WEEKEND: Camaraderie Cellars marks 20th with wine, food, song
By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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Camaraderie Cellars at 334 Benson Road is celebrating its 20th anniversary with wine-tasting, music and food today through Sunday.
Regular tasting fees will be waived at the winery just west of Port Angeles from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, though there will be a small charge for a special “library reserve” tasting of older vintages.
Dream come true
“We started with a dream and have worked hard to make it come true,” said Don Corson, winemaker and co-owner with his wife, Vicki, and with longtime partners and friends Gene and Mary Ann Unger.
The winery will serve recipes featured in the Camaraderie Cellars wine club.
They were provided by the Corsons' son, Steven Corson, who is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Food will include local cheeses, breads and New York steak bites cooked in a wood-fired oven, Don Corson said.
The Seattle Chamber Brass — led by trumpeter Josh Gailey, formerly of Port Angeles — will perform from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with a variety of classical and popular tunes.
A string quartet from Port Angeles High School will play from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
It includes students who are working to fund a trip to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall on March 31.
When Camaraderie Cellars opened, wineries were much rarer both on the North Olympic Peninsula and in the state of Washington.
“When we started the winery, we were in the first active 50 wineries in Washington state, and now, there are over 750,” Don Corson said.
“We have been a bit of a pioneer out here,” he said.
Third on Peninsula
The boutique winery was the third on the Peninsula, Corson said.
It was pre-dated only by the Lost Mountain Winery in Sequim, which closed in 2009, and the Gene Neuherth Winery, which eventually became Olympic Cellars.
Perhaps more important to Corson, who holds a doctorate in urban geography from the University of Oregon, is the fact that “for some time,” the winery was the most northwest in the lower United States.
Corson “grew the winery” while working as vice president of planning and development for Merrill & Ring. He retired in 2009, after 19 years with the company, to work on the winery full time.
He had made wine for many years.
“We started wine in our garage in 1981 in Redmond with 100 pounds of grapes,” Corson said.
“It's a hobby that got way out of hand.”
Now the small winery — it produces about 3,000 cases annually — has been recognized for excellence, with more than 250 awards in competitions throughout the United States that featured wines from throughout the world, Corson said.
“We are small, but it's great to know we can compete when excellence is the measure of success,” he said.
The winery uses grapes grown in Eastern Washington, with varieties that include traditional ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon but also newer ones to the region such as Tempranillo and Malbec.
Camaraderie Cellars wines are found at such prestigious restaurants as Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Manhattan in New York and top steakhouses in Houston, Corson said.
But the Corsons and their partners are still learning, Corson said.
Live into the name
“We're just now learning how to live into the name of Camaraderie,” a name suggested by a friend, he said.
“We're doing this with a number of people,” Corson said.
“It's an intergenerational situation.”
Also, everything done at the winery — which includes gardens, a courtyard with a mountain view and a fire pit — “really works into the whole concept of a gracious place to be,” Corson said.
“The philosophy of making wine and sharing it is much more than just making a product,” he added.
The boutique winery also plans special pricing of wines this month to recognize the anniversary.
For more information, visit www.camaraderiecellars.com, phone 360-417-3564 or email email@example.com.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 16. 2012 4:47PM