Wine pays off for Greenbank Farm

Wine Manager Randy Turner displays one of the 58 varieties of local wine available at the Greenbank Farm Wine Shop. - Marcie Miller
Wine Manager Randy Turner displays one of the 58 varieties of local wine available at the Greenbank Farm Wine Shop.
— image credit: Marcie Miller

In 2001 the Greenbank Farm board decided to take a risk and convert the farm’s money-losing gift shop into a wine shop. It was a business gamble that paid off, and paid off well.

At the farm’s board meeting last week Executive Director Laura Blankenship reported the non-profit wine shop had brought in just over $13,000 in its first full year of operation.

Blankenship said the board made the decision to convert to selling all local wines for two reasons — they were losing money on the gift shop, and it did not meet the farm’s mission as a non-profit organization serving as a “business incubator.” Most of the merchandise sold at the gift shop was from out of the area, Blankenship said, while the wines sold are from no farther away than the Olympic Peninsula.

The 13 independent wineries represented at the Greenbank Farm Wine Shop include six on the Olympic Peninsula, Bainbridge Island Vineyards, Whidbey Island Winery, and Greenbank Cellars, as well as Pasek Cellars in Mt. Vernon, Lopez Island Vineyards, San Juan Winery and Mt. Baker Vineyards.

Greenbank Farm is a stop on the “winery loop tour” sponsored by the North Olympic Peninsula and Islands Winery Loop Association.

Wines in the shop range in price from $8.95 for a Fair Winds Gewurztraminer to a Merlot from San Juan Winery for $24.95.

The best selling wine is the Greenbank Farm Loganberry, which pays tribute to the farm’s loganberry growing history.

“There is a historical wine connection,” Blankenship said.

For those who can’t decide between a syrah and a chardonnay — or don’t know the difference — Wine Manager Randy “Wine Guy” Turner also offers a wine tasting bar. They don’t have the type of liquor license to offer a full bar, but a little sip can say a lot.

Customers can choose from 58 varieties of wine offered at the shop, which is popular with locals as well as tourists.

The retail wine shop is managed by Greenbank Farm Management Group, but the farm also houses Whidbey Pies Cafe, Island Coffee and Whidbey Island Alpacas.

“It has become a place where small businesses can get a leg up,” Blankenship said.

The board meeting was a chance for the group to work on fine tuning their capital project proposal to submit to the Department of Trade and Economic Development for funding. The proposal packet includes 60 letters of support, Blankenship said.

In December the board received word that Gov. Gary Locke was earmarking $1.5 million in capital funds for development of Greenbank Farm. Those funds, if approved by the Legislature, would come out of a section of the $2.6 billion capital budget designated for trade and economic development.

Blankenship said the group has come under fire from people who don’t understand how the governor can give this money with one hand while proposing severe cuts to education and health with the other. She stresses the money comes from separate budgets, and that the farm is not taking money away from the general fund.

“I hope people can be pleased and happy, and support the farm, and see this as a separate issue,” she said. “One doesn’t block out the other.”

In looking at upcoming events, Blankenship reported the farm is on the Valentines Day Red Wine and Chocolates tour, which features locally made wines and locally made chocolates; the Highland Games are set for the second weekend of August, making this the fifth year; and the Tilth farmers are planning on working on community P-patches and a children’s garden.

Also, Karen Hutchinson was appointed chairperson for the farm’s centennial celebration, coming up in 2004, and the Rotary Club of South Whidbey donated $500 for parking lot improvements.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at or call 675-6611

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