Thursday, December 29, 2011

Small Town Destinations -- Longbranch and Lakebay, WA

   Every year in December, a family of good friends of ours put on a bluegrass Christmas variety show in their hometown near Gig Harbor on Fox Island, WA. They've been doing this show for the last 25 years. The family of performers brings in some of the best bluegrass musicians around to make the performance a smash hit. This year we were lucky enough to join them and participate in the show by swing dancing during one of the numbers, which was quite a treat!
Making The Trip
    Instead of driving all the way down to the Gig Harbor area from the North end of Lake Washington only to arrive in the dark for the evening show, we decided to make a day trip out of it. We're glad we did because we had a chance to better appreciate life in the Puget Sound Islands and on the peninsula. We wound up spending the day with a couple who run an organic farm and at a Mom and Pop winery that makes and sells what we believe to be the very best wine we've ever tasted.
Creviston Valley Farm's farmhouse in Longbranch, WA with their beautiful view of Mt. Rainier in the background

The Drive
    It was a spectacularly sunny December morning when we set out to visit Creviston Valley Farm in Longbranch, WA. The drive to the farm was breath-taking with twists and turns as we passed saltwater inlets and views of placid sailboats docked in Puget Sound waiting for their next run. We were completely enchanted by the hobby farms we drove by and blown away by the views of Mt. Rainier. When we arrived at Creviston Valley Farm, we were graciously welcomed by Lalaine and Greg, the owners of the organic farm.
Creviston Valley Farm raises local beef, meat, fruit, vegetables, and eggs

A Piece Of Heaven
    As we talked with Lalaine and Greg they showed us around the farm. We watched them feed the cows and sheep, we saw the pigs, and we watched the flock of several hundred free range chickens scurry around. Lalaine called the farm their "little piece of heaven," and she wasn't kidding. The farm is 40 acres and the nearest neighbors are 1/2 a mile away in each direction. Talk about peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the mooing cows in the background and the chickens pecking in the foreground. Lalaine and Greg have owned the farm for the last three years now--they originally bought it as a retreat. Although many people would claim that farming isn't much of a vacation, Creviston Valley Farm allows Greg and Lalaine to escape their busy jobs and enjoy growing and nurturing local delicious meat, fruit, and vegetables. The farm allows them to appreciate where their food comes from--a luxury many people don't have these days.
At Creviston Valley Farm, one of their specialties is healthy locally raised grass-fed beef

Waste Not
    We were happy to see how content the animals were. They were just going about their lives with plenty of space to roam, not confined by tiny cages, or virtually piled on top of each other, as most mass-produced American livestock are these days before slaughter (see the movie Food Inc. for more information on where our food comes from.) 
    Lalaine and Greg operate their farm with the the mantra: "Don't waste anything, because there's value in everything." All of their animals are fed leftovers from whatever the Mexican restaurant down the street, or the local  brewery, or the close-by elementary school, or the nearby tofu shop couldn't sell or use that day. Instead of letting all of this perfectly good food go to waste, they feed it to their livestock and boy, do the animals look healthy. It's reassuring to think that much of the food in the Gig Harbor area isn't getting wasted because the animals at are Creviston Valley Farm are enjoying it. If only we could adopt this model throughout more of the country...
It's a good life for the animals on the Farm: sunshine, grass, and local left-overs

 How To Enjoy The Farm
    Lalaine and Greg rent out the five bedroom farmhouse on the farm at a rate of $100 per night per couple. Once you reach a rate of $500 per night, you can have up to 14 people sleeping in the farmhouse, comfortably. The house has a beautifully remodeled professional kitchen. You can find more details about the vacation rental and also book your stay at VRBO.
     The farm is also rented out for weddings, so wedding guests can stay in the beautiful farmhouse and you can use it as your wedding venue as well, right on this organic farm.
     You can purchase some of Lalaine and Greg's delicious local meat through their website or at a local farmer's market in the Gig Harbor area from May to September.  
Harvest Festival
    We're looking forward to returning to the farm next October for the annual Harvest Festival that goes on during the first Saturday of October. This is a free event that invites the community to come and spend the day on a farm. Kids play with chickens, watch baby pigs, and everyone is welcome to taste some homemade jams and jellies. Creviston Valley Farm is the perfect get-away for so many occasions.
Trillium Creek Winery's quaint tasting room cottage lit up for the hoilday season

Trillium Creek Winery
     While you're staying at the farm or otherwise in the area, be sure to check out the Trillium Creek Winery. It's just down the street from the farm. This stop was one that we didn't expect to make on our trip to the Longbranch area, but Lalaine and Greg had so many good things to say about it that we had to check it out.
    The winery is only 5 minutes north of the farm. You'll turn down the road just across from the only restaurant in Home, WA: The Home Port Restaurant and Lounge. Then, you'll follow the signs to the winery and you'll end at a traditional French style house in the forest. There you'll meet Claude, a Frenchman, and his wife, Claudia at their vineyard. You'll most likely find them in the wine tasting room that's right next to where you will park your car or perhaps they'll be in the house, just down the drive. Claude and Claudia are extremely friendly and helpful, and are, without a doubt, wine connoisseurs. They'll offer you a free tour of their vineyard and free tastings of their estate wines made in their fifteen hundred square foot wine cellar.
The French style home and vineyard in the winter at Trillium Creek Winery in Lakebay, WA

What Sets The Winery Apart
    The couple will teach you how to how they pair delicious local cheese with the wine, and you won't have to spend a penny. You'll learn what types of foods would go best with the a glass of Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, and so on--making this as much an educational experience as it is delicious. One of our favorite parts was when Claude poured us a glass of Syrah and said, "Take a sip," so we did, "now have a bite of this double cream cheddar cheese," so we did, "now taste the Syrah again and it will be as if you're tasting it for the first time." Oh, and it was!
    Trillium Creek Winery is unique in the fact that they choose to use fewer sulfites, as a preservative, than other wineries. Trillium Creek does not sell their wine in stores, which makes this possible. Using fewer sulfites in wine keeps people from experiencing headaches, feeling flushed, dizzy, or "tipsy" too easily from wine.
    As customers, we are not easily convinced about topics like this, and honestly, we didn't quite believe Claude until we experienced the effects of the lower sulfites for ourselves. But it was true: no headache and no feeling flushed in the face--it was amazing to sip our wine and taste it for its true flavor. Claude told us that this is how most wine is made in France. We bought a bottle of Merlot and have enjoyed every sip. We're planning on make a trip back soon for more of their specialty wine.
A look inside the wine tasting cottage--we love the architecture of this place

Things To Know:
  • You can get amazing meat, jams, and produce from Creviston Valley Farm
  • Have your wedding at the farm or enjoy the night away at the farm VRBO
  • We've never tasted wine as good as we did at Trillium Creek Winery--their Apple Ginger dessert wine is especially delicious  
  • Longbranch is only half an hour or so from Gig Harbor and 45 minutes from Tacoma
  • This is the perfect place to have a get-away! 
The view of Puget Sound at sunset near the winery and the farm

It's completely worth the trip--have a relaxing stay-cation!

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