Roger Rezabek didn't spend his 65th birthday reclining on a sunny beach and toasting his retirement with a cold drink.
Instead, he was on his hands and knees in his Battle Ground vineyard planting his thousandth grapevine, a pinot noir.
Despite the hard work, he said, "I was having fun. I find great joy and satisfaction in tending a vineyard."
For the 30 years that Rezabek worked as an educator in the Midwest — most recently as a college administrator in Iowa -- he was making wine at home.
He had vacationed in the area and decided this is where he wanted to put down roots — literally.
"The Pacific Northwest has always held a fond place in my heart," he said.
When he retired early and moved to Clark County in 2005, he began looking for property to plant his vineyard.
In spring 2010 he moved to 10 acres north of Lewisville Park. Currently just over an acre is planted in grapevines, but eventually he plans to cultivate 4 acres in grapes.
Dreaming of sparkling wine
Just last week, he planted 200 pinot meunier (pronounced: pee-no-moon-yay) grapevines, which Rezabek said may be the first such vines planted in Clark County on a commercial basis. Although this black wine grape is one of the most widely planted in France, it's little known in the Pacific Northwest. Pinot meunier is the third varietal often combined with pinot noir and chardonnay to make sparkling wine, he explained.
"This part of the country has such similar latitude and climate as northern France," he said.
Rezabek hopes to make sparkling wines that will become world renowned and even rival the best of Champagne, France, and California's Napa Valley.
But don't expect to sample the results of his effort anytime soon. Rezabek said it will take several years for the newly planted vines to mature and another one to five years for the wine to go through the process of changing from a newly fermented wine, gaining its sparkles and then maturing.
At this point, he suspects he'll initially produce sparking wine with a blend. But it's too early to know yet. It will depend on the year's climate, which grapes ripen and to what extent.
Someday, Rezabek says Southwest Washington "just might become a great place for sparkling wine production."
"So far, the plantings I put in last week are showing new growth and are healthy. I'm encouraged."
Rezabek Vineyards is owned by Rezabek of Battle Ground and Donna Anderson of Vancouver. The vineyard is at 11700 N.E. 279th St., Battle Ground. Find them on Facebook.-- Susan Parrish
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