Bainbridge Outing, 3
A couple of years back, we began regular outings across the sound to Bainbridge Island (leading to posts in December 2010 and August 2011). We became Bloedel Reserve members in anticipation of visits at least once a season, with walks through its woods, meadows, and Japanese Garden. We stumbled on Rolling Bay Café and made it a regular stop after our walks through the reserve. In town, there was Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, Cafe Nola for a meal, or Hitchcock, where we had dinner two Augusts ago on the very Friday that it was featured in the weekly Seattle Times restaurant review. (Not only that. There was a full-page photo of it on the cover of the weekend arts and entertainment supplement. No wonder it was so crowded.)
Then our outings stopped, for no discernible reason. Laziness? Busyness? I don’t know. But, inspired by our owl outing two weeks ago and determined to get out more, we decided yesterday morning—once the fog began to burn off and it became apparent that we were in for a beautiful day—to make the 12:20 ferry.
We weren’t alone. The ferry was packed. We were among the last dozen cars to get on. A little over a half hour later, we arrived. (The photo at top is the view of the eastern end of Eagle Harbor, where the ferry turns in and heads to the terminal.) Thanks to the quirks of the loading system, we found ourselves among the first off, arriving at Bloedel around 1:15 in full sunshine, with temperature in the low fifties.
Let me quote, as I have before, from the reserve’s self-description.
[The reserve] is an internationally renowned public garden and forest preserve. The founder’s vision was “to provide refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty,” and the Reserve’s mission is to “enrich people’s lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes.”
The Reserve’s 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, a Reflection Pool and the Bloedels’ former estate home. We invite you to visit this Northwest treasure.
We spent an hour and a half following the reserve’s trails, taking us through woods and marsh, over to the home, around back and down to bluffs above Port Madison Bay with views across Puget Sound and beyond to the Cascade Mountains, through the glen, up to the orchid trail and Japanese Garden, over to the moss garden and reflection pool, back across the meadow to the parking lot, and then into the shop.
I’ll go through that again, this time via photos.
From Bloedel, we drove around one of our favorite neighborhoods, a little south on the shore of Port Madison, then headed farther south to the Rollingbay neighborhood, which features the aforementioned Rolling Bay Café and Bay Hay & Feed, the nursery, feed store, clothing store, and pretty much general store in which the café is embedded.
From Bay Hay & Feed’s website:
Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker fell in love with the old building in 1979 and bought it. Fresh from the sale of their natural food store in New Hampshire, Howard & Ce-Ann pictured a New England general store that sold hay and grain, tools and farm supplies. Soon their horticultural backgrounds led them to add a greenhouse, plants and organic garden supplies. All the while they were repairing, repainting, and renewing the old Rodal Building circa 1912 that they named Bay Hay and Feed. With the helping hands of friends and family, the steady support of Island customers and the constant encouragement of the Rolling Bay neighborhood, Bay Hay began to grow and grow. A strong community spirit already existed, but a destination to walk or bike, a place to meet, greet, get coffee or a bite to eat, are important in a community. …
Like a beehive, Bay Hay has always been the center of continuous activity dawn to dusk – new projects built out of old projects, merchandise coming in and going out, plans devised and revised, new staff and customers arriving, old staff and customers returning. Spring chicks and greenhouse starts, harvest fairs and storm preparations, dogs sniffing for treats, gardeners looking for advice, all add up to the buzz of Bay Hay.
It’s a delightful place to visit. We had a snack, Gail bought some knick-knacks, we checked out the baby chicks, wandered the nursery in search of a cat garden sculpture Gail regrets not buying a few summers ago, and wished we lived nearby.
Next stop, we hoped, was Rolling Bay Winery. We had seen signs for wine tastings and thought maybe they were open. According to the website, they aren’t open in general, but are sometimes. Maybe we’d get lucky.
It’s about a mile south of Bay Hay according to google maps, down a dirt road. As we bounced along, I grew wary, remembering another dirt road just the other side of Bay Hay that we took south a few years ago, leading to a dead end. This one went right through though, straight to Manitou Beach, above which opened up the most magnificent view of Mt. Rainier. However, we were supposed to have found the winery just before reaching the beach, which is to say, we missed it. We took that as evidence that they weren’t open for business, or else surely we would have seen a sign pointing us the right way.
No problem. On driving up the hill from the ferry when we arrived, we had seen signs of a wine tasting, so we decided to head back to town and find it. Which led us to Harbor Square Wine Shop & Tasting Room, in a residential-commercial complex across from the ferry terminal and parking lot. Not a winery, but we decided to park and give it a try.
When we entered, two couples were at small tables drinking wines, the proprietor asked if we were interested in a wine tasting, we said sure, and then he went off to help them, giving us time to examine the wine display along the wall to the left. To our surprise, we recognized many of the wineries. Almost all were in Washington, including two we visited on our Walla Walla trip last July: Buty and Walla Walla Vintners.
The wine that immediately caught my eye was Saggi, produced by one of the Long Shadows winemakers. Just a week ago, we were given a bottle of Nine Hats Sangiovese. In reading up on it, I learned the story behind Nine Hats and Long Shadows:
Nine winemakers. Nine hats. The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels now produce NINE HATS…wines of complexity and distinctive character.
Reading further, I discovered that the “signature wine” corresponding to the Nine Hats Sangiovese is the Saggi, a Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend. I thought—last week, this is—that we might enjoy trying both and comparing. First we would try the Nine Hats. If we liked it, we’d look for the Saggi.
But here it was, a 2008. No looking required. I put the bottle on the counter to buy. Then, as we continued to wait for our wine tasting, I saw a wine from Turley. Another coincidence, because also a week ago we were given a bottle of Turley old vine Zinfandel as a gift. Here was a 2011 Turley Cinsault. And it turned out to be one of the wines being offered in the wine tasting.
By now, the proprietor was free to give us some attention. We agreed to share a red wine flight, which would include that Cinsault, a wine from Walla Walla Vintners, a Rolling Bay wine, and a fourth that I now no longer remember. We then talked with him about the Saggi (which he said is one of his favorites), Buty wines, and wines from several other Walla Walla wineries that we visited or that he knew well.
The Turley Cinsault was my favorite of the wines we tasted. And our guide emphasized how astonishing it was that one could get a Turley for such a low price. We grabbed a bottle to buy along with the Saggi. Then Gail recalled how much she enjoyed one of the Buty white wines we tasted last July, so much so that we brought a bottle home with us. The store had a wide variety of Buty wines in stock. Gail was pretty sure that what she liked was the Chardonnay, so we got a bottle of that too.
We arrived at the car, three bottles of wine in hand, around 5:00. The ferry waiting area was just around the corner. Rather than eating an early dinner in town, we decided to head down the hill and catch whatever ferry was next. The 5:30 as it turned out, so our wait wouldn’t be long.
Once we paid and parked, I decided to head over to the terminal building, leaving Gail and the car behind temporarily. As I began my approach, I heard a distant roar, one that got louder and louder. Soon I saw some unusually well dressed teenagers. Rounding the bend, I discovered that there were hundreds. Tuxes, dresses, suits, corsages, boutonnières. Getting through them into the terminal building was hopeless. They blocked the doors and filled the entry. On closer inspection, I was surprised to see that they weren’t even high school juniors and seniors. No, 14- and 15-year-olds, evidently headed to a formal event in downtown Seattle.
I did find my way into the terminal, the long way around, then back to the car, arriving to tell Gail that it wouldn’t be a good idea, once parked on the boat, to head upstairs to the passenger decks, which would be wild.
We loaded a little late. As we drove on, we could see the teenagers pouring on above us via the elevated pedestrian ramp. No way we would go up and join them. Gail was content to sit in the car. I got out, looked out the side of the boat as we left Eagle Harbor and turned toward Seattle, taking in the views, then headed down to the stern to look back at the setting sun over Bainbridge and the Olympics.
It took a while to unload in Seattle. We pulled off into some traffic, with the formal teenagers walking in parallel and turning in front of us on 1st Avenue. Soon we were home.
For dinner: short ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, broccoli (all courtesy of Gail), and Nine Hats Sangiovese. A perfect end to a beautiful day.