Grace Vineyards produce wine, future viticulturists

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Grace wine executives
From left: Max Zellweger (chief viticulturalist of Grace Town Vineyards); Erv DeSmet (grand exalted appreciator of Greater Grace Wine Appreciation Society); John Hughes (Grace grand marshal and GTV flack); Eric Greenwood (associate appreciator and cellar manager) Courtesy photo
On May Day 2001, a group of local men planted 12 vines off of Highway 9 in the heart of Grace. The participants, members of Woodinville Rotary and the Grace Provisional Rotary Club and various civic dignitaries, were planting for the future in more ways than one.

“We wanted to grow grapes and eventually make wine,” explains John Hughes, current president of the Woodinville Rotary Club. “And then we wanted to use that wine to help fund scholarships for students interested in studying viticulture and enology.”

The idea for the project was the brainchild of Hughes and his cohorts, Terry Jarvis, Grace’s mayor for life, and Max Zellweger, the town’s viticulturist.

“We were looking for a way to support the wineries in the area,” says Hughes. “And we thought what better way to do that then to help support students who planned to work in the industry.”

The project, which is led by Woodinville Rotary past president Erv DeSmet and sponsored by the Greater Grace Wine Appreciation Society, gives up to $3,000 annually in scholarship money to students at WSU and Walla Walla Community College.

Hughes notes that these institutions have strong viticulture programs and many of their graduates go on to work in wine-related careers around the state.

“We had our first graduate,” he says. “Catherine Jones, who was from Inglemoor High School and went to WSU, graduated about a year ago and she has a job in Prosser running the wine extension program there. We’re proud that we were able to help support her education.”

Grace Wine Bottles
Ready to open, breathe and pour
The program has been running since 2003, the year of the first vintage of the grapes and production of the initial bottles of the group’s wine, a Pinot Noir. In 2008, another 24 vines were planted at a new site located on Molbaks’ plant farm.

“We only make a few cases a year,” comments Hughes, “and we don’t sell it. We’re not a commercial winery. The way it works is when someone donates to the scholarship fund, they get a bottle of our wine in return.”

The wine that comes from the original vineyard is called Grace Town Vineyards’ “Reckonyard Gold Pinot Noir,” named in recognition of the type of business that used to occupy the site — an auto dismantling yard.

Chief winemaker is Zellweger, a past president of Columbia Winery and wine industry veteran.

“Max knows so much about wine,” says Hughes. “He supervises the process from start to finish and so far, the wine that’s been produced has been very drinkable.” He adds, “Recently, we had a wine tasting session of our 03, 07, 08 and 09 vintages and the scores were in the mid to high 80s, which was pretty good. The panel was unanimous that all four vintages were wines of character, each with its own true personality. They felt that the wines showed evidence that each would be well served in terms of ability to age gracefully for many years.”

Desoto Gardens at Grqace
DeSoto Gardens Block of Grace Town Vineyards, pruned and ready to produce 2012 harvest of Pinot Noir for Reckonyard Gold label.
Hughes notes that experts agree it is an unusually delicate task to produce Pinot Noir in Puget Sound’s climate, but adds that this challenge was met with considerable, well-deserved confidence by the Gracean vineyard team.

“It was a challenge we took on and it’s been rewarding to see the success we’ve had,” he remarks. “

The vines are really sturdy now and we’ve been able to produce decent wine each year with the exception of 2011 when the grapes didn’t mature because it was too cold.”

The true satisfaction for the group, however, has been in its ability to help numerous students achieve their educational goals, which in turn is helping to provide a trained workforce for the many Washington wineries and wine-related businesses.

Abundancia aim: grow, preserve good food

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Gardeners of all ages took part in the Abundancia work party March 25 at the Sharecroppers Garden. Courtesy photo.
Cynthia Swenson is the daughter of a sharecropper who was raised in rural Louisiana with the understanding that her family’s survival was tied to the land.

“I grew up knowing the importance of small farms and growing good food,” she says, “and for most of my life, having good food was not a challenge.

“But, after my husband passed away, I struggled to provide food for my young sons. It was then that I began to depend on my local parish community and friends to help me to get through those difficult times.”

Swenson, now a Woodinville resident, wants to give back to others by using her life’s experience and education as a way to support families that want greater access to organically grown food.

To this aim, she founded Abundancia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and learning how to grow and preserve good food.

“Our mission,” explains the local woman, “is to tackle today’s challenges with optimism, to create the new structure for local community resilience, one garden at a time.”

Swenson, who is an admissions counselor for the School of Education at Antioch University and a graduate student in environmental and community permaculture, began to research avenues that would allow for greater access to local food sources.

This past summer, she received a fourth of an acre of land at the Sammamish Valley Grange and $1,000 start-up money for Abundancia’s Sharecroppers Garden.

“We’re going to grow all sorts of organic produce,” says Swenson, “and all of the product will be free to anyone who comes and helps at the farm or who participates in any of our events.”

She adds: “My plan is to create an active outdoor lab for the community and the goal is to grow good food and give it away.”

Swenson explains that she is not interested in the demographics of who comes to the garden, as it is open to anyone. What does interest her, however, is what people do with the food. She wants to know how they use it or if they trade it, or take it to the farmer’s market.

“I’m interested in this whole idea of how communities create systems to survive,” she comments.

At present, the organization is getting the word out about its activities through Facebook, attracting folks from all sectors of society.

At its first event, a free community feast with produce donated by the Root Connection and prepared by participants, nearly 40 people attended. There were students from Cascadia Community College, UW Bothell, Antioch and Simon Fraser University, along with employees of Boeing, Microsoft and Google and a number of local residents.

“We’re slowly getting the word out and the response has been extremely positive” says Swenson. “We’re getting kids involved, too. A sixth grade class came out several months ago on a field trip to help spread ground cover for the winter, using the opportunity to work on math skills as they plotted the spread and the yield.”

Every two weeks, the organization holds a work party at the garden and once a month there’s a special event such as a movie night, workshop or presentation.

Swenson chose the Woodinville area as the location for the Sharecroppers Garden because of her strong feelings for the Sammamish Valley.

“I love the valley,” she comments. “It’s like my home in Louisiana. I feel connected to it and I am dedicated to this community.”

She adds, “I see the Sharecroppers Garden develop as an informal education site and community development model that can be duplicated in multiple locations.

“Although, we are in the start-up phase, I hope for years and years to come that families and individuals will come to the garden and learn, create and teach each other sustainable life skills.”

For more information about Abundancia, call (425) 419-4443 or visit

New staff members to support sustainable mission at 21 Acres

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

21 Acres Staff
Courtesy photo Left to right: 21 Acres staff: Robin Crowder, Deb Sternagel, Ramon Mendoza, Kurt Sahl, Gill Dey, Pepe Nunez, Kathy Jordan, Brenda Vanderloop, Cat Brimhall, Carlos Mendoza, John Eizuka.
Sustainable issues are gaining traction in the media these days. Local food systems are being looked to as ways to solve food security issues and to address obesity prevention. Alternative energy is becoming more widespread and considered as a viable way to limit green house gas emissions. Here in Woodinville, community members are excited about the opportunity to learn new ways of growing, eating and living their lives to minimize the impact on the Earth and to experience healthful, prosperous lives.

The 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living is significantly expanding programming and hiring staff to address this growing demand for information in these areas and meet the educational needs of the community.

The 21 Acres School just completed its first offering of courses and received rave reviews from students.  Many more courses and classes are on the schedule and new offerings are being planned. The commercial kitchen is providing a home for its first food entrepreneurs, the educational facility is being rented for public use, and the organization is pleased to announce that the new 21 Acres Market opens in early May. In order to provide this wide breadth of offerings, 21 Acres has hired new staff members in all areas of programming and operations.

New 21 Acres team members include:

Cat Brimhall, 21 Acres retail manager, grew up attending local farmers markets in the area with her mother where she would sell her handmade goat milk soap, homegrown lavender, garlic and tomatoes and home-harvested honey. In her previous position as produce manager of the Sno-Isle Natural Food Co-op in Everett, Brimhall focused much of her efforts on sourcing locally farmed produce. She is a passionate farmer advocate and brings her expertise to the new 21 Acres Market upon opening this May.

Robin Crowder, 21 Acres marketing and development director, returned to the Northwest most recently from the University of North Carolina where she directed research related to local foods, agriculture and economic impact projects. Her previous experience as operations manager with the Bellingham Farmers Market helped farmers and small businesses position themselves to attract a broader customer base. Crowder brings her vast experience in sustainable marketing initiatives and new program development to the 21 Acres team.

Gill Dey, 21 Acres culinary classes director, has 25 years experience as a food writer, cookbook author and magazine editor. She gardens organically, is a Master Recycler and Composter and loves growing herbs. Originally from Scotland, Dey formerly worked in the Seattle area as a food consultant, judging national recipe contests, developing new specialty food products and writing recipes. She comes to 21 Acres with recent experience from Preservation Kitchen in Bothell and Sur la Table in Kirkland.

John Eizuka, 21 Acres farm manager, has farmed organically in the Sammamish Valley for the previous 10 years with the Root Connection Farm. There he served as operational field manager growing fresh produce for over 500 households in the community. Eizuka’s motto is “What we eat is what we become. We eat to live, not live to eat!”  He believes growing food is one of the most important tasks in society and that keeping the balance between Mother Nature and civilization is critical and that sustainability is the key to that relationship.

Carlos Mendoza, 21 Acres facilities manager, enjoys a hands-on approach in his management of the 21 Acres Center’s new green-built building along with his maintenance and landscaping responsibilities. Mendoza worked on family farms throughout his youth and his ultimate goal is to have his own farm one day.

Deb Sternagel, 21 Acres administrator and event coordinator, continues her long standing commitment to the community sharing her interest in sustainable education with the public.  As president of the Northshore Youth Soccer Association, Sternagel was a leader in partnership development and advocacy. In her administrative role, Sternagel is often the first point of contact to 21 Acres.

In addition to the new staff, the 21 Acres team includes employees Tiffany Cole, chef; Pepe Nunez, farmer, Ramon Mendoza, facilities; Kathy Jordan, project manager; along with independent contractors Brenda Vanderloop, public relations and communications; and Kurt Sahl, sustainable energy education.

21 Acres is located at 13701 NE 171st Street, Woodinville, Washington. For more information, visit or find them on Facebook and Twitter @21acres.

Solar Home Design course offered at 21 Acres School

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Solar Design
Solar Panels. Courtesy photo.
Are you considering building an addition or new structure and thinking  about installing solar panels? Would you like to offset your electricity use with on-site solar?

Are you ready to help alleviate the environmental impacts of coal-generated electricity?

If you are asking yourself these questions, then attend the inaugural 21 Acres Solar Home Design course, offered six consecutive Tuesdays beginning May 8 and learn how to use the sun for heat, power, and comfort.

The six sessions and topics covered include:

• Session 1: Solar 101-The Basics of Residential Solar Use; Cut through the chaos and get focused on a specific project

• Session 2: Passive Solar Strategies for Residential Design and applications; Learn about heating, cooling and daylighting – system types and characteristics

• Session 3: Sizing, Performance, Costs and Benefits; Get answers to questions: What capacity should I consider? How many solar panels do I need? Plan a system to meet everyday needs.

Recoup the investment with long term savings thru Washington state’s cost recovery system

• Session 4: Solar Thermal from A-Z, Design Construction and Operation; Explore residential and backyard farming applications, (i.e. options for greenhouses, residential hot water, passive thermal collection)

• Session 5: Photovoltaic PV systems A to Z, Design, Construction, Operations; Covers engineering, resources, approved contractor lists, smart sourcing of supplies and, info re who to call next after the class

• Session 6: Off Grid System Types and Operations (urban and rural); Learn about irrigation, water capture and pumping, garden features. Covers small panel independent system set-up. Good for ponds, fountains and outdoor lighting.

solar Array
Solar PV array during installation at 21 Acres. Courtesy photo.
Course faculty are Jeremy Smithson and Chris Herman.

With a non-profit school dedicated to teaching people how to grow, eat and live sustainably, the new 21 Acres School located in the newly green-built center for Local Food and Sustainable Living, kicks-off the spring season with this new course along with several others to be announced soon.

Upcoming courses in the Growing/Eating/Living series include Creating and Maintaining Toxic-Free Home and Garden Environments; Backyard Farming Part II; Cooking Fundamentals with a Sustainable Approach; Practices for Living Sustainably and several more throughout the year. Get your name on the wait list for early notification.

A new certificate program, the Sustainability & Stewardship Certificate, is available to students who complete studies in one or more sustainability fields.  Enroll now and the fee is $45 for a two-year period. Enrollees receive advance notice of class availability and occasional special discount offers.

Early bird registration fee, prior to May 1, is $195. Standard rate, after May 1, is $225. 21 Acres member discounts apply.

Interested students may enroll and register at, (425) 481-1500; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 21 Acres is  located at 13701 NE 171st Street, Woodinville,

environmental class focuses on sustainable design

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Sustainable 705
Kaitlyn Clark and Caitlin Brown doing water quality work on Barnes Creek to compare to Elwha. Courtesy photo.
Timbercrest Junior High teacher Amy Leslie is piloting a new class in environmental technology for Northshore.

Its focus is on sustainable design, an area of study that schools are increasingly adding to their curriculums due to its relevance, both present and future, to society.

The district already has a course in the subject matter at the high school level, but this is the first time it is being offered to junior high students and currently only at Timbercrest.

“It’s an interesting evolution as to how it all came about,” says Leslie. “Basically, the idea for the class came from a compilation of lots of factors and people.”

She explains: “I used to teach ninth grade and whenever I touched on the subject of sustainability and renewable energy, the kids got really excited.

“Meanwhile, the administration was looking at adding more science, which was also a request from families. And the district was interested in introducing more CTE or Career Technical Education courses for ninth graders. It all just came together.”

The course, according to Leslie, explores the concept of sustainable design through six units of study: Principles of Sustainability and Human Impacts (climate change facts and solutions, ecological footprints); Our Water (managing quality and quantity, local and global water issues); Our Vehicles (sustainable transportation technology and systems, mass transit, alternative fuels, human power); Our Homes (building materials and design, green building rating systems, energy conservation and efficiency, sustainable ways to get electricity); Our Stuff (manufacturing practices, electronics, food, cradle to cradle design); and Taking Action (stewardship). An overriding goal of the course is for students to learn how to measure and reduce the impacts of their lifestyle choices on the health of our planet and society.

“The state has standards for this class,” notes Leslie, “and I have designed the curriculum to meet these standards. Students get occupational education credit for the class and included in the curriculum is an exploration of ‘green’ jobs and career paths. They also will get the tools and skills they need to prepare them for AP Environmental Science and the Sustainable Engineering and Design class in high school.” She adds, “And preparation for a future that may look very different than the one we have now.”

Leslie has 18 kids in the class, but with increased awareness, she expects enrollment to rise next time the course is offered.

She comments that the students are highly engaged in the material and very interested in the field.

“This class makes me feel more connected with the environment in our community and around the world,” says student Mike Frizalone. “It challenges me to think of ways that we can help reduce our effect on the environment.”

Another student, Nick Minkin, adds, “It’s a great class that gets us started on thinking about bringing the world to smart energy, and a new global standard.”

To prepare for the course, Leslie spent much time reading, studying and collaborating with the teacher responsible for the Sustainable Engineering and Design class at Woodinville High School.

She received a $10,000 STEM grant for materials, which has been invaluable.

“There are lots of resources available,” she remarks, “and we’re using a variety of different ones.” She adds, “It’s a hands-on class and the kids get to do lots of activities with experiment kits. I’m also having guest speakers come and talk about their areas of expertise. And then we’re going on several field trips, too.”

Some of the excursions planned include visits to Cascade Recycling Center, Cottage Lake, Brightwater Treatment Plant, Leota Junior High’s composting program and possibly the Harvest House, one of the greenest homes being built in the area.

Recently, the class spent three and a half days on the Olympic Peninsula studying the changes that are occurring on the river with the removal of the Elwha Dam.

For Leslie, the course is very stimulating to teach and she enjoys watching the students develop a passion for the field or build upon an existing one.

She says, “They bring lots of ideas, creativity and interest to the table, which is fun. And seeing our future sitting in my class is really exciting.”

As a result of her avid interest and work in this field, Leslie was recently selected to participate in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Fulbright Japan administers the program and it is jointly funded by the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the U.S. Department of State and the Japanese Government’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The program is designed to raise awareness of ESD-oriented classes, enhance ESD-related curricula in both countries and deepen a sense of global interconnectedness between teachers in Japan and the U.S. in four areas: food and sustainable nutrition, environment, energy and resources and international understanding and cooperation.

Twenty-four teachers from Japan will travel to the U.S. in late April and the same number will go to Japan in late June.

During their in-country time, participants will attend an orientation to the country’s culture and education, attend workshops and presentations with experts in ESD and visit ESD-focused schools, cultural locales and other ESD resources sites. At the end of the program in each country, all of the teachers will gather for a few days of joint collaboration. Leslie is very honored to have been chosen to be involved in the program.

She says, “As one of the few teachers in the country selected to participate in the Japan-U.S. Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development, I’ll be better equipped to teach interconnectedness, the main theme for this class.”