Craft beverages abound in bucolic Green Bluff

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Once known for small family U-pick farms, this agricultural community north of Spokane is starting a new tradition.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ADRIANA JANOVICH

Michelle and Jeremy Kyncl fell in love as soon as they saw it. They had spotted a “for sale” sign and followed a steep dirt driveway through to a hilltop clearing. “All of a sudden, you round the corner and — boom!” Jeremy says. “It was green, iridescent, and everything was growing. It was just a beautiful place.”

The couple had been looking for property for a production facility and tasting room for their up-and-coming meadery. “We looked around quite a bit,” Michelle says. “Green Bluff was our first choice. It’s my very favorite part of the Spokane area.”

This picturesque place, perched at an elevation of about 2,300 feet, has long been known for its collection of family and U-pick farms. But lately, this extraordinary agricultural community 15 miles northeast of Spokane has started a new tradition: producing an array of craft beverages — from beer and wine to hard cider and mead. Today, there are a half dozen craft beverage producers on Green Bluff, along with a handful of other retailers that offer tastings.

“Green Bluff gives you that idyllic setting, that very rooted agrarian connection to all of the flavors you’re tasting,” says Jeremy, who — along with wife Michelle — believes the addition of craft beverages helps expand and add value to the area’s offerings. “It’s physically stunning and also deeply involved in more sustainable methods of agriculture. Having that diversification into craft alcohol production allows us to start to break down some of the seasonality of Green Bluff.”

Weekends during high season can see bumper-to-bumper traffic on the two-lane country road that loops around this unincorporated community, once a preferred lookout point and hunting grounds for native tribes. Tourism picks up in June with strawberry season and becomes particularly busy during harvest festival in October. But between November and May, this pastoral place quiets down. Tasting rooms could help change that.

Husband-and-wife herbalists and meadmakers Jeremy and Michelle Kyncl raise a toast in their Green Bluff tasting room.

All of the craft beverage producers in Green Bluff are boutique, family-run businesses. About half are open seasonally or by appointment. “We’ve got a solid group of craft beverage producers up here right now,” Michelle says. “I think, as the craft beverage scene gets bigger, we’re going for a more year-round gig.”

The Kyncls opened Hierophant Meadery in fall 2013, just off the main road that wraps around the bluff. The husband-and-wife herbalists liked the tree-lined location for its accessibility, as well as its privacy. The property is not only home to their meadery, but it is home. Michelle’s father, a developer, built the family compound, and the Kyncls live there with their two young boys, as well as Michelle’s parents and some 30 rescue animals. Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary, run by Michelle and her mother, is also located on the land.

Hand-painted sign points the way for you-pick customers at High Country Orchard in Green Bluff.

Hierophant wasn’t the first craft beverage producer on Green Bluff, but it’s the only one making mead. Also known as honey wine, mead is an alcoholic, honey-based libation that dates to ancient times. The writings of both Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder reference the fermented drink, once called “nectar of the gods.”

Jeremy and Michelle, both graduates of herbal science at Bastyr University in Kenmore, specialize in off-dry, traditional, and infused mead in flavors such as vanilla, rose-cardamom, chamomile, and saffron. He’s the mead-maker. She handles marketing and distribution. Their basic brew, the signature Chrysopoeia, is made with local honey. It’s light and crisp, sweet but not too sweet. To that base, they add specialty herbs and spices, infusing their elixir with local lavender, lemon balm, and fir tips.

When it started, Hierophant produced only four varieties and 20 cases per month. Now, production is 10 times that amount, and the Kyncls make 10 styles of mead, as well as a sparkling honey wine and six lightly hopped, carbonated, session-style varieties they call “honey brews.” They ship directly to consumers and retailers in 38 states and recently opened a second tasting room near downtown Spokane in partnership with another Green Bluff craft beverage maker, Twilight Cider Works.

Unlike the Kyncls, who looked for land to fit their business, the Jordans found a value-added venture to augment the family orchard. Twilight is run by the husband-and-wife team of Will and Jackie Jordan, whose parents own Roenings, a U-pick cherry and peach orchard. “We were already up here working on weekends and all summer,” Will says. “It just made sense.”

The couple bought a place across the road from Jackie’s parents in 2008, and Will became interested in making hard cider as a way to honor the area’s apple-growing history — and utilize some of the present-day crop. Will began making cider in the basement, noting, “I had a hobby that got way out of hand.”

Founded in 2011, Twilight made only 500 gallons its first year. Today, production is three times that amount, and Will is not only the owner and cider-maker, but also president of the Green Bluff Direct Marketing Association, a growers’ organization.

High Country Orchard also offers a charming, shabby-chic country boutique packed with all kinds of décor.

“Everyone thinks of Green Bluff in October. They think of apples and pumpkins,” he says. “But most of the people up here are full-time farmers or they have full-time jobs to support their farming practice. We want people to realize that they can come up here in spring and pick strawberries, then drink fine wine or visit a cidery or meadery or brewery.”

Twilight is located in an old apple-processing and packing plant that was used by Green Bluff growers until the 1990s. The complex is now owned by Will’s father-in-law, and some of the fruit Twilight uses comes from his orchard, including fruit from a 100-year-old Royal Ann cherry tree. First Harvest cherry-apple cider is fruit-forward on the nose, light and gently sweet, but not cloying on the palate.

Twilight produces six kinds of cider with Green Bluff apples — from a traditional, semi-dry variety to a seasonal version with peaches. While Will doesn’t plan to grow production, he’s considering branching out into wine or beer — or both. “Cider doesn’t have a big enough draw for me to be open year-round, but if I had wine and beer, I’m sure I would be.”

The region boasts two other wineries. There’s Townshend Cellar, run by Don Townshend and his two sons, Brendon and Michael; it’s open weekends throughout the year. Founded in 1998, Townshend opened its tasting room three years later, becoming known for blends such as Vortex Red and T3 Red. After a brief period of producing wine in a local industrial park, the winery is now back on Green Bluff and recently opened a larger tasting room at a former Christmas tree farm.

And Trezzi Farm winery and vineyard is open by appointment. It’s owned and operated by Stephanie and Davide Trezzi, who planted a small vineyard with Barbera in 2005. Today, the boutique winery grows six acres of wine grapes — including Nebbiollo, Dolcetto, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Grigio — and makes its own wine.

Beer lovers shouldn’t feel left out: the area’s two breweries, 238 Brewing Co. and Big Barn Brewing Co. both offer tasting rooms for sampling. And they both offer seasonal brews that fit well with the area’s agricultural roots, like 238’s peach hefeweizen and apple butter bock, and Big Barn’s blackberry porter, pumpkin ale, and cherry kolsch.

While craft beverage-makers still account for a small portion of the artisan producers in the area, Michelle says, “Being on Green Bluff is definitely a huge gift.” A gift that these producers hope will help them build a new legacy for the region.

Adriana Janovich writes from Spokane about food, travel, wine, and more.

Green Bluff’s Craft Beverage Producers

238 Brewing Co. — 10321 E. Day Mt. Spokane Rd. (509) 238-2739 • 238brewing.com

Big Barn Brewing Co. — 16004 N. Applewood Ln. (509) 710-2961 • bigbarnbrewing.com

Hierophant Meadery — 16602 N. Day Mt. Spokane Rd. (509) 294-0134 • hierophantmeadery.com

Trezzi Farm — 17710 N. Dunn Rd. (509) 238-2276 • trezzifarm.com

Townshend Cellar — 8022 E. Greenbluff Rd. (509) 238-1400 • townshendcellar.com

Twilight Cider Works — 18102 N. Day Mt. Spokane Rd. (509) 570-8748 • twilightciderworks.com

More Green Bluff Sips

Wine tasting is also available at these locations.

Beck’s Harvest House — 9919 Greenbluff Rd. (509) 238-6970 • greenblufffarms.com

Mrs. Kalin’s Barn — 17911 N. Day Mt. Spokane Rd. (509) 991-2189 • mrskalinsbarn.com

Walters’ Fruit Ranch — 9807 E. Day Rd. (509) 238-4709 • appleranch.com

In between sips

Pick your own. Visitors to High Country Orchard can — depending on the season — pick their own cherries, peaches, apricots, and apples, as well as shop in the shabby-chic country boutique, or grab a scone, sandwich, or ice cream cone. Whole pies and other pastries are also available. So is produce. (You don’t have to pick your own unless you want to.)

High Country Orchard — 8518 E. Greenbluff Rd. (509) 238-9545 • highcountryorchard.com

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