Andee Mowrey of Hockinson manages the English Estate Winery in east Vancouver. She recently shared some background on the place, “All too often when people finally come in to visit us, they say they’ve driven by for years and never stopped.” And when they do, they are charmed by the little rural oasis that suburban and commercial Vancouver has grown up around. There are beautiful vineyards, a quaint 1915 “Loafing Shed” or dairy barn, flower-filled gardens and huge trees on this historic homestead.
English Estate History
Carl S. English brought his wife Betah and three children to Clark County from Michigan in 1903. Five more children were born on the farm where the winery is today. The English family has been working the land there for five generations.
Early life on the farm was devoted to clearing the land, growing potatoes, grain and prunes, and eventually a dairy was established which continued until the early 1970’s. Carl English first planted wine grapes in 1980.
The family still lives on the property, and so the winery has select operating hours when the public can visit. When you visit for a tasting or event, be sure to stroll the grounds and look over the land, some of which is used by a gravel company, and envision the early English family plowing with a team of horses and building the barns and sheds as their farm grew. You can see both Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood as you look out over the land. Despite being close to the road, it is a peaceful oasis in the midst of suburban growth.
It is hard to believe that within a block one discovers apartment buildings and big box shopping centers. I drive past the winery on my way to Costco. But it is the slowing, turning in and visiting that is a quality of life experience for me and many other east Vancouver residents.
English Estate Wines and the Gravel Mine Vineyard
You will first encounter the wines and ciders of the English Estate Winery when you enter the large, red loafing shed, their tasting room and winery. Jennifer English serves as the winemaker for the wines which range from pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon to pinot gris and gewürztraminer. Andee says, “99% of our wines are estate grown. Our cabernet grapes were planted because we have a small micro climate here with warmth from the gravel and east winds.” I tasted the 2014 cabernet, and it quickly became a new favorite.
Tasting English Estate wine is not a pretentious experience. You will probably be asked what type of wine you like, and the experienced staff will try to match wines with your tastes. If you do not like wine, try a cider made with local fruit, most of it from nearby Joe’s Place Farms. Jennifer English makes that as well.
The tasting room is in the historic red barn. The bar is built on Missoula Flood rock, the small rounded river rock being mined from the gravel pit on the next property. It is a comfortable casual place. People come for the friendly atmosphere.
As you taste, be sure to read the labels on the bottles and talk with the staff. There is history and engaging stories to be told. I enjoyed the story about the red and white blends. The white blend, named for Marguerite Metis, and the red blend, named for John McLoughlin, carry with them intriguing Vancouver history.
Dr. John McLoughlin served as the chief factor at Fort Vancouver and, as the story goes, he dearly loved his wife, Marguerite Metis. Marguerite was the daughter of Swiss fur trader, Jean Etienne Wadin, and her mother was Cree or Ojibway. In those days a “mixed marriage” like this was called a “country marriage” and was looked down upon. Dr. McLoughlin fervently defended his wife and demanded respect for her.
The story is told on the back of the Marguerite Metis White Blend and the Chief Factor’s Favorite, the red blend named in honor of McLoughlin. The blends are fondly called “the married couple” by local wine aficionados. Order a “married couple” and you will receive one glass of each.
Events at English Estate
Many people do not realize that the winery serves as a community gathering place each Friday evening year round. You will enjoy music and simple catered meals along with a bottle or glass of wine under the huge trees in summer. In cooler weather you will enjoy the same convivial atmosphere on Fridays in the loafing shed barn. The events usually run 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are advised.
Annually the winery hosts events such as the Art and Wine Fair. You can check out the latest news and events on the English Estate Winery Facebook page.
SW Washington Winery Association
English Estate Winery is part of an association proudly touting that winemaking in Southwest Washington began when the Hudson’s Bay Company brought the first wine grapes to Fort Vancouver in 1825.
The ten wineries include urban wineries in downtown Vancouver, mature vineyards on historic farms and family-owned artisan wineries. SW Washington Winery Association members collaborate on events and a passport challenge program.
A consideration for the future of the group is developing a new American Viticultural Area (AVA) that could conceivably stretch east to White Salmon, where the Columbia Gorge AVA begins, and as far north as Olympia’s southern border, where the Puget Sound AVA begins.
When You Go
English Estate Winery and Gravel Mine Vineyard is located at 17806 SE 1st St. in Vancouver. Their regular tasting room hours are 12:00 – 9:00 p.m. Fridays, 12:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 4:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Mondays. Tastings are $7 for about six tastes. Cider tasting is three cider tastes for $5.