Contributed by Christine St.Pierre

This Labor Day, consider avoiding the wildfires and staying home to experience the Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island’s Winery Tour Weekend, September 5–7, from noon to five o’clock PM. Seven wineries and one tasting room present wine procured from grapes grown within the island’s maritime climate as well as the east side of the Cascade mountains. These small and quaint wineries are earning big awards, and the vintners and viticulturists will be present during the tastings to welcome you and discuss all things vino. Take a loved one or two along for the ride, although avoid large groups as these tasting rooms are island-sized. After the clock strikes five, regroup with your friends and neighbors at one of the island’s restaurants to pour over your experiences from the day!

The Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island (WABI), which began in 2003 at the hands of winemaking fanatics, consists of seven independent micro-wineries living right on our patch of rock. These wineries are run by their winemakers—individuals who are gifted with the ability and driven by the passion to create award-winning, vibrant handcrafted wine. Without relying on heavy machinery and thousand-barrel batches, these wineries operate through simply designed artisan systems, as well as uncomplicated, community-driven supply sources—like uber-local grapes—and neighborly distribution.

WABI consists of the following seven wineries that will be participating in the Winery Tour Weekend over Labor Day, as well as the Island Vintners tasting room:

Amelia Wynn Winery: This winery, founded in 2008, features Bordeaux, Rhone, and Northern Italian wines from grapes sourced from Eastern Washington’s aged vineyards.

Bainbridge Vineyards: With land stewardship dating back to 1928, this vineyard’s maritime bioregion—similar to that of France and Germany—works wonders for the seven acres of grape varietals grown on site at the Day Road Farm.

Eagle Harbor Winery: A commitment to honoring and furthering winemaking in Washington State has this winery producing new-age wine influenced by old world styles.

Eleven Winery: This off the cusp, sustainable (yes, green!) winery not only produces a variety of fantastic wine, but is run by wonderfully loving people who great things, like donate all after-tax profits to charity as well as sit-down food pairings with the winemaker.

Fletcher Bay Winery: Located in the happenin’ Coppertop Business Park, this winery features French Bordeaux-style wine that incorporates Italian Sangiovese and Spanish Tempranillo grapes.

Perennial Vintners: In 1997, Perennial Vintner’s (PV) winemaker began experimenting with winemaking, but it didn’t take him long to realize that most of winemaking truly happens in the vineyard, and so began the 2005 conception of (PV), producing estate-grown dry white wine from the underappreciated Melon de Bourgogne grape.

Rolling Bay Winery: After many years of playing and exploring within winemaking, a group of friends and wine enthusiasts settled in rocky Rolling Bay nearly a decade ago to handcraft fantastic wine as well as a stunningly beautiful tasting room, both of which have been considered one of the “Top 22 Tasting Rooms in Washington” by the Seattle Met.


Contributed by Christine St.Pierre

According to NASA, 2014 was the hottest year on record—crops died, land dried, rivers shriveled, and we began feeling the effects of a dry heat that many have never experienced before. But, as I write, I am gazing at a disheartening portion of Mt. Shuksan’s pristine, ice-blue glaciers that have receded into the dark hollows of the mountain’s rocky core, and, next to her, Mt. Kulshan’s (Baker) famed powder looking more like the slushy shoulder of a highway during a Chicago winter—murky from the soil and rock moving beneath the rapidly melting snow—and I wonder what NASA’s records will reveal about 2015’s state of emergency on both the land and sea.

Over the winter, I taught an English lesson on satire to the 2015 graduates of Nooksack Valley High School, located north of Bellingham. The lesson preceded the area’s 93-mile “Ski to Sea” multi-event relay race that traditionally begins with skiing down the slopes of Mt. Kulshan (Baker) and ends with sea-kayaking Bellingham Bay. This year was the first in the 100 year history of the event that was forced to eliminate the ski portion altogether due to an extreme lack of snow. The students resonated with the lesson on satire, creating satirical headlines about the Patriot’s shoddy Superbowl win (“The Deflate-riots”), a search for the new Pope (“The first black, female Pope, Poprah?”), and, with unfortunate poignancy and relevance to the lives of these snowbird seniors, headlines like “Surf Mount Baker!” and “Surf to Sea!” Witnessing these warning signs as early as February frightened me, but I had no idea what terrifying drought conditions would we face in Washington State, on the entire west coast, throughout much of the Midwest, and across the entire globe.

In May of this year, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought for Washington for the first time since 2005, following the historic lows of the winter’s snowpack, dwindling river levels that threaten fish populations (not to mention increased temperatures in the shallower river water), and irrigation districts cutting off water to farmers in eastern Washington, an area greatly affected by the rain shadow of the Cascades. Declaring drought for Washington state must meet two criteria: the state must be experiencing or expected to experience a 75 percent reduction in water supply and consumers of this water will experience hardships due to this lack of water.

By May, Washington had already experienced an 82 percent reduction in water supply. The State Dept. of Agriculture predicts a $1.2 billion crop loss this year as a result of the drought, according to the Dept. of Ecology. The Olympic Peninsula is experiencing high-elevation wildfires and the bloom of glacier lilies, where, normally, there is seven feet of snow. “This drought is unlike any we’ve ever experienced,” said Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon on their website. “Rain amounts have been normal but snow has been scarce. And we’re watching what little snow we have quickly disappear.”

In August, state legislature approved the reallocation of $16 million dollars toward drought relief work, including the support of stream flows for fish, water supplies for farmers, and grant money for cities, counties, and tribes to develop alternate water sources and purchase or lease water rights for the 2015–17 biennium. This approval arrived just in time to address the seriously scary possibility that this year’s El Niño could be the most extreme in history, making for a difficult recovery over the next few years.

El Niño, associated with dry winter and spring conditions, is upon us. In order for this rare and complex climate event to take place, three things must occur simultaneously: eastern trade winds weaken, sea temperatures rise, and the southern oscillation index must be -7 or below (which it has been since 2014). To spare you a layman’s description of what scientists expect to be a “Godzilla” El Niño, I’ll sum it up briefly: trade winds across the Pacific Ocean weaken, releasing a pocket of warm water near Indonesia that travels eastward, then sinks along with the thermocline, which means less cold water is rising up from the deep ocean near South America, reducing rain much of southern hemisphere. For we on the west coast, rain tends to follow the warm pool of water—although, this year, scientists aren’t too sure it can end the drought. In addition, heavy rains after a drought can bring upon heavier mudslides and floods.

It’s a lot to accept all at once — Central California looks like the post-apocalyptic set of Mad Max, Oregon’s on fire, and Washington’s land and rivers are shriveling in the heat. We’ll see what the weather brings to us throughout the rest of the year, but we can’t regrow glaciers in our lifetime or turn back the clock. Things — “they are a changing.”


Summer in western Washington is certainly a most cherished season, offering extra hours of warm sunshine to stay and play a little longer. Maybe you’re backpacking the Cascades or Olympics, where you’re guaranteed mind-blowing vistas of glacial lakes, sprawling ranges, blossoming wildflowers, juicy berries and rogue fruit trees, mossy waterfalls, clear ocean views, and quiet nights filled with stars. Unless, that is, you’re sailing through the San Juan islands, meandering through the various canals and passages while on the lookout for resident orca pods safeguarding their newest calves.

Fortunately, summers in western Washington also offer the perfect combination of entertainment, community, and the great outdoors: a host of out-of-this-world music festivals put together by teams of folks who seem to really “get it.” Festivals like Seattle’s Bumbershoot, Bellingham’s Subdued Stringband Jamboree, and the ever-popular Summer Meltdown offer choice, escape, and an opportunity to bust out your tent and sleep beneath the trees after sunny days filled with music, art, food, spirits, and, well, spirit.

The only problem? Choosing which festival(s) to attend. With a collection of festivals offered in nearby Oregon, such as the bluegrass junkie’s pilgrimage to Northwest String Summit (July 16–19) or this year’s 150th bizarre and buoyant Oregon State Fair (August 28–September 7), it can all be a bit overwhelming. Allow me to breakdown and build up Washington’s greatest festivals to make next year’s decision-making a bit easier.

Summer Meltdown – Darrington, WA – August 6–9

“Where the music meets the mountain.” This music festival is kind of a big deal, and with a slogan like that, how can you resist? The Meltdown’s far-reaching, multi-genre lineup is big, featuring headliners such as electronic gurus STS9, sunshine reggae Iration, foot-stomping Greensky Bluegrass, and jazz-funk fusion Galactic, and real-talk music from Nahko and Medicine for the People. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your sweetheart, or come alone and fill your days with ultra-positive vibes and maybe a few workshops like the “Artist Talk” with installation artists or “Crafting Wearable Light” leaving you with vibrant, LED origami shapes. You may want to leave the kiddos in good hands for the late-night shenanigans, though, because when the sun goes down, things really start to heat up. Late-night tents feature DJs, string bands, and dance parties well into the morning. You’re sure to leave Summer Meltdown exhausted from the smiling, dancing, and singing, and filled to the brim with memories to last a lifetime.

Subdued Stringband Jamboree – Deming Log Show Fairgrounds, Bellingham, WA – August 6–8

“When it’s blackberry time in Bellingham, it’s Jamboree time for me!” chanted the crowd during local band Hot Damn Scandal’s damn hot Saturday night set to wrap-up an enchanted weekend in the forests just outside of town. This year’s 15th annual Jamboree was a portrait of all of the magic that an incredibly proud, creative, and dedicated community can cultivate when given a county fairground, hard-working (and free-working) hands, and the creative talents of not only a long list of eccentric and exciting musical groups, but also the many visual artists who created stages, tents, and aesthetic reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, with draping lights and dripping fabrics, theater-esque stage décor, and a modern-carnival vibe. This festival is a must—an absolute must—if you’re interested in taking a peek into the wild and wondrous minds of traveling musicians, rambling artists, and Bellingham’s finest.

Bumbershoot – Seattle, WA – September 5–7

If you’re a resident of Washington, you’ve heard of Bumbershoot. As one of Seattle’s largest cultural celebrations, featuring comedy, theater, visual arts, dance performance, and film in addition to a wildly pronounced musical lineup. This year, the festival’s headliners include soulful Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, dub step kingpin Bassnectar, flannel-clad Built to Spill, Chance the Rapper, ambient Devotchka, bluegrass whisperers Elephant Revival, soulful Grace Love and the True Loves, profound Hozier, and the beloved Neko Case, to name only a few of their A-Z lineup of big names, diversity, and range. You might not have a mountain range as your backdrop or a cozy tent to curl up in at the end of the night, but for the love of music—call your friends, crash on couches, and bring a light jacket, because Seattle’s Bumbershoot is the place to be during Labor Day Weekend.