TONASKET Esther Bricques winery is a delightful place. It occupies most of the plantation-style orchard the Dwinell brothers had in the 1920s and 1930s from the top of O’Neil Road down to the river, south of Oroville.
In 1991, Linda Colvin bought 15 acres with her first husband and started remodeling their house. After their divorce, Linda bought 15 more acres. Today, she has 80.
Linda met and married Steve Colvin — both are teachers by day, proving math and science do get along. In 2001, they were wondering what they could do to keep the land they loved and stay in the Okanogan.
Deciding to try a vineyard, they planted the first 100 of seven different varieties of vines. They have 700 vines today with 12 acres in fruit.
It’s handy being teachers as they could get the high school students to help with planting. Although they hire out some of the pruning and picking, they have friends who help in the tasting room and with bottling events.
Steve is in charge of the vineyard, where he uses his horticulture skills. But it’s Linda who calls the shots and is the winemaker — the only woman winemaker in the county. Her research in biochemistry and micro biology made for a perfect foundation to jump into winemaking. She’s also taking Washington State University’s enology program, one course at a time.
The couple just returned from a WSU-sponsored two-week wine tour in South France as a part of the wine camps the college puts on.
Esther Bricques’ outdoor tasting room sits in a lovely landscaped area under old-growth maple trees shading a large patio.
There is music year round on Thursdays; friends often gather there. The music moves inside to the barrel room during the winter.
Linda’s vision for the winery goes beyond wine. She sees it at an opportunity to “bring the arts together.”
The winery hosts dramas and art shows, as well. The art hanging in the tasting room switches out, but the artist who drew their label, Jim Weaver of Oroville, always has an exhibit.
Linda says she has many hats to wear: business, events, marketing and winemaking. But the people and music are the best parts.
The name of the winery is a nod to both Linda’s science and women. “Ester” refers to the fragrance of the grape and “brix” the sweetness or amount of sugar; basically “sweetly fragrant” or “fragrantly sweet.”
She changed it up to resemble a woman’s name, Esther Bricques.
Speaking of sweet, the winery has two very popular ice wines — a Syrah and a Riesling, which won gold in 2011 from NCW Foothills.
Linda says the labor is tortuous. The grapes have to be picked in 15-degree weather and pressed at 15 degrees. The wine is more like syrup. But they are favorites, as well as their cabernet franc (it won a silver in 2014) and bubbly Viognier.
My favorite is the Pinot blanc. Linda says this grape is unique to the area.
Last year’s harvest was 900 cases, but the winery usually produces in the 700-case range. However, with some new plantings going in, the plan to be at 1,200 cases in five years.
Linda and Steve have accomplisheded their goal of staying in the Okanogan by using their talents and creating an estate that not only makes great wine, ground-to-bottle, but showcases the talents of others as well.
This is the third in a five-part series of columns on local wineries written by Sandy Hansen. To reach Sandy, email her here.