Hold your horses, oenophiles! While Alaska might not immediately conjure images of sprawling vineyards and clinking glasses, it’s quietly brewing its own intriguing wine story. But before you start packing your corkscrew for the Last Frontier, let’s set some expectations. Keep reading for a deep dive into Alaska’s fruity winery scene, plus a list of our favorite wine bars in Alaska. Cheers!
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My Experience With Alaskan Wine
While my general take on wine is “if its wet I’ll drink it” I do know a thing or two about good wine such as; I usually can’t afford it, and I like both colors. Thankfully Alaska wine is reasonably priced and easy to drink, which are my two favorite qualities in a fine Alaskan wine.
As for the specifics, I actually worked right down the road from one of Alaska’s only winery’s. For years I worked on a popular Discovery channel show about homesteaders in Homer, AK. Turns out they didn’t live that far from town, and thank goodness because that town is home to, Bear Creek Winery.
While most of my time in Homer was spent fervently working as hard as I could to bring quality television to the masses, I manage to break away from time to time and enjoy some wine time. (as pictured in the photo above) While Homer didn’t lack in quality watering holes, it was nice having the option of trading my regular three fingers of Irish whisky in for a nice blueberry Mirlo.
To say Alaska has a “wine scene” might be a tad ambitious. The state’s harsh climate and short growing season make traditional grape cultivation extremely challenging. Currently, only two commercial wineries operate in Alaska, both focusing on fruit wines (berries, rhubarb, honey) rather than grapes. So, don’t expect to Paul Giamatti taking a road trip north just yet. But if you’re in town and fancy yourself an aficionado, why not sample some of the local offerings.
These are the main players in the crowded field that is Alaskan wine.
Owner and operator Bill Fry started making fruit wine blends in his garage back in the 90’s. They’ll take, say a merlot, and mix it with blueberry juice from local berries and boom! Blended Alaskan fruit wine! What started as a hobby quickly grew into a massive operation, and a true Alaskan success story. Currently, the winery boasts two distinct brands, selling approximately 100,000 bottles of wine annually. The original Bear Creek brand features nine year-round wines and five seasonal wines. The winery doubles as also a lodge for those who forget to spit after they sip. Is that still a thing?
Bill, handed over operations of Glacier Bear Winery, Bear Creek’s sisters company, to his son in law in 2013 and things haven’t slowed down since. The spin off brand slings five different non-blended wines crafted entirely from berries and fruit grown in Alaska. Both brands received multiple awards at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition held in Rochester, New York, with the winery’s 2019 entries securing three silvers and three bronzes.
Also located on the Kenai Peninsula, but in the town of Soldotna, Alaska Berries is another wine maker pumping out fruit wine from ingredients grown locally. I recommend their Gooseberry Wine, it won a Bronze Medal at the NorthWest Wine Summit in 2018, and drinks like a dry white.
They claim “We grow the fruit and berries used in the production of our handcrafted wines and jams. “From the bush to the bottle” allows us complete control of the entire process. This insures the highest quality fruit is picked at its peak of ripeness.”
Best Wine Bars in Alaska
Now Alaska might not be known for growing the best grapes, but they still have places to drink good wine, even if it’s not from the state. So for all you yuppies and puppies sick of dirty dives and smelly breweries, here’s a list of our favorite wine bars in Alaska. Go on and toss that pinky out!
- Crush Wine Bistro & Cellar (Anchorage): This Alaskan wine bar has a bunch of different fun flights and a big selection of wine by the glass. With glasses in the 10-13$ range, you can afford to have a couple.
- Corks and Hops (Eagle River): Wine, Food, & Beer are Corks and Hops proclaimed priorities. The offer a solid wine list with by the glass options and flights.
- The Grape Tap (Wasilla): They have a good wine selection, fun flight options, and champagne “cocktails”. All their desserts are made in house and change frequently depending on the season, but if the espresso Creme Brûlée is available, get it. To see their full wine menu click here.
- Lavelle’s Bistro (Fairbanks): Lavelle’s Bistro is a much needed oasis of wine a Fairbanksian landscape dominated by dive bars and breweries. They serve awesome food and have one of the best wine lists in the state.
Alaska Wine Conclusion
While local Alaskan wine might be scarce, there is still a scene to be sampled. And while it might be a stretch to say “Alaska is a wine destination“, theres no doubt it’s a place where passionate individuals are crafting a unique wine culture. So embrace the spirit of exploration, dive into the fruity offerings, and raise a glass to the innovators and enthusiasts that are adding a little sophisticated charm to the rugged Last Frontier.
Alaska Wine FAQ’s
You can order wine to most states in the lower 48 directly from Bear Creek Winery’s website. https://www.bearcreekwinery.com/shop
Due to the harsh climate, traditional wine grapes are challenging to cultivate, so the few alaska wineries that exist, focus on berries like raspberries or blueberries.
Yes, both Alaska wineries welcome visitors for tastings and tours. Check availability as they may be dependent on seasonality.