said the farm's board of directors recently decided to stop selling their wines with a Greenbank Farm label - except for loganberry, the farm's popular signature wine. The Greenbank Farm label will also remain on jams, jellies, preserves, syrup, toppings and honey.The farm has widened its wine stock to include products from these regional wineries: Bainbridge Island, Black Diamond, Camaraderie Cellars, Fairmond, Lopez Island, Lost Mountain, Mount Baker, Olympic Cellars, Pasek Cellars, Sorensen Cellars, and Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery in Langley.Ultimately, said Blankenship, the new marketing strategy positions Greenbank Farm as one of north Puget Sound's premier wine outlets. So far, sales have been good.We are very hopeful that the initial positive response will meet or exceed last year's wine sales with a better bottom line margin, she said.In 2000, the farm raised $551,089 through product sales and special events, with wine sales accounting for 43 percent of the revenue.The money made by Greenbank Farm goes back into maintaining the site and developing community enrichment programs.Bob Moliter, the farm store's wine supervisor, said he's enthusiastic about the changes he's seen. He said he figures the farm's new direction will give the local wine market a boost - or added shot, as it were.Moliter, a former school principal who dove into the wine industry after retiring to Whidbey, said regular customers have told him they are impressed by the divergence ... the general reaction has been very positive.Actually, judging by the exuberance he showed as he read through the farm's wine list, it was hard to picture Moliter as having anything but a good time behind the wine-tasting counter.I'm enjoying it very much ... learning the world of wine ... knowing the varieties, getting to know which wines are good, said Moliter, 67. An apparent populist at heart, Moliter said he enjoyed the chances he's had over the years to teach wine education to others and increase the numbers of those who enjoy the grape beverage.The Greenbank Farm board is beginning the fourth year of a five-year goal to run the farm profitably. The 522-acre farm was purchased by Island County, the Port of Coupeville and Nature Conservancy. This is an important transitional year for Greenbank Farm, said Blankenship.Wine means big businessThe Greenbank Farm is after a portion of the state's burgeoning wine business.Washington state's wine industry has a $2.4 billion impact on the state'seconomy. The industry has a statewide workforce of more than 11,000. It has more than doubled in size during the past decade and ranks second nationally in total wine production.Since the mid-1980s consumption rates have increased by double digits. Wine sales are growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 12 percent, double the general economy's growth. Consumers' taste preferences are also changing, as demand has shifted from white to red varietals. The current ratio of red to white wine production is 52 percent red to 48 percent white.Source: Washington Wine Commission. "

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