If you like wine, but don’t need to analyze its nose, body, legs or aftertaste to enjoy the experience, you’ll be at home at Stringtown Cellars in Eatonville. If meandering in a lavender field accented by wine tasting and good conversation also appeal to you, then Stringtown Cellars and U-Cut Lavender Farm are a must-do. Built from his friend’s hand-me-down grapevines and his wife’s love for lavender, John Adams has created a destination robust with stories.
The concept started with wine. John’s introduction to homemade wine started in the 1980s when he drove a friend to meetings. He was compensated with a bottle of wine for each ride provided. “I think most of it’s still in my cellar,” says John. “It was that bad.” (This is coming from a guy who believes wine should be consumed, not aged for decades with aspirations of getting better.)
In 1992 his friend was diagnosed with diabetes and encouraged to abstain from alcohol. This situation ended his interest in winemaking. He offered John his 77 vines, and John started planting them, 11 at a time, in the evening after he stopped working on the new house on Stringtown Road in Eatonville.
John didn’t know anything about winemaking; he just knew he liked wine. For 10 years that interest kept him growing grapes in his backyard, experimenting with different varietals, crafting new blends, and offering tastings to friends. He learned as he went. He tried to make decent wine out of Okanagan Riesling grapes for two years with no luck. He then sought expert advice from Okanagan County vintners. They informed him the grape wasn’t fit for anything but nice pictures. Out came those 17 plants. He also learned that birds and deer enjoy a well-maintained vineyard. Vines delicately arranged along a trellis make it much easier to spot and steal the delectable fruit. Consequently, that is one headache John eliminated with no adverse effects to his yield. Watering is another time-consuming chore he has eliminated. Eastern Washington vintners water their crops twice a year — once in July and once in mid-September. Western Washington receives more rain. Enough said.
In 2002, the u-cut Christmas tree farm next door came up for sale at the right price. Vineyard expansion was inevitable, so John and his wife, Chris, decided to take the leap and buy the farm.
In 2007, they opened Stringtown Cellars, offering handcrafted wines made in small lots from estate-grown and Eastern Washington grapes. The key word is “small.” John is a two-car garage winemaker. “A wedding or divorce could wipe me out,” he says. His signature wines include Trio, a Merlot blend; Farmhouse Red, a spaghetti wine; and Lavender Honey Wine, a white blend that you’ll either love or hate. They offer a line-up of other wines, which vary from year to year. All bottles are reasonably priced at $20 or less per bottle.
At first blush, wine and lavender seem like an odd combo, but not really. Both are touted for their artistic, culinary and medicinal benefits. However, pairing wine and lavender was not the Adams’ original intent. (Nor was the mini u-cut Christmas tree farm, but that’s another story.)
The lavender adventure started in 2003. A small plot of unplanted dirt needed a purpose. John didn’t want to grow grapes there. Chris suggested a herb patch. John’s enthusiasm was lukewarm. The Adams visited Sequim the weekend of its renowned Lavender Festival — along with thousands of others. Home came 200 plus Grosso hybrid lavender plants, plus the u-cut and gift shop ideas. The Stringtown Farms U-Cut Lavender Farm opening in July of 2005 was an event. Cars lined both sides of Eatonville Cutoff Road, waiting to enter the farm causing the threat of a sheriff’s visit for impeding traffic. Their gift shop was a tarp-covered trailer for peddling lavender seeds and soaps.
Now their big event is the annual Art and Wine show. The trailer morphed into a small building that doubles as a Gift Shop and Tasting Room. They offer all things lavender — soaps, sprays, lotions, bath salts, fudge, jam, lavender plants and seeds. Paintings by local artists are for sale as well. And, of course, they have wine for sale (no charge for the tasting). What more does a woman need than wine and lavender-laced fudge on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Well, maybe a ride home…
See the Stringtown Farms website for more information on their hours, events and products. The upcoming South Hill Artists Show on Labor Day Weekend is a great opportunity to visit. You also can find John at the Orting Farmers Market on Fridays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. through September 2.