Dynasty Cellars: Bellingham winery has become Whatcom County’s “go to” wine destination
Couple from Czechoslovakia has come a long way to realize their American dream.
By Dan Radil
Peter and Olga Osvaldik have reason to be proud of the winery they’ve established in Bellingham, WA. at Dynasty Cellars. With its warm, inviting tasting room and lounge area, local wineophiles and out-of-town visitors alike have come to recognize this as Whatcom County’s “go to” place to meet friends, linger and chat over a glass of quality, handcrafted wine.
Making you feel like part of the family is exactly what the Osvaldiks had in mind when they opened the tasting room at its present location in 2012. But getting there took nearly three decades, beginning with a leap of faith that put them on a journey from their native Slovak Republic to the United States.
FROM YUGOSLAVIA TO LOS ANGELES TO BELLINGHAM
Tired of the increasing oppression of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, the Osvaldiks made plans to leave the country with their six-year-old son, Peter Jr., in 1983. Using vacation privileges to enter Yugoslavia (now Croatia), they sought out a United Nations underground facility for Eastern Bloc refugees. After obtaining permission from the nearby U.S. Embassy to come to America, an intense screening process, and a wait of about 2-1/2 months, they were on a plane to Los Angeles.
“It was quite a culture shock,” Peter recounts. “We had two suitcases, three blankets and about $120…that was it. And at that point we were basically on our own.”
The Osvaldiks took English language classes and earned a sponsorship from a local Korean church. Peter began work pumping gas before becoming a general contractor, while Olga found work in the computer industry. It was Olga’s friendship with a co-worker who had connections in Bellingham that led to the suggestion they consider a move to the Northwest. After visiting the area, they decided to permanently relocate there in 1990.
CABINETRY AND CABERNET
“I was planning to continue general contracting in Washington,” Peter notes, “but after the first winter, there was no way I was going to do framing work outside.” He made the switch to specialized custom cabinetry work, which still serves as his day job when he’s not making wine…a skill that has been a part of his family history for several generations.
“I was actually born into winemaking; everything was fermenting and bubbling around me,” Peter recalls with a chuckle. “It got into my system right there.”
After taking a few years to establish themselves in Washington, the Osvaldiks tapped into their winemaking roots by taking up home winemaking using grapes sourced from vineyards in Tri-Cities, WA. “That was the beginning of the vortex that sucked us in,” Peter laughs. “It was a hobby gone wild.” That hobby eventually led to the formation of Dynasty Cellars in 1995 and their first commercial release in 2006.
Among the winery’s early challenges was simply ‘getting the word out’ to local retailers, restaurants and wine consumers. Armed with cases of wine and looking for resellers, Peter and Olga self-distributed their early releases by driving to retail outlets and wine shops.
Among their first breaks was a purchase by Doug Charles at Compass Wines in Anacortes. Charles was so impressed with what he tasted that he later named the Dynasty Cellars 2006 DC3 Bordeaux blend one of his top 10 Washington red wines of 2010.
Positive reviews and word-of-mouth within the local wine community also gave notice that Dynasty was indeed a winery worth checking out. “It was a boost not only for sales but a boost for morale,” Peter recalls.
THE PRIMARY FOCUS: BIG RED WINES
Since Dynasty’s inception, the Osvaldiks have been fortunate enough to source the majority of the grapes for their red wines from two of Walla Walla’s finest vineyards: Pepper Bridge and Les Collines.
“I’ve always had an affinity for big, bold wines,” says Peter. “Those are the wines I like to drink. We started making those initially for our own use and the natural progression was to then make them commercially.”
Today’s wines are the result of what Peter says is a shift of his focus to 100-percent Les Collines-sourced grapes. “The vineyard is maturing to perfection, the quality of the grapes is astounding, and the Syrah is one of the best in the state.” The number of different varietals grown there also allows him to purchase virtually all of his grapes from the same vineyard; a ‘one-stop shopping destination’ as he likes to refer to it.
ON THE HORIZON
In keeping with consumer demand, Dynasty Cellars has added a few white wines to its tasting room menu as well – Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, and Semillon top the list – and the Osvaldiks plan to continue these varietals into 2018 and beyond.
Peter will also give his incredibly popular Rosé an encore performance using a co-fermented blend of approximately 95-percent Riesling and 5-percent Malbec.
Red wines scheduled to be released in the spring of 2018 include a 2014 Zinfandel, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2015 Merlot, while the 2015 Malbec and 2015 Syrah should be available sometime during the summer months. Late in the year, expect to see the Bordeaux-blend 2015 DC3 and the 2015 Zinfandel, along with a very limited release of a 2013 vintage Port-style wine.
Current production runs about 1,500 cases with plans to top out at about 2,500 cases within the next three to five years. The Osvaldiks feel this keeps the winery at a comfortable “family operated” status without compromising the level of quality.
WHAT SETS DYNASTY APART
Family is indeed at the heart of Dynasty Cellars. In addition to Peter and Olga, their two other grown children, Eric and Monica, are frequently behind the tasting bar and also assist with the winemaking and sales processes to assure that customers keep coming back.
“We don’t treat our customers as customers, we treat them as friends,” Peter notes. “We want to make people feel comfortable so that the focus is on the total experience and not just about the wine.”
To that end, guests can relax in a lounge area adjacent to the tasting room with comfortable chairs, sofa, and gas fireplace. An additional outdoor patio will be open this coming summer and plans are underway for the expansion of a commercial kitchen. Local musicians perform regularly at the tasting room, where the conversations are frequently spirited and glasses are always filled with good wine.
It may be a long way from Slovakia, but it’s exactly the kind of atmosphere the Osvaldiks envisioned in this home away from home.
Dynasty Cellars is located at 2169 East Bakerview Road, Bellingham, WA 98226. Hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 1:00 to 6:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Phone: (360) 758-2958. Web site: dynastycellarswine.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dan Radil is a freelance wine writer and educator based in Bellingham, WA., and has been an avid follower and supporter of the Washington wine industry since the mid-1980s. He currently contributes to Wine Press Northwest and Bellingham Alive Magazine, is President of the Whatcom Beer & Wine Foundation, and produces a wine blog called: danthewineguy.com.