Along Highway 99 in Vancouver stands a building whose walls could tell the history of wine in Clark County dating back to 1935, with ties to a sparkling wine house in business today in California’s Central Valley.
The historical trading post known as Fort Vancouver is cited as the location for the first grapevines ever planted in the state of Washington, but it would take more than a century until Clark County could lay claim to its first winery.
In 1935, orchard and dairy farmer Henry Anderegg opened Columbia Wineries Inc. in Hazel Dell — along with his business partner and brother-in-law, Henry Naegeli — and ran it until his death in 1968. Still fondly known by longtime residents as the Old Winery, it was the 26th bonded winery in Washington and, according to a paper authored by Peter Blecha, was one of only four wineries operating in 1960.
Grandson Walter B. Anderegg said Columbia Wineries made fruit wine only — such as apricot, loganberry, pear and apple — as well as apple vinegar. The current building owner, James Barton, says it also made up to 90 proof brandies and in its day hailed itself as the third-oldest distillery permit west of the Mississippi River.
In the early years, Columbia Wineries employed two winemakers — Rudolph Weibel of Switzerland and Georges Bouhey of Paris.