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Corlisses purchase San Juan Vineyards

Corlisses purchase San Juan Vineyards

The award-winning, estate-grown winery is in the coolest-climate growing region in the state, in Friday Harbor.

Michael and Lauri Corliss are extending their wine industry footprint to their home-away-from-home on San Juan Island.

Through Washington Vintners, their Walla Walla company that owns Corliss Estate, Tranche Estate and Secret Squirrel wineries, the pair have announced the purchase of San Juan Vineyards in Friday Harbor, Wash.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed in the announcement. The winery is owned by Yvonne Swanberg, who started the business in 1996 with her late husband, Steve, building it into an award-winning, estate-grown winery from the coolest-climate growing region in the state. It is known for its white varietals, Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine.

The Corlisses have sampled the wines of San Juan Vineyards as residents of the island during the summer months.

“The winery is an integral part of the community on the island,” Lauri Corliss said in the announcement. “We admire the pioneering vision of the Swanbergs, and we look forward to building on their legacy.”

San Juan Vineyards is the only commercial operating vineyard and winery on San Juan Island, according to the their website. The tasting room operates in a renovated 1895 schoolhouse in the Puget Sound American Viticultural Area.

 The ownership change is effective Feb. 1.

The Corlisses started in the wine business in Eastern Washington in 1999. Grapes for their three existing brands are sourced in the Walla Walla, Red Mountain and Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Areas.

Wine Press Northwest – 2016 Siegerrebe (Estate)

San Juan Vineyards 2016 Estate Siegerrebe

January 27, 2018 

Appellation: Puget Sound

Siegerrebe, pronounced zee-geh-RAY-buh, translates to “victory vine” in German, and it shines in the hands of Puget Sound winemakers and thrives in their vineyards. This release signals the last bottling of Siegerrebe at San Juan Vineyards under the ownership of co-founder Yvonne Swanberg, who sold her property and brand to the owners of Corliss Estate in Walla Walla. Some of these grapes come off the first parcel Swanberg and her late husband planted in 1996. And since the 2016 vintage marked the debut of winemaker Chris Lawler, the cellar seems to be in skillful hands. Siegerrebe was developed in 1929 as a cross of Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer, and the Mad Ange component seems to lead the aromas here with hints of honeysuckle, jicama, lime zest and Granny Smith apple peel. The influence of the Gewürz and the Oct. 1 harvest are better revealed between the lips as the drink is bright, delicious and luscious as tropical fruit flavors include kiwi and yellow grapefruit. Touches of anise and the lemon curd finish sweep clean the 1.4% residual sugar for a bone-dry finish.

Rating: Outstanding! by Great Northwest Wine. (13% alc.)

Price: $22

Production: 160 cases

Food pairings: It is an ideal match with Thai dishes and Puget Sound shellfish.

San Juan Vineyards, 3136 Roche Harbor Road, Friday Harbor, 360-378-9463,

Great Northwest Wine – 2016 Madeleine Angevine (Estate)

By  on December 29, 2017
Madeleine Angevine, a grape developed in France’s maritime-influenced Loire Valley, makes up 3 of the 5 acres of 20-year-old vineyard planted across Yvonne Swanberg’s property near Friday Harbor. The cross of Madeleine Royale and Précoce de Malingre seems a bit more finicky than Siegerrebe, and its restrained nature and natural acidity makes it a natural for seafood. The harvest of Oct. 8 at 20 Brix and a 100 percent stainless steel ferment creates aromas of starfruit, Asian pear and divinity are joined by a sense of salinity. What follows are flavors of Golden Delicious apple and nectarine, capped by the juice and pulp of Mandarin orange. Finished dry, it’s viewed an ideal — and indigenous — oyster wine.

Rating: Excellent

Production: 460 cases

Alcohol: 12.5%

San Juan Island Showcase – San Juan Vineyards

San Juan Island Showcase – San Juan Vineyards

Updated April 2017


Founded in 1996 by Yvonne Swanberg, San Juan Vineyards is the only commercial operating vineyard in the San Juan Islands. The 30 acre farm grows Madeleine Angevine & Siegerrebe grapes, which make up 20% to 30% of the total annual wine production of San Juan Vineyards; the remainder is grown across the mountains in the sunny Yakima valley. Since 2006 no pesticides have been used on the land.  Chris Lawler, Winemaker at San Juan Vineyards, introduced a couple of new wines to the lineup: “Haro Sunset Rose” and “South Beach Red”. Both are made from the Counoise grape.

The historic tasting room is open seven days a week , Spring through Fall, and sells, besides award winning wines, adorable wine paraphernalia and offers a comfortable porch to enjoy your box lunch with a sip of wine in the sunshine.

The property features a renovated schoolhouse from ca. 1895, the perfect setting for an old fashioned wedding.


San Juan Vineyards puts on several fabulous events each year:

June – Barrel Tasting
Taste what’s been aging in the barrels before the public, enjoy a BBQ, snacks, & live entertainment and help ring in the summer season on the islands.

August – Concours d’Elegance
Make a weekend of this charitable, antique sports car event. Bring your car for judging, or just watch, enjoy good food and live music. Proceeds go to various worthy causes like the Roatry’s PolioPlus Project, San Juan Hospice or Fish for Teeth.

September – Harvest Festival
Picking starts at 9am, there will be snacks and door prizes and of course, excellent wine.


Great Northwest Wine – 2014 Madeleine Angevine (Estate)

San Juan Vineyards 2014 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $18

By  on July 19, 2015

Winery owner Yvonne Swanberg helped her late husband plant 3 acres of this Loire Valley grape on their property near Friday Harbor, Wash., in the middle of the San Juan Islands. And winemaker Chris Primus’ work with this cross of obscure varieties — Madeleine Royals and Precoce de Malingre — ranks as one of Washington’s most fascinating white wines year in and year out. He harvested this vintage Oct. 12 at a ripeness level of 18 Brix, and he ferments it to dryness using stainless steel.

The nose is intoxicating with hints of honeydew melon, pina colada, fresh-cut Gala apple, white peach and seashells. It’s a clean, light and delicate wine that’s laser-focused on white peach, melon and sweet herbs, supported by a steady stream of navel orange acidity. It’s an ideal wine with summertime salads and things from the sea.

Rating: Excellent

Production: 614 cases

Alcohol: 11.2%

Great Northwest Wine – 2014 Siegerrebe (Estate)

San Juan Vineyards 2014 Estate Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $22



By Great Northwest Wine on June 5, 2015

Island winemaker Chris Primus presents his latest version of one of the Puget Sound’s best patio and seafood wines, and he hasn’t lost a step. The Germanic cross of Gewürztraminer and Madeleine Angevine creates beautiful aromas of white peach, orange oil, lychee, kiwi and clove with hints of ginger and crushed seashells. It’s a clean, lean and bright drink of nectarine, kiwi and Asian pear with Mandarin orange acidity and more notes of ginger and minerality. It’s a quaffer that’s pleasantly dry at 0.8% residual sugar, and it’s ideal for mussels, oysters, clams and virtually anything from the Salish Sea.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 658 cases

Alcohol: 11.3%

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

Great Northwest Wine – 2011 Cabernet Franc

San Juan Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Franc, Horse Heaven Hills, $28



By Great Northwest Wine on February 2, 2015

Island winemaker Chris Primus continues his relationship with Columbia Valley growers, and his work with Cabernet Franc from Alder Ridge Vineyard shows consistent excellence. There’s classic Cab Franc leafy notes in the nose, which shows a reddish fruit tone with red currant and Bing cherry amid caramel and Horse Heaven Hills minerality. The drink offers firm but smooth tannins in a medium structure that’s surrounded by fresh cranberry, pie cherry and blueberry, backed by dried tea leaves in the finish. Fortunately, owner Yvonne Sandberg gave Primus the OK to increase production by nearly 100 cases over the 2010 vintage.

Rating: Excellent

Production: 381 cases

Alcohol: 14%


Washington Wine Blog – San Juan Vineyards

Interview with owner of San Juan Island Vineyards, Yvonne Swanberg

Recently I had the chance to catch up with the owner of the only winery on San Juan Island. San Juan Vineyards has achieved some great acclaim in the past, despite being a small production winery. The key is that the winery relies on fruit from great vineyards in Columbia Valley. Their red wines have achieved Wine Spectator scores of 90 in the past. They also recently achieved a double gold medal for their Madeline Angevine, a German varietal that is planted on their estate. This is one of the few varietals can thrive in the cool, damp climate of Western Washington. Here is my interview with Yvonne Swanberg, who talks about the trials and tribulations of being a winery owner.

(Washington Wine Blog) I’m wondering about your background in wine and how you decided to start a winery? What are some of the experiences that you have had?-

(Yvonne Swanberg) First, I had no background in wine aside from enjoyment. I enjoyed wine from the other side of the counter i.e. and more in an analytical sense. San Juan Vineyards was the idea of my late husband and business partner.

I became involved by “default” starting to do the marketing, etc. back in about 1998. By 2002 I was at the vineyard full time doing everything except the winemaking process. All decisions were made by my husband and partner. Previous to being at the vineyard, I was part of our insurance agency and worked as an Agent and Marketing Specialist. My husband (Steve) and I started an independent insurance agency back in 1980. I still tell people that it was this business that financed San Juan Vineyards and made it a reality.

I lost Steve to prostate cancer in 2006, and then the struggle started. The Partner refused to be a working or financial part of the project, but still would not work to turn it over to me. Finally, a couple of years ago it was necessary to work through legal channels to rid myself of this situation as he also refused to sign a listing agreement for the sale of San Juan Vineyards. I finally prevailed in June of this year. So, I listed the property hoping to find a new owner that has the passion to take the project to a new level. There is so much potential for San Juan Vineyards.

(Washington Wine Blog) Your wine has achieved 90 plus scores from Wine Spectator in the past. How has that acclaim impacted your winery?-

(Yvonne Swanberg) Our wines have received many accolades over the years – mostly medals from competitions. The wines have never garnered Wine Spectator scores of over 90. And, quite frankly, I quit pursuing this some time ago. I like the judgings with the medals and they have spoken well for the quality of our wines. We are a destination winery, and we are known specifically for our Estate Grown varietals. I believe my Winemaker, Chris Primus, has a distinct way of making the best Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine available in the Puget Sound. These two varietals are the main varietals grown in Puget Sound AVA, and not found in other areas in WA or OR. The 2013 Siegerrebe, receiving three Double Gold medals, shows there was no equal in the Puget Sound.

(Washington Wine Blog) Can you talk about your head winemaker and his style of winemaking? –

(Yvonne Swanberg) Chris Primus, Winemaker. Chris came to work for me in 2006 right after my husband lost his battle with cancer. The previous Winemaker had decided to go back to the Columbia Valley. This turned out to be a “good thing”. His style for red wine is basically to produce a wine that is food friendly, and also is true to varietal.

Bellingham Alive – San Juan Vineyards

San Juan Vineyards


Established in 1996, San Juan Vineyards is a Puget Sound American Viticultural Area winery destination for locals and tourists alike. The wine room, a renovated schoolhouse that was built in 1896, is an easy 10-minute drive from downtown Friday Harbor. The pastoral setting makes this winery a popular destination for oenophiles, tourists, weekend adventurers and party planners alike. San Juan Vineyards’ owner, Yvonne Swanberg, and winemaker Chris Primus also source warm climate grapes from several premier Central and Eastern Washington vineyards. Tucked within the rain shadow of the nearby Olympic Mountains, San Juan’s growing season of about 180 days is perfect for grapes common to Germany’s Rhine River Valley.

The 30-acre property includes a seven-acre vineyard of carefully cultivated and pampered Siegerrebe, a German varietal. Siegerrebe is a white grape developed in 1929 by viticulturist George Scheu. Rich creamy sauces will completely obliterate the delicate features of this exceptional low acid wine — so don’t even go there.
Riesling is a variety with an allure all its own. Few are blasé about Riesling: one is either a fan or not. The 2013 Riesling will convince the blasé and convert the nonfan from their charlatan ways. Stone fruit and honey wash over the palate in a cascade of flavors one after the other: apricot, nectarine, raw honey and finally a lingering finish that loiters long after the first sip. At $14 the 2013 Riesling is an exceptional value.

The judicious use, or not, of oak is a difficult secret to hide. This is most apparent in the 2013 Chardonnay, which is well priced at $20 a bottle. This wine is a lighter and brighter interpretation — due in large part to the complete absence of oak. Personally, I am a huge oaked Chardonnay fan, and yet, I find myself drawn to this fantastic wine like ants to a picnic basket. The convention is that oak is compulsory in production of a solid chardonnay; however, San Juan Vineyard is successfully challenging that notion.

On a sweltering summer day few libations are more satisfying than Rosé. The 2013 Afterglow is a lovely dry wine that absolutely hits the mark. And at $17 a bottle it is an exceptional value. Fermented in neutral oak barrels, this Rosé is a mélange of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Afterglow is quite possibly the perfect sipping wine for those long hot summer afternoons.

Cabernet Franc is an indulgence one ought never to grow accustomed to. Of course there are those who may find it a tad too pretentious, but those folks are simply wine snobs. After 20 months in French Oak barrels,the 2010 Cabernet Franc is an exceptional treat. And critics agree, awarding this wine a Double Gold Medal at the Seattle Wine Awards. Modestly priced at $25, the 297 cases won’t last long!

It doesn’t matter how you get to San Juan Island: fly, swim, sail boat, yacht or ferry. Once there, make sure that your excursions include a relaxing stop at San Juan Vineyards to sample a few wines, enjoy a glass of Afterglow on the deck, and buy a few bottles to remind you of your island holiday. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to observe how the carefully groomed vines thread along the horizontal trellis. Understanding the labor involved in creating exceptional wines often stimulates an appreciation for each luxurious sip. If you can’t make it to San Juan, you can always order your wines online by visiting