BLAINE, Wash. — The roots for Van Vino Vineyard reach back to 1988 when Dave Van Wingerden and his wife Annemiek bought 80 acres just a mile south of the Canadian border.
And with a family history rich in growing outdoor and greenhouse flowers, the couple used their land to launch a wholesale plant nursery — Pacific Growers.
Pacific Growers has expanded into a large, family-operated enterprise that includes five of the couple’s six children. It supplies bedding and potted plants to West Coast retailers such as Fred Meyer.
Now, it’s another family member — son-in-law Zach Deloof — using his skills as a winemaker with estate grapes and some grown by well-known relatives to turn Van Vino Vineyard into one of the most fascinating young wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was always Dave’s dream to grow grapes, but it was primarily just as a hobby, to make wine for friends, family and customers,” Deloof says.
As a commercial brand, Van Vino began just three years ago. The winery is a mile south of the Canadian border, tucked away in Washington state’s northwest corner.
Van Wingerden planted 4 acres of wine grapes in 2014, settling on eight varieties recommended by Cloud Mountain Farm, a nursery in nearby Everson. The vineyard name — Van Vino — is clever and catchy, a combination of the Dutch word van, meaning from, and the Italian word for wine. It also serves as a nod to Dave Van Wingerden’s parents. His father was from the Netherlands. His mother was born in Italy.
But it’s been Deloof, 29, who has brought the bottles of Van Vino Vineyard to market, joining the family in 2016 by marrying Van Wingerden’s daughter, Barb.
Born in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Deloof had worked for a meat distribution company early on.
“That wasn’t really my passion,” he says with a laugh.
He found his calling not long after his father-in-law offered him a position at Pacific Growers, which would evolve into making wine from estate grapes.
“I’ve always liked farming and growing,” said Deloof, “but I had zero background in wine.”
Van Vino buys Red Mtn. reds from Williams family
Prior to Deloof taking over as winemaker, Van Wingerden enlisted the help of Whatcom County resident Brad Stephens, a self-taught hobby winemaker who purchased grapes from Kiona Vineyards. Stephens has proved to be a mentor for Deloof.
“I worked with Brad for about two years and something just clicked,” Deloof recalls. “Every year, I was learning more and doing a lot of research. Winemaking took the farming to a new level, and it’s exciting and rewarding to taste what you’ve made.”
Van Vino Vineyard took root along a gently sloping hillside with a southern exposure and near some of Pacific Growers’ greenhouses. The family planted white varieties Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Grüner Veltliner and, surprisingly, Sauvignon Blanc. Red grapes include Pinot Noir clones 777 and 115, the Pinot Noir mutation Précoce and two varieties seldom seen in the Pacific Northwest — Zweigelt and Regent.
As one might expect, Western Washington’s cooler, shorter growing season presents challenges for growers, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner. Regent, a German hybrid, yields clusters of berries that separate beautifully to reduce the chance of mold. However, the thick-skinned, inky grapes produce wines that can lack complexity.
Van Vino also produces several wines from two Eastern Washington sources. Stephen’s past experience with Kiona Vineyards has led to a continuing relationship with the Red Mountain-based winery, and Deloof uses their vineyards for his Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménѐre, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. He’s also producing what many consider a Kiona specialty, Lemberger, and his current release displays beautiful flavors of candied cherry, sweet tobacco and leather with a long, silky finish.
Van Vino’s source for its Grenache comes from another Dutch family connection that has proven to be invaluable: Bill and Andy Den Hoed. The two Yakima Valley grape growers are related to Dave Van Wingerden through his sister-in-law.
The 2021 Cabernet Franc ($30) has proved to be one of Deloof’s favorites, with stunning violet aromatics, flavors of rich red cherry, blackberry and espresso, and a velvety finish that’s a mile long. His work with clone 777 Pinot Noir grown on the estate quickly earned a reputation for quality and moderate pricing — $28.
Aside from that Cab Franc and a Sangiovese from Red Mountain ($32), the Van Vino wines are sold for less than $30. That includes the three gold medal winners crafted by Deloof at the 2023 Seattle Wine Awards — the 2021 Merlot, the 2021 Estate Pinot Noir and 2021 Estate Madeleine Angevine.
“We’re a new winery, and we didn’t want to overprice,” Deloof says. “We want to earn name recognition and awards first before we start charging $40 or $50 a bottle.”
Van Vino Vineyard, 9029 Markworth Road, Blaine, WA 98230, VanVinoVineyard.com (360) 920-1656.
- Tastings are available by appointment only.