Bits 'n' Pieces: Winemakers go beyond hobby

By

Published:

 

Mark Mahan and David Smith began making wine together as a hobby a few years ago, and now they’re turning Burnt Bridge Cellars into a commercial-scale winery.

“We’re maxed out, so we needed more space,” said Mahan, a 57-year-old Vancouver resident and retired Hewlett-Packard engineering manager.

They’ve leased space at 15th and Broadway in Vancouver. They plan to move their wine-making operations from Smith’s Ridgefield garage to the new space in September. By April, they hope to have a tasting room.

Burnt Bridge Cellars (http://www.burntbridgecellars.com) won six medals for its wines at the 2011 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition, including a gold medal for a cabernet sauvignon.

Mahan and Smith, a 49-year-old physician, make white and red wines, including semillon, viognier, merlot, syrah, petit verdot, mourvèdre and grenache.

They get their grapes from Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley. Quality grapes, careful processing and finding the right blends to achieve the desired flavor profiles are they keys to making good wine, Mahan said.

Former Columbian reporter releases thriller

William Dietrich didn’t like history much when he was growing up in the Puget Sound area. It was just too dry and boring, said the former Columbian reporter, who worked in Vancouver from 1978 to 1982.

So as a writer of historical fiction he aims to share his fascination with the past and its imperfections and to engage readers’ interest, he said.

That was part of the motivation behind “Blood of the Reich,” his new book that takes place in 1938 in Tibet and in present-day Seattle.

“This is the first fiction book I’ve written that’s had the Pacific Northwest in it,” Dietrich said. “It’s different than my other novels in that it takes place across two times.”

In the thriller, Nazis head to Tibet to look for “secret power sources” that the Reich can use for world domination.

He traveled to Tibet and Europe to make sure his locations felt realistic. The book takes up again in present day, with a Seattle woman who turns out to be more than she initially appears, the writer said. “One of the things I have fun with in the book is that a lot of people aren’t who they say they are,” he said.

Dietrich has written 10 historical fiction novels and four nonfiction books, including one about the history of the Columbia River called “Northwest Passage.” He was also part of a team of writers for the Seattle Times that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Looking back to his time at The Columbian, which included coverage of the Mount St. Helens eruption, he said the paper helped him develop skills that he still uses as a writer.

“You could say The Columbian emphasized storytelling, and that has helped me a lot,” he said.

Dietrich will hold two readings and book discussions in the metro area. He will be at Powell’s Bookstore, Cedar Hills Crossing, 3415 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd. in Beaverton, Ore., at 7 p.m. July 21; and at Murder By The Book, at 3210 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland, at 7 p.m. July 22.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Courtney Sherwood 360-735-4561, or e-mail features@columbian.com.