eleven winerywinemaker matt albee Eleven Winery is the brainchild of Matt Albee: winemaker, owner, chief cook, bottle washer...you get the idea. However, the whole thing would be impossible without the support of his wife, Sarah, and two boys, Cole and Cameron. We have amazing and wonderful people running our tasting room locations and keeping the wine club organized, and we are also supported by a cadre of tireless volunteers, without whom all would be lost.

eleven wineryEleven 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, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Roussanne, Viognier, a dry rose´, as well as both white and red Ports (about 2000 cases altogether), from some of the best grapes that Washington has 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.

eleven wineryWinery 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 wineryEleven 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 sense.

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!).

eleven wineryeleven wineryHow 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.

eleven wineryAh. 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.

Why Eleven? That takes a little explaining...

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.


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