Orcas Island’s apothecary turns 20 and sees a sustainable future in aromatic artisan products
In the little hamlet of Olga on Orcas Island, Chris and Eliza Morris have built a garden paradise around their sustainable business, Island Thyme, a purveyor of delicious-smelling herbal lotions, salves, soaps and sprays that nourish the skin and body with a broad harvest of herbs such as chamomile, calendula, cinnamon, rose, and, of course, lavender.
On a recent trip to the Tri-Cities wine region (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco for you non-Washingtonians) I had a chance to visit four vastly different wineries. One was one of the oldest wineries in the state—Powers (and Badger Mountain, their organic brand) on the hills above a Richland suburb, literally—we had to drive through suburban neighborhood to get to the tasting room and vineyard. I took a short truck ride with owner Bill Powers (now in his 80s) up to see the Chardonnay vines and have a sip of the Powers 2007 Chardonnay – a clean, crisp organic wine, full of fresh green apple and citrus flavors.
Powers has been growing grapes here since 1977, and has been organic almost that long. He says he was putting all these chemicals on the vines, and his boys were doing the work. He didn’t want the kids to do it, so he was doing it and not liking having to use these chemicals – so on a trip to California, he talked to some hippie grapegrowers who were farming organically, and they encouraged him to do the same, and so he did. And still, he’s one of the few certified-organic vineyards in the state. He does, as other organic farmers do as well, use sulphur to combat powdery mildew on the vines, about once a week for a certain period during the vine’s growth – this year was very humid and perfect for the evil fungus to grow. And then of course, sulfites are added to the wine to preserve it – pretty much every winery does this, or we’d be opening a lot of bad bottles. But Powers (Bill and his son Greg, the winemaker for Powers & Badger Mountain) and Mickey Dunne, part owner of Badger Mountain, have found a solution for their “no sulfites added” organic wine – bag in the box! It keeps oxygen away from the wine, and therefore keeps it completely fresh for up to 30 days! This is so common in Europe that I’ve heard box wine is almost 50 percent of the market. Here, it is growing, but still only about 10-12 percent. I hope that will increase as people put higher quality wines in completely recyclable boxes.