Hundreds attend weekend event at English Estate Winery

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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photoCarl S. English walks past the grape vineyards planted by his father in 1980 while giving a tour of English Estate Winery on Sunday.

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English Estate Winery

Judy Menegat on Sunday said she was enjoying her first visit to the English Estate Winery in southeast Vancouver.

Wait, that's not quite accurate.

"This is my second time, we came yesterday," she said, laughing. She and friend Kate Scott of Glasgow, Scotland, were among hundreds who attended the Fifth Annual Art & Wine Fair at the winery over the weekend.

"My favorite was the 2008 Pinot Noir. It just had a nice, well-blended feel," Vancouver's Menegat said. Scott said she enjoyed the Barn Red and the Friday Night Blush.

The family-run winery has been growing vines since 1980, when Carl D. English planted grapes on about six acres at 17806 S.E. First St.

The English family settled in the area in 1903. The house there dates to 1917 and the red barn was built in 1915.

"We're kind of like an aggressive hobby," said co-owner Carl S. English of the winery. They grow six types of grapes and produce 2,000 to 3,000 gallons most years. The crop is harvested in late September.

"It's very satisfying to be working the land that has been in the family," English said. "I grew up here."

His father, Carl D. English, died in 2010. The younger English's day job is his software company, Dinerware, a software for restaurants.

The winery sells 80 percent of its wine in plastic bags and offers a wooden box for its customers. Their slogan is "Bag in a Beautiful Box." They have 300 members in their wine club and also sell to several restaurants.

Their wine also comes in bottles.

There are catered dinners Friday nights and special events throughout the year.

Why sell wine in a bag?

"No oxygen is introduced" when the wine is in its plastic bag, said Andee Mowrey, winery manager and the only full-time employee. That makes it fresher than wine in an open bottle, she said.

"East county, they know box wine," Mowrey said.

Rick Lengvenis agrees.

"This is the best thing in the neighborhood," Lengvenis said. He and wife Kristina live about a mile away and are members of the wine club.

"It's just a relaxed place," Kristina said. They were drinking Friday Night Blush, a blend.

Nearby, vendors at 38 booths were offering their art while the music stage had six acts during the weekend.

The place was once a dairy and wines were being poured in the loafing shed.

Dennis and Karen Roos, who live outside Minneapolis, Minn., were at the bar.

"We've been (club) members since 2005," said Dennis, a retired principal.

"It's my wine," announced a smiling Karen, who has relatives in Clark County.

"I love their Pinot Noir (a medium-bodied red) here. It's wonderful."

Any others to her liking? "I drink it all," she said, laughing.

They were with their daughter, Erinn Roos-Brown and her husband, Ted Brown, who live in New Britain, Conn.

The couple agreed they like the Moscato (a white varietal), but noted, "The close second is the Raspberry Delight (an estate brandy)."

Mowrey said Carl D. English was a visionary who advocated for wine in plastic bags.

He also was a student of history and some of the bottles come with little history lessons on the back label.

Mowrey said the most popular white blend is called Marguerite Metis, who was the wife of Dr, John McLoughlin. The most popular red blend is called Chief Factor's Favorite, in honor of McLoughlin.

McLoughlin worked for the Hudson's Bay Company as chief factor, or trader, at Fort Vancouver from 1825 to 1846. Historians note he was an esteemed and key figure in Northwest history.

Why name a wine after him?

Grape vines were planted at the Fort under McLoughlin's guidance, Mowrey said, and they were thought to be the first in the Northwest.