In a part of the country that’s known for its long, cold and dark winters and short summers, Montana isn’t exactly conducive for grape growing, which typically thrives in the Pacific Northwest.
But that hasn’t seemed to stop wineries from popping up all over the Flathead Valley. From Columbia Falls down south on U.S. Highway 93 to Mission Mountain Winery in Dayton, winery owners are bringing in wine “must,” or grape juice, from California, Washington and even Italy and Chile. Some are fermented and bottled in-house in the Flathead while other wineries-owners have the bottles shipped and ready for consumption once they arrive.
While Montana is typically known for its high density of craft breweries and hoppy IPA’s in the alcoholic beverage realm, there are already at least five operating wineries in the valley, including Tailing Loop Winery and Glacier Sun Winery in Kalispell and White Raven Winery opening in the coming months in Columbia Falls.
Here’s a guide to some of the Flathead’s other wineries.
Waters Edge Winery and Bistro
Waters Edge Winery and Bistro in Evergreen imports wine must from California and Washington and all over the world, including Italy, France, Chile, Argentina and Australia.
Canadian owners Angela and Trevor Zuba opened the winery in early August following some COVID-related delays. In their 3,500 square-foot facility, there are 410-gallon and 1,350-gallon tanks used for the fermenting and racking (flavoring) processes. The wine is then clarified and filtered before it gets bottled.
Eventually, there will be an “adopt a batch” program, where customers can book a bottling party roughly six weeks in advance before the wine is ready where they can create a custom label and learn the bottling process.
The winery will also offer nontraditional flavors like tobacco and combination flavors and even ice wine, which is a cold press process resulting in a thick, sweet wine that’s paired with dessert.
“The nice thing about our winery is as we go along and develop more inventory, we can custom-make any kind of wine,” Angela said. “We’re not bound by traditional varietals.”
There’s also a Bistro menu, which includes items like Panini’s, tapas and desserts that compliment the wine.
MontaVino Winery and Tasting Room
In downtown Kalispell, MontaVino Winery just celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer. Owner Julie Davison heads to Washington a few times a year where she works with grape-growers in the Columbia and Yakima valleys to create reds and whites along with an in-house plum wine.
Davison also hosts wine-tasting parties with friends and customers once the bottles arrive from the west coast to taste-test and see if the wine needs improvement.
In the next few weeks, Davison and other winery-owners in the Flathead hope to roll out a wine map for their customers, something that’s common in wine-country areas like California, so they can enjoy all of the wineries in the valley. The maps will be available in every winery and potentially the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center once they are finished.
“Competition is always good,” Davison said. “The more wine-drinkers we can teach about wine, the better for our industry here.”
Unleashed: A Winery
New this year, Unleashed opened in January on Spokane Avenue in downtown Whitefish.
The 145-person capacity space is complete with 1,000-liter tanks where the wine is fermented from juices that owner Nicole Erickson orders from California’s central coast and bottled in-house.
Erickson keeps a balanced selection of white, red, flavor-infused and port wines along with assortments of cheese and crackers and Posh Chocolat out of Missoula.
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