At Siren Song Winery, It’s Not Just About the Grapes, It’s
About so Much More for Owners Kevin and Holly Brown
It’s not just fermented grapes, but also memories mixed in with the sheer passage of time that makes Siren Song’s story so compelling.
By Sebastian Moraga
You may not be surprised to learn that wine comes from grapes. Unless you visit Siren Song Winery in the Lake Chelan Wine Valley, that is.
Founded in the mid-2010s, Siren Song’s wines are the child of, yes, grapes, but also the brainchild, travels, experiences, and dreams of Kevin and Holly Brown.
Behind every bottle (and on the back of every bottle as well) there’s a story that led Kevin, the winemaker for Siren Song, to make that particular wine in that particular way. So, it’s not just fermented grapes, but also memories mixed in with the sheer passage of time that makes Siren Song’s story so compelling.
“Kevin’s vision was always to make not just great varietals but also wonderful blends that are inspired by European-style wines,” said Holly, co-owner, executive chef and self-described “Chief Siren” of Siren Song, who lived in France with Kevin for a while and who still offers an annual trip to France to the members of its wine club.
Siren Song is the product of all these experiences, from living in France, STUDYING in Spain, and traveling to Italy. “Everything is built upon the idea of a re-creation of some of our favorite European experiences,” Holly explained.
Now back stateside, Kevin is producing around 3,500 cases of wine annually, up from the initial 2,500 cases of the early years. Kevin and Holly remain faithful to the philosophy behind their winery: First, the wines Siren Song makes are the wines that Holly and her winemaker husband Kevin like to enjoy. And second, if the wines Siren Song makes are to be enjoyed, they are to be enjoyed with food.
Sixteen years after they first started making wine in Seattle, the Browns have a broad vision for their Chelan Valley digs, to which they moved their production to in 2015. They want to see it become not just a destination, but THE destination. The road to becoming one of the Chelan Valley’s hotspots has hit, or seeks to hit, certain milestones along the way: Lodging accommodations, live events, wedding venue, cooking classes, all enveloped with a Mediterranean, European feel.
All these ideas form part of Holly’s ambitious plan for Siren Song. Some of these milestones have been accomplished, like the lodging, the cooking classes, a radio show, and the European vibe at the winery. Some others, like a TV show on a local station in Wenatchee, WA., and a cooking school, are still in the early stages.
First and foremost, the Siren Song story is a story of a winery, no matter how many different twists and turns it takes.
“Wine is our North Star,” said Holly. On the other hand, as she puts it, wine does not happen on its own. It’s supposed to be part of an experience.
“Some people come for the food, because it’s so good,” she added. “We want to serve those people, but we want to create other wine-forward experiences that allow us to continually hit our North Star objective, which is to share our wines and have people taste our wines.”
Then there’s the name. Siren Song is a term from Greek mythology. Sirens would call to the sailors and were irresistible to them. Although the sailors knew there could be danger ahead, they would crash their ships into the rocks and then the sirens would have their way with them,” Holly said. “Nowadays, a siren song is a metaphor for an irresistible attraction that, maybe, holds some danger or risk, but you must do it. That is sort of what we did here. It was a big risk, completely different from anything we had done before, and we did it without a whole lot of data or research. It was from the heart, out of love of what we love.”
Both Kevin and Holly are products of the tech industry who found themselves drawn into the hospitality business. Their desire to follow their passion instead of their paychecks drew them even further yet into the food-and-wine side of things, as well as into the friendly confines of the Chelan Valley. They never expected to be this deep into it and loving it this much as they do now. “It was kind of a hobby that went crazy,” Holly explained.
How crazy? For the last four years, about 18 members of the Siren Song wine club have had the chance to sign up for a trip to France, curated by Holly and Kevin. The trip really opens the members’ eyes as to why Siren Song does things in certain ways, after seeing the similarities between the Mediterranean countryside and the Siren Song way.
The wine club members, now numbering about one-thousand strong, sort of have become an extended family, Holly said. Not bad for a venture that had the feel of a ride into the sunset when it began.
“We were thinking of moving here as a retirement strategy,” said Holly, who adds that the passion and the excitement they witnessed as they saw the Washington wine industry grow around them convinced them that the time to act was now.
Amazingly, bringing the European feel to American winemaking “isn’t difficult,” said Holly. Winemaking in the U.S. does not have the same number of laws and restrictions its European counterparts encounter, which include limits on what you can call your wine and even what varietals you can blend.
“Some of the blends Kevin makes you could not blend in Italy,” Holly said. “They don’t allow you to blend this grape and that grape.” There’s a flexibility in Washington and in the U.S. that has paid off handsomely for the Browns and Siren Song.
For instance, “A Night in Madrid,” a Spanish-style blend, has become such a Siren Song favorite that Kevin makes it every year. And rightly so. In its first vintage, “A Night in Madrid” won a gold medal at the Seattle Wine awards competition.
A factor that plays in the winery’s favor is the strategy Holly refers to as “portfolio-based.” That is, Siren Song is an estate winery, but with fruit in three spots: A farm almost halfway between Chelan and Entiat, a vineyard just outside their Chelan tasting room, and a vineyard in Milton-Freewater (just south of the Oregon border). The vineyard in Milton Freewater is located in a micro AVA that offers a completely different terroir than the other two, thus broadening the palette of a creative artist like Kevin.
“Kevin has a vision and he creates wine based on that vision,” said Holly. “He knows what he’s going for.” Every bottle with the Siren Song label is a bottle that he and Holly made because they would like to drink it, and it seems the public agrees.
“Nothing we do is market-driven,” Holly continued. “Everything we focus on is about what we would like to experience.” And this goes beyond the winemaking itself. Siren Song offers seated tastings (one of the first wineries to offer those as opposed to having patrons belly up to the bar). The tasting room managers open one bottle of everything they have, sometimes with 13 bottles open at once, and they always have food available, from baguettes and appetizers to a full dining experience.
“You can taste anything,” Holly explained. “We want our guests to taste everything we have to offer. We are not all Cabs, we are not all reds. There’s something for everyone.”
The wine list (and the website www sirensongwines.com) proves that to be true. In reds, they offer a 2018 Piazza, a blend of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon; a 2017 wine-club-only “A Night In Madrid” that is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha; a 2018 Petit Verdot; a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon; a 2018 Cab Franc; a 2017 Syrah; a 2017 Zinfandel called Zelda; a 2017 blend of Merlot and Syrah called Beijo (“kiss” in Portuguese); a 2017 blend of Syrah and Grenache called Auberge; a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon called Raving Beauty; a 2018 Pinot Noir called Emile; a 2018 Primitivo called Viaggio; a 2018 Syrah called La Contessa Francesca; and a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for wine club members only.
In addition, the winery offers a 2018 Grand Cru Cab Franc, a 2017 Grand Cru Cab Sauv and a 2017 Grand Cru Syrah, all of which hail from the micro AVA in Milton-Freewater. “They are their own kind of category,” said Holly of the Grand Cru wines.
In whites, they offer a 2021 Chardonnay called Matisse and a 2021 Albariño called Spanish Dancer. They also offer a 2021 Grenache Rosé called Belle Tavel (winner of a Double Gold in the 2022 NCW Wine Awards), a 2020 Champagne-style blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier called The Muse.
Prices per bottle range from $34 to $54.
On Siren Song’s wine list, the three listed as the most popular are the 2021 Spanish Dancer, the 2018 Piazza and the 2017 Zelda. Ask Holly about her favorites and the answer varies, but only a little bit.
Asked what she would take with her if an invasion was afoot and FEMA advised locals never to return, Holly said she would take a bottle of Spanish Dancer, a bottle of Raving Beauty Cab Sauv, and a bottle of Muse. If the opposite was true and peace reigned and it was time for the world championships of winemaking, she would pin her world-beating hopes on her winery’s Grand Cru Cab Franc, with A Night in Madrid coming in a close second.
“It’s one of our prized possessions,” Holly said of the Cab Franc. “It wins a lot of awards.” A peek at the website shows that it’s won a Double Gold Medal at the 2022 Bellingham Wine Competition and a Gold Medal at the 2022 International Sommeliers Choice Awards.
Success aside, it’s always a work in progress, and the learning never stops, particularly in a spot like Chelan with its eclectic mix of visitors.
“Inasmuch as we created something that was meant to be the experience we would want to have, we have learned and have modified it so we can add different experiences for different people,” Holly said. “At our core we’re evolving to offer premium experiences that leave customers and Siren club members wanting more!”
Still, the “hobby that went crazy” is no longer a hobby, Holly admits. It’s become a profession. Some of the love that drove the Browns into it still burns as bright as ever, though.
“The passion has not gone out of it,” Holly adds. “And I don’t think it ever will.”
That passion helped Siren Song stay open during COVID seven days a week, delivering food and wine, despite not being able to let a single customer inside.
“It was exhausting, and it was scary,” Holly remembers. A chef without customers to welcome and feed, Holly found herself “not being able to do the things I was passionate about. I was running like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to do everything to keep our team employed.”
With time, and after a few tough decisions, the passion returned, and so did a sense of normalcy to Holly and Kevin’s surroundings. With nearly 40 wineries within a short drive, the wine industry is thriving in Chelan and beyond, all fueled by a spirit of cooperation that permeates most every winery around.
“From the very beginning, our neighbor wineries were helping us,” Holly explained. “Giving us advice, letting us borrow equipment.” One neighbor winery has a general manager who is a member of Siren Song’s wine club, according to Holly.
Holly said that time has allowed Siren Song to grow as a business and as an incubator to family passions. Her daughter Jordan is the wine club manager and assistant winemaker, Jordan’s sister Chantal is a former event manager at Siren Song and now runs her own wedding planning business. Their sibling Andrew lives in Las Vegas but also helped in the early years at Siren Song with events. Andrew’s brother Connor is a former sous chef at Siren Song and is now a chef in Leavenworth. The youngest, Parker, is a pizza chef at Siren Song during summer breaks from Western Washington University.
“I wish they could all come back, but they are all being their own entrepreneurs following their own passion,” Holly said.
“We want to be THE premium destination in the Chelan Valley,” said Holly. “I want people to come to Chelan because they are coming to Siren Song, not just coming to Siren Song because they are coming to Chelan.”
The best way to experience Siren Song’s wines, of course, is to visit the winery, which is located at 635 South Lakeshore Road, Chelan, WA 9881. Phone: (509) 888-4657. A great time to visit is during the Lake Chelan Wine & Jazz Festival, which is happening May 18-21. (See the Calendar of Events on DiscoverWashintonWine.com for details).
However, if you can’t make it to Chelan this spring or summer, all of Siren Song’s wines can be purchased via the winery’s online store: www.sirensongwines.com/wine-collection. And you’ll want to consider joining Siren Song’s Wine Club. For details, visit: www.sirensongwines.com/siren-club.