Tiger Mountain couple opens mom and pop winery | Business

For a new mom and pop winery outside Issaquah, winemaking is a fine art of maintaining a hobby without growing their business to an unmanageable size. The Ahrens plan to uncork their first 2009 bottles, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, this summer. They also plan to release a 2010 Orange Muscat, their only white wine.

Rod and Dona Ahrens opened the Twin Cedars Winery on their five-acre property on Tiger Mountain

Rod and Dona Ahrens opened the Twin Cedars Winery on their five-acre property on Tiger Mountain

For a new mom and pop winery outside Issaquah, winemaking is a fine art of maintaining a hobby without growing their business to an unmanageable size.

“It’s the personal touch,” said Dona Ahrens, who helped her husband, Rod, open Twin Cedars Winery. “I don’t want to lose sight for what this was all about in the beginning.”

The Ahrens plan to uncork their first 2009 bottles, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, this summer. They also plan to release a 2010 Orange Muscat, their only white wine.

The couple works out of their five acres of lush cedar-filled land on Tiger Mountain. Retiring as a carpenter in 2010, Rod built the small winery off the back of a detached garage.

The operation, which yielded about 115 wine cases this year, is small enough that they hauled their two-tons of grapes from Eastern Washington in a trailer and pressed them over a long concrete driveway.

The well-manicured property is entirely enclosed by towering cedar trees. The winery is named for the two that stand in front of their home.

A winding stone path leads around the garage into the winery, which is loaded with equipment, some of it Rod made by hand, and barrels stained purple from wine splatters.

The lush greenery of the mountain makes a nice intimate spot to buy a bottle of wine straight from the maker, and then soak in the flavors while lounging in the grass.

At first the couple only plans to do tastings by appointment, but eventually they hope to have some regular hours.

Interest in wine grew slowly for the Ahrens, who enjoyed wine tastings for several years, before deciding to try their hand at winemaking.

While tours talked a lot about wine, the guides never got into how it was made, Rod said. “Wine making was a mystery, and no one wanted to divulge the secret.”

His curiosity drove him to start taking winemaking classes at South Seattle Community College in 2007.

“I just wanted to see how good I can make it,” he said.

One evening his daughter asked for a bottle of his 2007 wine to take to a blind tasting party with friends.

She woke them up late in the night overjoyed, her dad’s wine won the contest.

“It was a hit,” Dona said. “That was a sign that he should try it again.”

Rod had thought before taking the classes that he might start a small winery, but that solidified it for him, he said.

In 2009 the couple applied for a license to sell and got their label approved by the state and federal agencies.

Their grapes come from connections Rod made in Eastern Washington, including Rattlesnake Hills.

Winemaking isn’t as difficult as it seems, he said. “It really does depend on how good the fruit is, and from there it’s a matter of not screwing it up.”

While the plan has always been to stay small, something to do in retirement, Rod does plan for it to grow some. The 2011 release will have about 200 cases of wine, he said.

They still want to keep things simple, he said. “We could be the smallest winery in the state.”

Twin Cedars Winery is releasing four different wines this summer with its first official launch. From the left, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Syrah, 2009 Merlot, and a 2010 Orange Muscat, which is their only white wine.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
How financial planners address plan uncertainty | Guest column

One of the key challenges we face as financial planners is dealing… Continue reading

The results are in!
Best of Issaquah 2021 results

We had almost 1,100 voters and 12,000 submissions. Most popular categories: Best Coffee Shop, Customer Service, Hamburgers, Non-Profit, Fine Dining, Park, Mexican Cuisine, Pizza, Family Restaurant and Lunch.

Mixologist and general manager of Civility & Unrest, Joe Dietrich (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
If you want a regular cocktail, go somewhere else

Master mixologist Joe Dietrich is elevating cocktail culture at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest.

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
Is cryptocurrency really an investment? | Guest column

Undoubtedly you have heard about the new form of money known as… Continue reading

Front bar at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest (courtesy of Civility & Unrest)
Two of James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson’s restaurants to reopen in October

The Lakehouse plans to reopen Oct. 12 and Civility & Unrest reopens Oct. 14.

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Big Island Poke in Renton (courtesy of The Intentionalist Facebook page)
Small-business advocacy group wants you to try minority-owned businesses and put it on their tab

The Intentionalist is opening up $400 tabs for folks to use this weekend at select businesses.

Eastside King County restaurant owners discuss challenges with U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene at Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond. (Photo credit: Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Restaurant owners discuss labor difficulties with U.S Rep. Suzan DelBene

Experienced service and kitchen staff are reportedly hard to hire as food service reopens.

Dave and Buster's restaurant and entertainment venue looks to hire 130 people to staff its Bellevue venue, set to open in August. Photo courtesy Dave and Busters.
Dave and Buster’s hiring 130 for August opening in Bellevue

Dave and Buster’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens in downtown Bellevue on… Continue reading

Images of dishes from Issaquah’s Umi Cafe posted on the SMORS page. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Ho)
Facebook page promotes minority-owned restaurants across Puget Sound region

Miya Nazzaro used to be a member of Facebook pages that were… Continue reading

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Cash Cards Unlimited partners, left: Nick Nugwynne, right: Cassius Marsh (photo credit: Cash Cards Unlimited)
Former Seahawks player Cassius Marsh cashes in on trading cards

Marsh and his friend open physical and online trading card store as collectibles boom amid pandemic.