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Island winery marks milestone

Whidbey Island Winery owners Elizabeth and Greg Osenbach admire this year’s grape crop at their Langley vineyard. - Submitted photo
Whidbey Island Winery owners Elizabeth and Greg Osenbach admire this year’s grape crop at their Langley vineyard.
— image credit: Submitted photo

A small family-owned business in Langley has been a pioneer of grape growing in north Puget Sound. This September is Whidbey Island Winery’s 15th commercial anniversary.

The winery originated from Greg and Elizabeth Osenbach’s longtime interest in grape growing and wine making.

“It got too big to be a hobby,” said Greg Osenbach. “So we decided to make a business out of it.”

The couple planted Whidbey Island’s first vineyard in 1985.

After five years of cultivating plants and selling their grapes to other wineries, they began selling their own commercial crush.

Today, the winery supplies over 15 different wines and sells more than 4,000 cases per year.

“Most people are not aware that there is a thriving grape appellation right here in Seattle’s back yard,” said winery employee Heather Newman.

Puget Sound is home to some of the best cool-climate wine varieties available, she said.

The winery prides itself on selling crisp, fragrant white wines from grapes harvested in their Langley vineyard.

“Island White is our most popular,” Osenbach said.

The wine is described as a fruity, fragrant accompaniment to chicken and seafood, fruits, cheeses and lazy afternoons.

Whidbey Island Winery also sells wine from grapes grown in Eastern Washington.

“All of our reds come from over there,” Osenbach said.

Lemberger is a red wine sold from Whidbey Island Winery. It’s made from grapes usually grown in Germany and Austria. But these grapes also thrive in Eastern Washington, the only place in the U.S. they are grown.

Another variety sold at the Langley winery is Sangiovese.

It is described as a sophisticated combination of bright fruit and refined earthiness, and has been rated “outstanding” by Wine Press Northwest.

Osenbach said a successful winery takes a lot of hard work and a lot of attention to detail. Marketing is also very important.

“You can’t expect people to just come to you. You have to get it out there and have people recognize that it’s good stuff,” Osenbach said.

A major portion of the winery’s business takes place in their tasting room.

“It’s the best way for people to find out what we have, because we do have a lot of varieties,” Osenbach said. “It’s also a good place to get to know our wines and what they’re like.”

He said the winery employs a knowledgeable staff to help people find exactly what they like.

Volunteers also help with the winery, and work in the vineyard during September.

“The small family-owned winery has thrived with the help of friends and family to bring in the grapes,” Newman said.

Annette Jacobs of Freeland has helped with the harvest for years.

“This is the one time of the year I get to escape the stress of my everyday job and pretend I work in the wine industry,” she said. “It’s hard work, but it’s also beautiful and peaceful to be out there in the vines.”

Newman said Whidbey Island Winery’s vineyard is flourishing and seeing record growth.

“This milestone crush is slated to be the largest one yet,” she said.

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