Winery is the husband-and-wife team of Matt and Sarah Albee. Our
son Cole, 6, holds the position of Chief Hinderer, ably assisted by his little brother, Cameron. We are also supported by a cadre of tireless
volunteers, without whom all would be lost.
Winery is a small, family-run - did I mention small? - winery
dedicated to producing great wine, and to making sure that you
have a great time drinking it! Anyone who tells you that wine tasting
is serious business or tries to make you feel bad about your level
of wine knowledge is just plain missing the point. And we'll be
more than happy to straighten them out for you. We'll also be happy
to answer all your questions so that you can hold your own in party
conversation with the snobbiest wine geek.
Our production currently includes Malbec, Syrah, La Ronde (red blend), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, La Primavera (dry Rosé), Pinot Gris Port, and Cabernet Port (about 1000 cases altogether), from some of the best grapes that
Washington and Oregon have to offer; in other words - all kidding
aside - some of the best grapes in the world. Our winemaking
processes are risky, dangerous, and often painful, but the wine
is worth it - ok, it's not actually all that risky or dangerous,
but it is challenging and exciting, and we're thrilled to be
able to share the results with you.
Winery development began in 2003, although the story begins
several years before that (see How). The winery was licensed
and bonded, the space converted, equipment purchased, vineyards
sought, courted, and contracted, and we had our first crush in
the fall of 2003. We survived, and bounced back stronger than
ever, ready to take on the Chateau Ste. Mechanization's and Clos
du Mediocrity's of the world.
Our first bottling (of white wines) took place in May 2004, and our first bottling of reds took place in 2005.
Eleven Winery is located on Bainbridge
Island, in Washington
State, connected by ferry to Seattle seven miles to the east.
We don't have a fancy, expensive winery building; we bought a
rather ordinary 1970's house in a beautiful location with one
key feature: a large garage. After getting rid of the shag carpet,
the popcorn ceiling and the avocado appliances, we converted
the garage into the winery, making us garagistes in the truest
Washington State is the fastest-growing winegrowing region in
the United States, and for good reason. Eastern Washington has
all the characteristics necessary to produce great wines with
both ripeness and structure. It features well-drained soils,
little rain, ample warmth, long summer days, cool nights, and
cool fall temperatures; these factors combine to produce grapes
ideal for winemaking. Oregon is home to some of the finest Pinot
vineyards in the country, both Noir and Gris (not to mention
Blanc, Meunier, Auxerrois - the Pinot family is like a gang!).
did I get into winemaking in the first place? It all started
when I hung up my racing wheels and started looking around for
what I would do next. I was working for a software company at
the time: we were making digital brand asset management systems,
which was exactly as boring as it sounds; I knew my path lay
along another direction. I considered going back to school, having
aborted my graduate career in physics in order to pursue bike
racing while my legs were still young. I'm fascinated by the
workings of the brain, but the pace of scientific research is
enough to lull just about anyone to sleep, which is what it did
to me one morning as I dozed over a neuropsychology text in the
fall of 1999. In that half-awake state where dreams and reality
mingle and chat like guests at a party, an epiphany struck, as
though everyone at the party stopped talking at once except for
a single voice that said "you
should try winemaking."
I had met the winemaker (Dane) at a small
winery (Page Mill
Winery) near where we were living in Menlo
Park, California. He was a young guy, just a couple years older
than me, running a winery that his father had started in a
cellar he dug out under their home. It was September, and my
offer to help with harvest was met with an obvious "of course!" Within a few days
I found myself standing atop the crush stand in the cool morning
air, dumping 30-pound boxes of grapes into the crusher/destemmer.
Then and there, I knew that my destiny was sealed. I started
going to the winery in the morning before work, and after a few
days Dane suggested that I make a barrel of wine of my own, "and
do it now, because if you wait even a few weeks, you'll have
to wait until next year." I found some grapes and made a
barrel of chardonnay that year, and continued helping out at
the winery after harvest ended. Over the next three years, Dane,
generous to a fault with his time, space, and equipment, taught
me how to make great wine, and I spent as much time as possible
working in his cellar.
Sarah and I moved to Bainbridge Island in 2001, after my third
harvest at Page Mill. We moved back to be closer to our families
and to start one of our own, in addition to the winery. Some
say we're crazy for trying to do all of it at once - no, wait,
that's what we think; everyone else is sure we're certifiable.
Why Eleven? That takes a little explaining...
Ah. Now we come to the heart of the matter. Why? Because I love
making wine, almost as much as I love wine itself. To me, winemaking
encompasses all that is important in life: respect for the earth,
hard work and careful study, sharing experiences with friends
and family, and at the end of the day, enjoying a delicious meal
with a great glass of wine.
The winery gets its name from a bicycle racing term that captures
our approach to the winery and to winemaking. Prior to becoming
a winemaker I was a bicycle racer for many years. I reached a
level just high enough to get beaten by the likes of Lance Armstrong
et al on a regular basis, but not high enough to get paid to
race. I turned to winemaking as a source of similarly challenging
mental and physical tests without the tax burden of a significant
increase in salary.
On a typical modern road bike the smallest cog in the rear cluster
has eleven teeth, and it's the one that produces the maximum
gear ratio. Therefore, when you're at the point in the race when
it's all or nothing, when there's no choice but to put every
ounce of strength and determination you've got into the pedals
no matter how much you're already suffering, when you have to
give it absolutely everything you've got, you use The Eleven.