Seattle Magazine Feature

3 Reasons to Check Out Orcas Island’s Burgeoning Wine Scene

Private label Pét-Nat and irreverent wine temples lay just 100 miles north of Seattle.

Orcas Island Aerial View – San Juan Islands Washington USA

Orcas Island has always drawn visitors with its monumental views, lush parks, and utterly relaxing island vibe. Now, with new wine bars, tasting menus, and sommelier services, the ever-growing food and beverage scene has increasingly become the island’s siren song. Once a place to get away from the hustle of urban life, many of Orcas Island’s best spots are now integrating city luxuries into their DNA—in a decidedly island way.

For any wine lover, or just excited adventurer, here are three good reasons to make the trip north ASAP:

Champagne Champagne
8292 Orcas Rd, Ste A, Orcas Island, WA, 98280

One of the most anticipated openings on Orcas Island over the last year was Champagne Champagne, an “irreverent natural wine temple by the sea.” One look out of the restaurant’s back windows and you’ll quickly understand the use of the word “temple.” Chiseled into the rock side of southern Orcas, Champagne Champagne provides a panoramic view of the Salish Sea, Shaw Island, and passing San Juan ferries.

This little restaurant is the brainchild of Orcas Island native Amelia Carver and her fiancé Brian Crum. The pair returned to Orcas with the desire to showcase the incredible bounty of the San Juan Islands and create an engaging, safe place for people learn about natural wine. Champagne Champagne is a celebration of things the couple loves to eat and drink. That means Gewurztraminer from Oregon’s Analemma Winery, oysters on the half shell, Cru Beaujolais from Juliénas, fried smelts, 12-ounce cans of Montucky Cold Snacks, and endless crudos, ceviches, and tatares.

Champagne Champagne also boasts an adjoining wine shop called the Bodega, which sits somewhere squarely between a typical city corner store and your dream wine cellar. The street-facing shop is small, but mighty, packed with beautiful, value-driven organic and natural wine and beer from small producers and farmers. A one-minute walk from the ferry terminal, the Bodega is a welcomed place to spend time while waiting for the boat home.

Doe Bay Wine Company
109 N Beach Rd, Ste D1, Eastsound, WA, 98245

Orcas native and sommelier Cole Sisson returned to his homeland to open Doe Bay Wine Company after traveling the world slinging wine. Along the way, he met his wife, Stephanie Sisson, an industry professional with a passion for wine training and education. Together, they run the East Sound wine shop. Doe Bay Wine Co.’s selection is world-class, with plenty of traditional bottles, high-quality budget options, local wineries, and even the couple’s own foray into wine—the Orcas Project (the Oregon-grown Grenache Pét-Nat is a must).

A killer selection of wine is a given for any bottle shop that wants to succeed, and Doe Bay does not disappoint. However, what truly sets the shop apart is the couple’s passion for education, which seeps into every offering they have. Throughout the summer, they host a nightly wine tasting for 12 guests from 7:15-8:00PM. The themes change, with options ranging from “Top Grapes of Southern Italy” to “Boutique Producers of the Northwest.” These classes are a chance to explore new regions, ask questions, and bring home interesting bottles. Beyond regular tastings, at any given time of the year, Cole and Stephanie offer trip planning and tours of Washington wine country, wine cellar procurement, delivery throughout the island (including to your tent at Moran State Park), wine dinners, and regular tastings with local producers.

Hogstone’s Wood Oven & Aelder
460 Main St, Eastsound, WA 98245

What started as one obsession-worthy, crowd-inducing pizza place has now become two of the best restaurants on the Island. Both run by Food & Wine’s 2017 Best New Chef Jay Blackinton (who we featured in Seattle magazine in the June 2015 issue), Hogstone’s Wood Oven operates (mostly) from the backyard patio, while Aelder offers multiple course tasting menus from the small interior and open kitchen. While the food differs from one establishment to the next, what both restaurants share the same passion for interesting, highly allocated wine. Constantly evolving, mirroring the food that has made Blackinton famous, the wine list is always entertaining, enlightening, and food-friendly.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy to find wine lists that only feature local wineries—and with Blackinton’s focus on hyper local cuisine, one might expect to only find wine made within the state’s borders. However, Hogstone and Aelder both boast some of the best international selections you can find in all of Washington—mixed with some American beauties, of course. Over the past year, wines have included Stanko Radikon’s decade-old orange wine from Friuli, Jean-François Ganevat’s Jura selections, apple wines from Fable Farm Fermentory in Barnard, Vermont, Brooks Winery Oregon Pinot Noir, and the Loire’s incredibly culty Clos Rougeard. Reservations at Aelder are now live, and it opens for the season April 13.

The food coming from Blackinton’s kitchen is reason enough to make the trek to Orcas, but there is so much more to love than just what happens in that wood oven. Go for the pizza; stay for the wine.

Originally posted by  DYLAN JOFFE  of Seattle MagazinePosted 

Posted on March 22, 2018 at 4:49 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Articles, Lifestyle, San Juan Islands

2018 Housing Forcast

There have been many forecasts published right now for 2018, for politics, the economy, the weather, and so much more. Here is what I expect to see in 2018.


Interest Rates: Interest rates continue to be a great topic of discussion, with most predicting a rise. While the rates may rise a bit, I believe they will average around 4.4% for a 30 year fixed mort- gage by the end of the year.


National Home Sales: We should expect that home sales will continue to increase, and demand will exceed the inventory. Still, the inventory should begin to increase due to the rise of new home construction.


Home Buyer Profile: The millennial home buyers are going to continue to increase, particularly in the less expensive markets. Last year, millennials comprised of 34% of the buyers nationally.


Local Market Forecast: We too have been experiencing an increase of millennial buyers. With the strong economy and dramatic growth in Puget Sound, these folks are looking to Orcas and the San Juan’s as an optimal getaway. The homes here look enticingly affordable compared to what is available in the Seattle market currently. Our inventory is continuing to shrink, and unless some- thing dramatic happens nationally, the local market should continue to remain strong. However, unless we begin to see new inventory, we may experience a slow down in the market, as buyers struggle to find what they are looking for, and they appear willing to wait for the ‘right’ property. Please stop by the office, or give us a call, and we will be happy to discuss this further with you .



John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 10:03 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Articles, Buying, Housing Market, San Juan Islands, Selling

Property Assessments– What do they mean?


Our office and brokers have received many calls with questions regarding the newly received property value assessments.

According to the San Juan County Assessor’s website “State law requires that assessors appraise all taxable property within the county at 100% of its true and fair market value, according to the highest and best use of the property. Fair market value, or true value, is the amount of money that a willing and unobligated buyer is willing to pay a willing and unobligated seller.

“Each year, the County is responsible for reviewing the values of approximately 20,000 parcels. Whether you have purchased your property recently or not, the Assessor will still evaluate your property on an annual basis. These annual evaluations are based on research of sales of properties within the past year. For example, if 2016 sales are available, they are used to calculate the 2017 assessed values.

By State law, members of the Assessor’s office are re- quired to conduct a physical inspection of the property every 6 years. If new construction occurs, then this new construction will be physically inspected annually until construction is completed. These physical inspections are taken into consideration when updating the current assessed value.

Once the valuation is established, your taxes are calculated based on a tax rate. Many factors determine property tax rates, the amount of property tax due on com- parable properties will vary throughout a county. The three main factors that determine the tax rate include: various combinations of taxing districts in different areas of the county, budget amounts for each taxing district, and voter-approved special levies and bonds.

Key point: these tax rates vary year to year, depending upon the County annual budget.  If assessed values go up (or down) it does not necessarily mean that your taxes will go up (or down).

If you disagree with your new property assessed value, there is an appeal process via the Board of Equalization that you may undergo. Keep in mind that you must reg- ister the appeal within 30 days of the original filing of the new valuation of your property.

The San Juan County Assessor’s website is an excellent resource for additional information:









John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner

Posted on November 29, 2017 at 10:20 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Financial, Housing Market, San Juan Islands

Real News – Article 4


This column is the second on the affordable housing issue.  We all know what is needed, but it seems we don’t have a clear vision of how to accomplish it.

Last time I mentioned an affordable housing solution on San Juan Island that appears to have served that island well since its development in 1982. It’s called The Oaks. Located in a rural area and buffered from surrounding properties, most Islanders don’t even think about it and some don’t even know it exists.

In a time of less restrictive zoning regulations, the developer acquired 7 contiguous parcels of rural land totaling approx. 40 acres. They installed streets, sidewalks and utilities serving 76 home sites for double wide manufactured homes. The land is leased to the homeowners who  own the units, which can be resold by owners moving off-island, or to other properties. Sales prices have ranged from around $100—$200K depending on location and size of the homes. The property lease includes water, sewer and road maintenance such that the area appears well maintained.  There are relatively few sales of these homes because turnover of residents is low.

Today, due to County zoning regulations, it would be almost impossible to do an Oaks.  Yet we can see it works and addresses affordable housing needs, at least on San Juan Island by being a product that naturally falls into the right price point.  Our County needs to encourage affordable housing development by creating new zoning regulations to allow projects like this to occur today.  Of course, the devil is in the details, and zoning modification would have to include safeguards such that neighbors would not be adversely affected.

Orcas Island has areas of forested and/or buffered land where thoughtfully-designed high-density development could occur on otherwise low-density land. This would be an excellent topic for each of us to address with our Commissioners.  The time may now be right for such a discussion.

Since I started this column, I have received a fair amount of thoughtful feedback and I encourage you to give me a call or drop by to say hello and discuss any Island issue you feel is important.  My intention is to make this column thought provoking and helpful in some small way.







John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 4:42 PM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Housing Market, San Juan Islands

We’ve Got You Covered on Orcas Island

With the weather changing and winter rapidly approaching, Windermere Real Estate offices in Snohomish and King Counties are participating in the “We’ve Got You Covered” campaign; collecting cold weather gear for homeless youth in the city. While we are lucky to not have a large homeless population here on Orcas, there are still many people in our community who could use a helping hand.

With this in mind, our office has decided to run a local version of this campaign. So from now until November 10th we are collecting warm socks, hats, scarves, mittens and gloves for youth in our community. Items will then be delivered to Orcas Family Resources, who has graciously agreed to help us with distribution.

If you would like to donate, items can be dropped off at the Windermere Office in Eastsound. (*all items must be new)

Thank you for helping us keep our community warm this winter!

Posted on October 25, 2017 at 9:43 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Lifestyle, San Juan Islands | Tagged , ,

What is the Windermere Foundation?

The Windermere Foundation was started in 1989 by the owners of Windermere Real Estate, which is based in Seattle. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $33 million to support it’s mission: helping low income and homeless families.

The Foundation began in Washington, but now has grown to serve the 10 western states. Currently, there are more than 40 major organizations that receive significant funding from the Foundation. These organizations provide emergency assistance, and youth and children’s programs.

As part of the Windermere organization, each of our brokers donates a portion of their commission from every transaction to the Windermere Foundation. Each of us is proud to support the Foundation. A portion of the funds that we donate comes back to our office to enable us to donate directly to local organizations within our community that support the same cause as the Windermere Foundation: helping local families right here on Orcas.


We have a local Foundation Representative, Elyse Van den Bosch, who works directly with the local non-profits to assist in their applications for funding. We have supported organizations such as the Funhouse, Orcas Family Connections, OPAL immediate housing needs, the Food Bank, and each of the various early childhood programs, to name just a few.

In addition to our broker commission donations, our office has also coordinated various fundraising and volunteer activities to raise additional money for our local non-profits that assist families and children in need.

Being a part of this community is very important to all of us. We take great pride in the fact that our office has put thousands of dollars back into our local community, and we look forward to continuing to do so. If you have questions about the Windermere Foundation, or whether your organization may be a candidate to receive funding from the Foundation, please contact Elyse for more information:







John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner

Posted on October 11, 2017 at 10:37 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Articles, Financial, Lifestyle, San Juan Islands

Autumn has arrived on Orcas

There is nothing like stepping outside, taking a deep breath, and pulling your jacket just a little closer around yourself. I haven’t worn a jacket in months – oh the joys of summer. But I can’t resist the smile that emerges on my face as the goose bumps rise. Maybe it has to do with how fresh the air feels, maybe it’s because the island has made it through the summer rush, or maybe it simply has to do with the fact that I love getting to put on my beloved boots and sweaters again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer as much as the next person. Sun and heat are two of my favorite things, but this summer was particularly dry for the San Juan Islands and I for one am tired of the color brown. For the last few months everything has just felt dusty and dirty – not something those of us from the great ‘north-wet’ are used to. I miss the green. And so, the return of the rain is something I welcome with open arms.

There is also this miraculous slowdown that happens post-Labor Day. September is still a busy month on the islands, but nothing compared to July and August. It just has an entirely different feel. Now, not only is it easier to get on a ferry last minute, but going to Island Market is no longer a hassle, and everyone is so much more laid back. It’s as if the islands have been holding their breath for two months and are finally able to exhale. Locals stop and chat on the street again, without that wild look in their eyes that says, “I am going to lose it on the next person that asks what times the whales go by”. Yes, that is a common question, and no, the whales do not share their schedule with us bipeds, so please stop asking.

After the breath of September, the islands start churning again, with all kinds of activities suited to the shift of seasons. Savor the San Juans runs from the first day of fall through the first week of November and brings with it many events and opportunities to enjoy the flavors of island life. The Orcas Island Film Festival runs the first weekend in October and has become quite the affair over the last few years, bringing in award winning films from around the world. There are also a slew of lectures, classes, and farm tours that happen through the end of the year. And the holidays out here, truly magical.

As the days begin to cool and the darkness stretches longer than the day, all I can think about is being curled up on my couch with my dog; a fire burning in my woodstove; mouthwatering smells emanating from the slow cooker; hot apple cider warming on the stove. Fresh pressed cider is everywhere on the islands right now and will be the majority of what I drink for the next couple of months, interspersed with some hot chocolate and homemade hot buttered rum. Oh yes, the season of coziness is upon us. Welcome back autumn.


Alysha Sherburne | Office Manager

Posted on September 22, 2017 at 9:11 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Articles, Lifestyle, San Juan Islands | Tagged , , ,

Real News – Article 2

A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article stating that the San Juan Islands are the fastest growing luxury home market in the country. This article has created many discussions in the local real estate world all revolving around the question: “What does this statistic mean?”. It also asks the question: “Who is really buying on Orcas Island?”

It may surprise you to find out that in the past twelve months, of the 191 sales of both land and residential properties on Orcas Island, 75 of those sales were represented by Buyers already living on Orcas Island. No wonder the locals pay such close attention to the real estate market!

In addition to these 75 purchases, 48 of the sales were by Buyers from the Seattle metropolitan area, and 11 from greater Washington State. That equates to 70% of our Buyers being from Washington State.

The graph below illustrates the breakdown of where our Buyers are coming from overall.

I hope you find these statistics as interesting as I do. If you have any questions, or would like more information, stop by our office here in Eastsound to speak with any one of our highly qualified Brokers….We always love to talk real estate!



John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner

*Source: NWMLS & Realist


Posted on September 8, 2017 at 11:44 AM
Windermere Orcas | Category: Articles, Buying, Housing Market, San Juan Islands, Selling

The Gardner Report – Q2 2017




The Washington State economy has been expanding at a rapid pace but we are seeing a slowdown as the state grows closer to full employment. Given the solid growth, I would expect to see income growth move markedly higher, though this has yet to materialize. I anticipate that we will see faster income growth in the second half of the year. I still believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017.

Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continue to see unemployment fall. The latest state-wide report now shows a rate of 4.5%—the lowest rate since data started to be collected in 1976.

I believe that growth in the state will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole and, with such robust expansion, I would not be surprised to see more people relocate here as they see Washington as a market that offers substantial opportunity.



  • There were 23,349 home sales during the second quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 1.1% from the same period in 2016.
  • Clallam County maintains its position as number one for sales growth over the past 12 months. Double-digit gains in sales were seen in just three other counties, which is a sharp drop from prior reports. I attribute this to inventory constraints rather than any tangible drop in demand. The only modest decline in sales last quarter was seen in Grays Harbor County.
  • The number of homes for sale, unfortunately, showed no improvement, with an average of just 9,279 listings in the quarter, a decline of 20.4% from the second quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 3.6% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that it is unlikely we will see a significant increase in the number of homes for sale for the rest of 2017.






  • Along with the expanding economy, home prices continue to rise at very robust rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.9%. The region’s average sales price is now $470,187.
  • Price growth in Western Washington continues to impress as competition for the limited number of homes for sale remains very strong. With little easing in supply, we anticipate that prices will continue to rise at above long-term averages.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County where sale prices were 29.2% higher than second quarter of 2016. Eight additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • The specter of rising interest rates failed to materialize last quarter, but this actually functioned to get more would-be buyers off the fence and into the market. This led to even more demand which translated into rising home prices.




  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by 18 days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County remains the tightest market; homes, on average, sold in a remarkable 15 days. Every county in this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop from the same period a year ago.
  • Last quarter, it took an average of 48 days to sell a home. This is down from the 66 days it took in the second quarter of 2016.
  • Given the marked lack of inventory, I would not be surprised to see the length of time it takes to sell a home drop further before the end of the year.




This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. To define the Western Washington market as “tight” is somewhat of an understatement.

Inventory is short and buyers are plentiful.

Something must give, but unless we see builders delivering substantially more units than they have been, it will remain staunchly a sellers’ market for the balance of the year.

Furthermore, increasing mortgage rates have failed to materialize and, with employment and income growth on the rise, the regional housing market will continue to be very robust.


Posted July 26 2017, 11:00 AM PDT by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate. Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. Find the original post here



Posted on July 27, 2017 at 8:11 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Articles, Buying, Housing Market, San Juan Islands, Selling

Fourth of July weekend on Orcas Island – Wow what a show!

Orcas may not be a big island, but it sure celebrates like one. Although July 4th falls on a Tuesday this year, this island will be rocking all weekend long leading up to the big day. Whether you are into shopping, eating, or just enjoying the festivities, there is plenty to keep everyone busy. Here’s what to see and do on the rock over the next four days:

July 1

Eastsound Fire Station Pancake Breakfast @ 7am-11am

This is a great annual fundraiser to support the Eastsound Volunteer Firefighters and EMT’s. They will be serving up their special recipe pancakes, sausage, eggs, and beverages. Cost is $8 per adult and $5 per child with kids under 5 years eating for free.

Farmer’s Market @ 10am-3pm

Happening every Saturday, all summer long on the Village Green. This is a great place to grab produce and flowers from island farms, check out local artists, and grab some lunch.

Independence Day Celebration @ 10am

This celebration of island history, sponsored by the Orcas Island Historical Museum, takes place on the Village Green in conjunction with the Farmers Market. There will be a pie booth, hot dog stand, and beer garden. Then at 1:30 the local Harvey Family will put on a logging show.

Community Parade – “Celebrating Island Creatures” @ 12 noon

Islanders from local businesses and organizations will be dressing up as all manner of animals and parading through Eastsound Village. Parades on this island are a one-of-a-kind experience, so you will not want to miss this.

Lions Club 42nd Annual Salmon BBQ @ 1pm-7pm

The Lion’s Club is involved in many projects across the island, and this event raises funds so they can continue with their great community service. Served alongside the salmon is a baked potato, coleslaw, roll, beverages, and the option of adding on apple crisp. Cost is $18 per adult and $12 for children up to 12 years.

July 3

Deer Harbor Fireworks and Music @ 9pm

Gather down on the docks at the Deer Harbor Marina to hear some music and enjoy the light show. This is a very popular event, so be sure and get there extra early.

July 4

6th Annual Funhouse Commons 5K Run @ 9am

Work off some of those calories from the weekend with a race around the Eastsound area. All ages and abilities are welcome with the kids 1K race beginning at 10am. Registration is $35 per adult and $10 per child. All proceeds benefit the Funhouse Commons, who provides many programs for island kids.

4th of July “inter-Dependence Day” Celebration @ 3pm-10pm

Hosted at Orcasong Farm, this is an evening of music, education, food, and fun. From 3-6pm there is a workshop titled “Music as Medicine” and from 6-10pm there will be a potluck dinner and live music provided by The Living Arrows. Cost is $10-$40.

Eastsound Fireworks @ 9pm

Head on into town in the early evening to hear the Community Band play before the big show. Then find a spot on the beach to kick back and enjoy the fireworks.

Posted on June 30, 2017 at 1:45 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Articles, Lifestyle, San Juan Islands