Creating a wine haven at Heathen Estate

Brewer and restaurateur working to transform former Village Vineyard

By

Published:

 

Heathen Estate

• Where: 9400 N.E. 134th St., Vancouver

• Tasting hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

• Information: www.heathenestate.com or 360-601-7454

BRUSH PRAIRIE — With the purchase of an established, close-in vineyard site back in October, Heathen Brewing has expanded its focus to include wine.

Heathen’s owner, Sunny Parsons, is taking on the challenge of vineyard owner with much the same intensity and wide-eyed interest as his hats as entrepreneur, restaurateur and brewer.

“The whole fermentation world has always attracted me because of the science behind it. I know that I know very little about wine, so I’m kind of diving in and trying to learn as much as I can,” Parsons said.

Guests had their first chance to see Parsons’ latest project on Saturday, when Heathen Estate opened the doors of its grand Victorian-style home that graces a rolling hillside in the Brush Prairie area.

The location was introduced to Clark County as Village Vineyard in 2014 by then-owner Patti Kuni, until she realized the daily upkeep of a winery, bed and breakfast and event space was more than she was prepared to take on in her 80s.

Parsons is gracious when he talks about the acquisition of the 20-acre parcel with a south-facing slope planted with approximately seven acres of vines.

“She (Patti Kuni) had another buyer ready to pay more, but he wanted to use it as a private residence. I’m fortunate that Patti wanted someone to carry on what she had invested, emotionally and financially, into the winery,” Parsons said.

Rapid growth

Parsons came on the scene in 2012 with the opening of Heathen Brewing in a converted barn in front of his home. A few months into production, his crew decided to add limited hours for tastings and growler fills, and the instant fan club put Parsons on a quest for a full restaurant space.

Feral Public House was his follow-up in 2015 and, just like the original tasting room, its popularity exceeded expectations from the onset.

Now presiding over a 5,000-square-foot home that he’s turned into a four-bedroom Airbnb, Parsons has set his sights on completing the dream that Kuni began. Subject to county approval, he hopes to break ground this summer with a six- to seven-month build-out projection.

Expanding on the original architectural drawings, Parsons plans to add a 9,000 square-foot structure to house the winery, and he hopes to add beer and cider production as permitting allows. A commercial kitchen for small bites and, possibly, farm-to-table style events, will also be added. Once this occurs, the tasting room will be moved permanently to the “Fermentation Compound,” which will be open to the public for exploring the craft world while the original house (nicknamed the Halo House) will be reserved for private events.

For now, Heathen Estate is excited to welcome wine lovers on weekends to the newly-renovated main floor tasting room. Warmer weather promises to make good use of the wrap-around porch seating and the inviting backyard — complete with a cozy fire pit.

Multi-use venue

In addition to its potential as a venue for corporate events, weddings and reunions, tasting room manager Lynda Lathrop said the new property also offers a relaxed environment for family and friends to come together to enjoy locally-made craft beverages.

“My wish is to bring a non-intimidating, educational experience to the tasting room. My hope is that everyone leaves the tasting room wanting to tell people what a great experience they had,” Lathrop said.

Although Parsons has added a couple of new members to his crew, he’s retained familiar faces. Dave Owens has stayed on as vineyard chief, Alberto Martinez as tribal grower and Andy Thomas as winemaker.

Heathen Estate will open with the original Village Vineyard eight wine line-up while it waits to see what the 2016 harvest has brought forth.

“The first vintage of our vineyard was harvested just last fall. It is too soon to be specific, but they are developing nicely in our cellar. Our vines — pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling — are dormant now, and I’m looking forward to seeing the first signs of new growth in a few weeks,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a 2005 graduate of The Institute for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and has a history of working with pinot noir and pinot gris, in particular, from his days as winemaker for Ankeny Vineyard in Salem, Ore. Parsons has nothing but high praise for the vintner with “mad chemistry skills.”

Wine only, for now

Once its Level 2 restaurant permit is approved by the county, Heathen Estate will be able to pour Heathen beers and ciders. Until then, wine lovers can sample the well-aged whites and reds originally sourced from White Salmon Vineyard and Fjellene Cellars in Walla Walla.

While open, Village remained a bit of a secret in the Clark County wine scene. Parsons, not one to launch elaborate marketing campaigns, intends to work with local nonprofit organizations to build awareness synergistically at scheduled monthly food and wine pairing events.

Parsons said, “I think if you involve the community and work with nonprofits, (Heathen Estate) be successful on its own. People buy from people with like-minded values.”