By Andy Perdue
Special to The Seattle Times
Originally published July 25, 2014 at 11:28 am Updated July 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm
GARY GOUGÉR is many things at his small winery: winemaker, janitor, chef and chief bottle washer.
Now he’s adding ice cream wizard to his already-crowded business card.
Gougér owns Gougér Cellars in the Clark County community of Ridgefield, about 20 minutes north of Portland, crafting small amounts of red and white wines since 2009.
One night, he awoke with a start, realizing he could make an ice cream with his wine that has no alcohol and no added sugar. The next day, he bought a small ice cream machine.
“I made a couple of batches and let people try it,” he said. “Everybody wanted to order it right then and there, but it only makes a pint at a time.”
That’s a good problem to have, but it led to further issues. More about that in a moment.
Gougér didn’t always have a passion for winemaking. The New York native was an optometrist in Northern California for 15 years before moving to Australia to learn how to make wine.
Now he’s in a former firehouse in Ridgefield trying to figure out how to finance an industrial-sized ice cream machine.
Gougér makes ice cream from his wines, crafting eight flavors: muscat, zinfandel, zinfandel chocolate chip, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, barbera and syrah.
He has come up with a way to remove the alcohol from the wine before making the ice cream — using a procedure he won’t share. That means the flavor of the ice cream is true to the wine, yet anyone of any age can enjoy them.
And they are stunningly delicious. They might just be some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste, once Gougér gets over another hurdle or two.
Because he couldn’t afford a $20,000 ice cream machine, he contracted with Ice Cream Renaissance in nearby Vancouver to make it to his specifications.
“I bought a 50-cubic-foot freezer to put it all in and sold 90 pints in two weeks,” he said. “People would come in, buy a pint of ice cream, sit down at the table and eat the whole thing.”
But here’s the hitch: Because Gougér is buying the ice cream from Ice Cream Renaissance on a wholesale basis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires Ice Cream Renaissance to pasteurize the milk first — even though it’s already pasteurized. This is too expensive.
However, if Gougér can buy his own ice cream machine, he can rent time in a professional kitchen and make it himself, thus bypassing any Ag Department regulations.
Gougér also is prepared to figure out how to sell his ice cream to Seattle-area wine lovers once he can get production cranked up, either by shipping directly or finding high-end gourmet grocers to stock it.
If you love wine and ice cream, Gougér’s creations are well worth tracking down. Look him up by calling the winery at 360-909-4707.
Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.