Eight Bells Winery was founded by Tim Bates, Andy Shepherd, and Frank Michiels in 2009.
They began their journey in the wine world as amateur winemakers in their garages. Tim started making wine in 1980 with Andy joining in 1993. Frank joined the team in 2006 when he volunteered to help with crush and brought home 100 pounds of grapes to ferment in his kitchen.
To our friends and the local winemaking community we were known as Shellback Vintners, a Shellback being a sailor who has crossed the equator on a ship.
Tim and Andy spent their careers working at NOAA with a portion of that time on research vessels at sea. They were both Shellbacks and wanted a nautical feel to the winery. Frank’s lineage came through his father who was a Shellback from his Navy days sailing on the USS South Dakota in World War II. The triumvirate was born and moved from their garages to a commercial space in the Roosevelt district of Seattle in the summer of 2009. Though the name Shellback could not be used commercially they decided on Eight Bells Winery. The name Eight Bells refers to the end of a sailor’s watch at sea. For us it’s a time to relax and have a glass of wine!
When we formed Eight Bells in 2009, Denise and Neal Ratti who were two close friends of ours, started making wines in their garage. As avid wine enthusiast they began their journey sourcing fruit from top notch vineyards and driven to make quality wines.
In 2018 they came aboard as shipmates.
Throughout the summer we visit the vineyards and talk with the growers about the progress of the grapes and the plans for harvest.
As harvest draws near we closely watch the flavor development, sugar and acid levels and the general development of the grapes. When the decision is made to harvest, we head for the vineyards. The grapes are picked for us by the vineyard crew and we hurry home with our raw material.
At the winery we hand sort the grapes to ensure that only good clusters are used in the fermentation process. We inoculate the crushed red grapes the following day with a yeast chosen to bring out the varietal characteristics of grapes. The fermentation generally lasts 7-10 days for the red grapes. Twice a day we punch down and also pulse air to keep the yeast heathy and happy.
At the end of fermentation when most of the sugars are converted to alcohol, we pump the free run juice into barrels. The remaining must is transferred to a membrane press to gently extract the remaining juice. Malolactic bacteria are added to barrels for the secondary fermentation. The barrels are kept warm during this period to keep the bacteria working.
Secondary fermentation lasts weeks to months. Once secondary fermentation is finished potassium metabisulfite is added to the wine and the barrel is moved to the barrel room (55°F) for the wine to age. The barrels are sampled and topped monthly.