The nautical measure of time has traditionally been the ringing of a bell, one strike for each half hour of a four-hour watch. At the Eighth Bell the sailor s watch is over. At sea, Eight Bells marks a change, a change in watch, a change in activities. To us, Eight Bells Winery marks both a change in our careers and an opportunity to take our winemaking skills to a new level.
Eight Bells Winery is jointly owned and operated by Tim Bates, Andy Shepherd, Frank Michiels and Neal and Denise Ratti. Tim began making wine in his basement in 1980 with grapes from Sagemoor Farms. In 1996 Andy joined Tim and with a mutual friend from the Boeing Wine Club, suddenly had access to many of the best vineyards in Washington and Oregon. To our friends and the local winemaking community we were known as the Shellback Vintners, Shellback being a sailor who has crossed the equator on the ship. In 2006 Frank came to watch the crush and ended up taking home 100 lbs of grapes to ferment in his kitchen. The triumvirate was born and we moved from our garages to our commercial space on Roosevelt Way NE in the fall of 2009. Neal and Denise Ratti joined our wine making team in 2018. Neal and Denise have been home winemakers working with Red Willow fruit for over a decade.
In addition to our practical experience, Tim and Andy completed the WSU viticulture extension program in 2008. Andy and Frank completed the WSU enology extension program in 2010 and 2011.