Useless Bay Winery creates a tasty escape overlooking Saratoga Passage

Posted in Culinary, Feature

BY CLAIRE MOORE
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor

Rio Rayne and her husband Ayo Lobon fell in love with the art of winemaking while living in California’s Napa Valley.

“It’s consumed our lives; it’s a dream come true,” Rayne said.

This love has evolved into the creation of “Useless Bay Winery Off-site Tasting Room” at 220 First St. in Langley, in the small alcove across the street from Museo Gallery and the Clyde Theatre.

The couple decided to follow their hearts to beautiful Whidbey Island in 2009, with the goal of producing distinctive wines, wines that would remain true to the roots of the grapes with as little manipulation as possible.

Co-owner and vintner Ayo Lobon chats with customers at the bar at Useless Bay Winery Off-Site Tasting Room in Langley. (Jan Shannon photos)

Partnering with Rayne’s father, Jack Adams, who has lived on the island for five years, Useless Bay Winery produced its first Washington harvest in 2008, with its first licensed harvest in 2010. The tasting room, which the three remodeled themselves, was opened in June of this year.

“The motivation driving Useless Bay Winery has always been to make wine we are proud of from the very best grapes and stay true to their essence,” Rayne said, “then share all the beauty, bounty and enjoyment with our family, friends and greater community,” she added.

In addition to its warm, intimate feel with a sofa and armchairs, as well as some tables and the bar, the tasting room boasts a spacious back deck overlooking Saratoga Passage – allowing for outdoor seating in the summer – and large windows that provide the same cozy view indoors in the winter. The walls are painted a warm golden color because, as Rayne said, they wanted the space to be light and bright.

Reporter Claire Moore talks with Useless Bay Winery vintner Rio Rayne in the winery’s new tasting room in downtown Langley.

The tasting room was well received in its first summer and fall by a large number of tourists and locals. Fortunately, many local folks are appreciative of the winemakers’ effort to create a place to come together and hang out and continue to return, Rayne said.

In addition to the tasting room’s menu of six wine varieties that the vintners produce by hand, also available is a limited “small-bite” menu, which Rayne and Lobon plan to gradually expand. Their vision for next spring is to add a “northwest grocery” to the tasting room, with cheese, charcuterie, fresh pastas and other delights from both Whidbey Island and farther afield.

Rayne and Lobon are both graduates of the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, B.C. They established Live Edge Farm after joining Adams on the island on six acres above Useless Bay. They grow a variety of nutrient-dense, wholesome food for the community, produced organically without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Live Edge Farm is a member of Whidbey Island Grown, and sells its produce at local farmers markets and through its own CSA. Now that they are running the tasting room in addition to the winery, Rayne said the company will focus on growing flowers and produce for their business for the immediate future.

The tasting room in downtown Langley overlooks Saratoga Passage and is a great place to hang out and enjoy locally made wines.

Useless Bay Winery Off-site Tasting Room also provides space for art shows, with rotating artists every six weeks, as well as live music on many weekends. It will close for the month of January, welcoming customers again on Friday, Feb. 1.

For more information about the wines that Useless Bay Winery offers and for tasting room hours, visit www.uselessbaywines.com or email liveedgefarm@gmail.com.

Claire Moore is a retired graphic designer and writer who is delighted to be writing for Whidbey Life Magazine. She can be reached at cbear53@mac.com.

 

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