Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enjoy Unique Alaskan Flavors Through Our Unique Wines

Wine lovers, rejoice.  While there are no official vineyards in Alaska, we DO make wine in the Last Frontier!  While any grape-based wines produced in our state are made with imported grapes or contain a grape-concentrate base mixed with local berries, our state's wineries also feature wines based on rhubarb, dandelion, wildflowers, and other natural flavors of the area.  Three wineries in our state offer tastings, so plan your wine-tasting getaway to the northernmost state today!

Alaskan Wilderness Winery
498 Shearwater Way in Woodland Acres approximately 10 minutes from downtown Kodiak

Steve and Lisa Thomsen started this winery on a wing and a prayer, and are thrilled that their wines are so well received!  Back when he was a logger, work opportunities for Steve were seasonal, scarce, and demanded that he be away from home when they came.  The owners wanted to start a business that could keep their family together.  With no wine-making experience, the duo set off to Napa, CA for pointers and ideas.  Then they moved from Port Lions to Kodiak where wine-making is welcome.  The rest, as they say is history.  While Steve and Lisa both have "day jobs," their love of wine-making keeps them excited for the day that they can devote all of their time to it!

The Thomsen family proudly welcomes you to try their select wine offerings, each and every one a small-batch, award and medal winning vintages including:  Salmonberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Black Currant, Wild Rose Mead, and Fireweed Mead (all ingredients are hand-picked).  Complimentary wine tastings are available by appointment.

Alaska Denali Winery
1301 East Dowling Rd, Suite 107, Anchorage

Owners Mike and Cathy are new winery owners who are thoroughly enjoying this new endeavor.  Their love of creativity makes wine-making a perfect match for them!  Look for some of Mike's wood-turned wine stoppers when you visit!

The unique thing about this winery is that they don't make large batches of pre-determined wines.  While Mike and Cathy do offer a large selection of traditional, imported grape-based wines, along with agave-based margarita wine, a hard lemonade, sherrys, ports, and ice wine, things are done a little differently:  wines are 'micro-brewed' for each customer that orders.  When visitors attend a tasting, they select which wines they want, and then the creation process begins!  Once the wine is made, the customer is invited back to help with bottling, corking, and capping, if they wish, allowing for a very personal experience (if you can not attend this portion or pick up wines, shipping may be available to some states in the US).  Wines can be labeled specifically for an event, occasion, or even specifically for an establishment.

Denali Winery is open for tastings on Tuesday-Thursday, 12pm - 8pm, and Friday-Sunday, 12pm - 10pm.  A tasting flight of 10 wines (4 red, 4 white, and 2 dessert) is $20 per person.  Tasters are encouraged to bring food to enjoy with the tasting (cheese trays, pizza, fruit, meat, bread, crackers, whatever!), as the winery does not have a license to serve food.  Please note that no one under 21 is allowed in the winery after 3pm, and be sure to have your ID when you come to taste!

Bear Creek Winery
60203 Bear Creek Drive, Homer

Bear Creek is a B&B member of the BBAA, meaning that when you stay with them, you don't even need to drive to your wine-tasting destination!

What started as a hobby for co-owner Bill Fry has evolved into a living for both him and his wife Dorothy.  Bill began making wines after tasting a friend's homemade Rhubarb Wine, and quickly evolved out of the main house and into the garage, experimenting with fruits, flowers, and more.  Once his friends got a taste of his labors and raved, the hobby became a winery business, coupled with a B&B.  The wine awards came, and they quickly grew out of their residence, opting to build their current facility and romantic inn.  the Frys are also proud to hold Alaska's Green Star Award, showing commitment to their community and the environment by collecting used wine bottles to re-use, cleaning and sanitizing them to bottle their wines.

Bear Creek offers a wide variety of berry- and fruit-based wines (raspberry, black raspberry, strawberry, shirazzberry, gooseberry, blueberry, black currant, pomegranite, rhubarb), and a traditional Port wine.  Specialty and seasonal wines include Meads & Melomels, Kiwi-Pear, Peach-Apricot, Chocolate Raspberry Port, Holiday Spice, and Apple wine offerings.  Complimentary tastings are available from May through September from 10pm-6pm daily; and from October through April from 12pm-6pm Monday-Saturday and 12pm-4pm on Sunday.  The B&B is open for guests year-round.

With these three award-winning wineries, a wine-tasting holiday is a great reason to stay at a member BBAA inn.  Let us show you true hospitality and help you have a perfect visit!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Alaskan Adventure Awaits in Denali National Park

Denali National Park (DNP) lies in the very heart of Alaska:  Six million acres of beautiful Alaskan Interior wilderness accessed by a single road, and home to the tallest peak in North America.  Since 1917, park visitors have been enjoying amazing beauty, outdoor adventure, amazing wildlife encounters, and life-changing experiences.  Denali is a reasonable destination from almost every part of the state, making it possible for just about any visitors to our state to have their own Denali experience.  Member inns of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Alaska recommend a visit to the park during your getaway to our great land.

Getting to the Park -There are many options to choose from for accessing the park:
  • By Car - If you'd like to drive, the George Parks Highway (Route 3) between Fairbanks and Anchorage will get you to the one road that goes into Denali Park.  This road is only open through mile 14 to automobiles.  If you want to drive all the way through, you can have a chance to be one of the 400 cars allowed during each of just four days by entering into the yearly Denali Road Lottery for that chance.  Please note that there is a chance that the road could close for weather at any time - including on a day you've won a lottery spot!
  • By Train - Alaska Railroad provides service to the park during the summer from both Fairbanks and Anchorage.
  • By Bus - A number of tour operators provide summer service to the park.
  • By Helicopter/Bus - The option is available that you can take a helicopter into the park to Kantishna, and return by bus... or vice versa.  This is a unique travel option that is enjoyed by many.
What to do while you're here.
Denali IS a national park, offering many similar activities as National Parks in the lower 49 states.  But this is an ALASKA National Park, which means there are many considerations while you visit, and many unique activities you can try while you're here.

  • Wildlife - Do we even need to mention the bears?  Grizzlies consider Denali their home, and there is always the chance of encountering one.  You can't walk, run, or even cycle faster than a bear, so be outside at your own risk.  You may also encounter moose, elk, caribou, wolves and a number of small mammals.  The general guide is to get no closer than 25 yards from most wildlife (except for bears which you want to stay as far away from as humanly possible)!
  • Mosquitos - these annoyances can be extreme in DNP during the summer.  Woe to the visitors who forget the bug spray...
Offered onsite:
  • See the Sled Dogs - Denali is the only Park that have official dogs to help protect and navigate the park.
  • Day Hikes - Most Denali trails are within reach from the Denali Visitor Center.  Those that are not can be accessed by shuttle bus from the Visitor Center.  They are considered "easy to moderate" in difficulty, and there are ADA accessible options.
  • Cycling - The Denali Park Road is a perfect option for those who enjoy bicycling, and bikes are allowed on all 92 miles of the park road.  Bicycles are allowed on park roads, parking areas, campground loops, and the designated Bike Trail that starts at the Visitor Center.  Bikes may be transported via shuttle to a deeper part of the park, if you wish.
Offered offsite:
  • Helicoptor onto a Glacier - This tour offers a 75-minute experience.  Land on the glacier, enjoy spectacular views while flying, andsee ice falls, ice bridges, glacier streams, glacial ice pools, and wildlife while on the glacier! 
  • Whitewater Rafting - many outfitters outside the park offer trips into Denali.
  • Flightseeing - A chance to see the park by prop plane, small jet plane, or chopper.
  • Zipline Tours - Explore the park from the treetops!
  • Horseback Tours - See views of Denali by horseback.
  • ATV Tours - Just outside the park, these tours let you see more of the land within a few thousand feet of the actual park.
Other:  Many people want to see The Magic Bus, where Chris McCandless stayed in in the book Into the Wilderness.  This is on Stampede Road, just north of the DNP.  Please note that you can drive the first 12.5 miles to the bus, but you will be hiking the last 13 or so miles, which includes swamp and stream crossings, as well a crossing the Teklinika River.  Crossing the Tek can be very dangerous, so proceed at your own risk.  And of course, you'll also have to return to your vehicle!

Because DNP is such an amazing Alaska resource, we fully recommend a visit while you're here.  Your B&B innkeeper can give you more information, suggestions, and tips about DNP - just ask!