Tag Archive | "Events"

Mercedes Benz Urban Wine Tour – Seattle

My friend, Maureen (@MsTerroir) has always enjoyed “going rogue” – it has taken on a life of itself so to speak and both of us love it, embrace it and own it. It’s probably one of the reasons why so many other wine-blog-snobs shun us – that simply lets us know we’re on the right track.

Anyone who really knows me, knows I’m all about getting people to not only embrace their own palate, but equally as important is to encourage them to get out and take an adventure in meeting the folks who make the vino we all enjoy. What better way than to take the reigns and do an Urban Wine Tour through the streets that I call home – Seattle.

Most Washingtonians think of Woodinville when they think of the “hotspot” for Puget Sound area wineries and rightly so – our state’s “grandfathers” are there such as Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery – that town has the pedigree no doubt. However, for the more keenly aware of smaller wineries out there, Seattle represents a new “gold rush” if you will of a city that’s ripe for the picking in regards to getting their wines to a much wider audience.

Of course, this tour wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the 2011 Mercedes Benz E550 Cabriolet we used. This car simply screams “wine tour” – from being able to take the top down (even when it’s snowing as in our case) to having 385hp on tap to get out of those “tight spots” in traffic, this car has the overall agility and prowess to do a wine tour proper.

Folks may think we were crazy for having the top down at all during the last part of winter in Seattle, however, this car’s heating system rocks it hard. Not only does the main heating system blow like a class-5 tornado, it also has heated seats and even little heater vents in the head-rest. Additionally, it has a little air-dam on top of the windshield that rises up a few inches to help push the air over the main cabin.

The morning started out with an amazing visit to the home of “yoda” – a.k.a. Allen Shoup. For those who don’t know who he is, Allen was the CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle for 20-years, before that was at Gallo and now owns the famous Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla – a multi-winemaker project that has world-class winemakers from around the globe to come in and make best-of-class wines. One of the more amazing things about spending time with Allen is his insight into the Washington Wine industry as well as the sheer history you can learn from someone like him.

After much arm-twisting, we were “forced” to sample some Long Shadows Wines – a 2004 Sequel Syrah, a 2005 Chester Kidder (Cab/Syrah blend) and a 2005 Pirouette (blend of Cab, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah).

Maureen and I followed him downstairs to “one of his wine cellars” where he dug out a 1980 Chateau Ste. Michelle “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was produced when I was 10years old and is also the same year Mt. Saint Helens blew up in Washington State – so it had quite a bit of significance to me in both the fact that it’s the oldest WA wine I’ve tasted to date and because of the year of Mt. St. Helens which I remember as if it was yesterday.

It wasn’t the most amazing bottle I’ve ever had but it certainly showed very well, considering it’s 31-years old and most likely never was intended to lay down this long. This bottle, however, will be one of my most memorable and that’s because of the time and place I first tasted it and whom I was with.

Here are my notes of this wine:

Smell: Green veggie action – asparagus and broccoli along with cherry cola, bloody mary and white pepper.

Taste: Cherries, ash,  cigarette tray with black raspberry and leather.

After we were done with our visit to the “Shoup Manor” – it was off to grab a quick bite to eat at the very iconic “Dick’s Drive-in” on 45th Street. This is drive-up fast-food place that has been “doing it right” since the 50’s and I have been going to this same place now for over 20-years and the food brings me back every time. It’s very common to see all demographics at this place, from the local UW college kids to millionaires pulling up in their BMW’s and Mercedes cars.

Bartholomew Winery:
Next stop – Bartholomew Winery in the historic Rainier Brewery building on Airport Way, not too far from Boeing Field. Bart Fawbush is the owner and is very passionate about the wines he has. He just released a new Viognier, a Muscat and a “Railway Red” blend, consisting of Cab, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Malbec.

The Viognier has a very floral nose – so massive is the flower component on this nose that it about took my breath away – in a good way. It has good mouthfeel without being too sweet at all.
The muscat is a good sweeter-style for around $10 and would be stellar with a fruit salad in the summertime. His Railway blend – I wasn’t too excited about – then again, I have yet to have any Cab/Pinot blend I’ve ever liked. If you want a very light-tasting Cab, then give this one a whirl.

Patterson Cellars

John Patterson, a Seattle-area native – started Patterson Cellars in Woodinville in 2003 and has quickly developed a good following for his wines. He produces a Rose, a cab, a syrah and a red blend called “Forbidden Red”.

The Forbidden red was my favorite, however, all of his wines show very well. It’s a blend of 32% Touriga, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Primitivo, 15% Cabernet Franc and 14% Mouvedre.

Maureen and self-invited guest Antoine Pin, taking time to do some tweets to update folks where we were at on the Urban Wine Tour.

Market Cellars Winery:
Right across the street from the Patterson tasting room is the old-school Market Cellars Winery. Its owner is 91 years young and was the first bonded winery in the area. He has since teamed up with Mount Baker Vineyards and produces some Puget Sound AVA wines – it’s a quirky show with tons of character and worth the stop.

Market Cellars started off as a wine-making supply store and sells beer-making supplies as well. The gentlemen showing us around is in fact a brew master and loves talking about beer but also has a genuine interest in wine as well.

This was my first time tasting a Siegerrebe grape and I must say – at least the way this one tasted – it sure reminded me a LOT of a Sauvignon Blanc. It’d be a no-brainer with most seafood.

Domanico Cellars
Jason Domanico is no stranger to wine – he went from being a typical corporate-type dude (working for Ghetty Images) to now the master of his own destiny in Domanico Cellars. He sources grapes from some of the state’s leading vineyards and produces them at his winery in Ballard.

This is a very small-producing winery with big heart – in fact, as big and as loud as the orange shirt Jason was sporting this day (grin). All three of his currently available reds are priced at a very reasonable $21 – keeps it simple and helps folks get their favorite without having to pick one over the other based simply on pricing.

All of his wines are rather tasty – in fact it was really hard to pick a “favorite” – at $21 each, how can you go wrong?

He also sampled us on an upcoming Malbec he’ll release later this year as well as his 2010 Riesling – the Malbec holds a lot of promise, however, is still tasting very young so look for that in the fall. His 2010 Riesling, for me, still had way too much SO2 to really get the gist of where it’s at but there was some nice green apple notes coming through. I’d like to try it again in a few months after its bottled and through bottle shock.

We wrapped-up the day by joining Ryan Pennington (PR guru of the Washington Wine Commission) for dinner at Cafe “Compliance” – okay, sorry, inside joke – Cafe Campagne. It’s a little french-style place in Pike Alley of the famous Pike Place market. We had an amazing time with Ryan, sharing what was left of the 1980 Ste Michelle Cab and a couple other wines – all in all, a day like this proves to me why I fell in love with wine.

Time and place is important, but more importantly is who you get to share those experiences with – And I could not have picked a better time than to share it with Allen, Maureen and Ryan. Each winery we visited has its own unique story and each one has its own flare. So what are you waiting for? Get out today and discover what hidden-gems are in your nearest city so you too can embark on your own “Urban Wine Tour” – remember, it’s just wine, have fun with it!

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Cochon Seattle – what’s not to love about a pig event?

Traci and I were recently treated to an assault on the senses – what could be considered by some as the “Mecca” of all things pig-related. Cochon 555 is an event that goes around the country and pits 5 of the best Chefs in each city against each other (each chef prepares pork dishes) and invites 5 wineries as well. Attendees sample the foods prepared by each chef and then vote for their favorite – the winner is crowned the “Prince of Princess of Porc”. It’s a way to honor the age-old tradition of sustainable farming practices with heritage pigs and draws special attention to both the butcher and chef.

Cochon 555 is the brainchild of Brady Lowe, a self-described foodie who loves, wine, cheese and sustainable, local food. Overall, I’d say there were 200-300 people at this show – the turnout of support was really good – it’s nice to see folks take an interest in the foods they eat and where that food is sourced from.

One of the more interesting events of the evening was the live butchering demo – they ended up giving away each cut during a drawing. Traci ended up winning the feet and was very excited about it.

Here he takes the scalp from the head and fills it with various cuts of meat from the rest of the pig and then sews it back together. The idea is to slow roast it in the oven – or I’d also consider smoking it as well.

One of the best Ice-Cream sandwiches I’ve ever had – the shortbread was made with bacon.

These were the most amazing pork rinds I’ve ever had! They literally melted in the back of your mouth like cotton candy.

The “Pig Chicks” brought out various pieces of pork goodness during the roasted pig eating.

Enjoying some of the blood sausage.

The winner of the sewed-up pig head! :)

Even our wine glasses had little pigs in them.

Overall, this was a good event in what it set out to do – draw attention to the sustainable farming of heritage pigs and getting people back in touch with the sources their food comes from.

I will say, however, that I was totally bummed not to see a single winemaker at the event – on Cochon’s website it says: 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 winemakers. Really? Hmm, perhaps next time?

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Taste Washington Seattle 2009 – Food

By Traci Garrett

I’ve finally recuperated from Taste Washington. (3 full days later)! I always look forward to this fabulous wine and food event.  

What a terrific way to reconnect with all the people in the industry you know and meet some new faces all under the same roof. The air is filled with electricity as people rally to hit as many wine stands as possible in the short time they have.  Let’s face it folks after the first 10 stands it all starts to taste the same to me.  The food on the other hand plays second fiddle to the wine. 

There are many food aficionados who look for that special something to wake up their palate but I believe most of the people eat the food with no appreciation to what they are really putting in their mouth.  They just want to shove something down to soak up the wine action in their gut and this, of course is all wrong in my book.  I look for that interesting morsel that will pair nicely with that fabulous wine I want to try. Something out of the ordinary — something that will scream out “wash me down with that fantastic Cab over there!”

As a matter of fact, there were quite a few eateries that impressed me this year just for this very reason.  

The first was Salty’s WOW Tri-Colored Vichyssoise topped with a little crab salad – pure heaven and beautiful to boot!

Honorable mention goes to Perche’ No because besides taking a huge risk of serving, God forbid, beef tongue they also served asparagus, which for some folks screws up their wine – tasting buds and changes the whole wine tasting experience for the worse.

On a side note: I kinda like how asparagus changes my taste buds!  I tried several big reds with the tongue and the roasted red bell peppers! What a great way to enhance your wine experience.

But my favorite was without a doubt Pike Place Chowder. Those guys dished up the most amazing Chorizo, Crab, Clam Chowder in a little bread bowl.

We  really enjoyed the Kestrel Chardonnay across the aisle with it too! I was ready to take both those Chowder guys home for some chowder making lessons!

Cindy Sido of Maryhill Winery

I also have to mention:  Maryhill Winery’s Sangiovese paired with some of Cindy’s homemade BBQ sauce.  The only problem with that taste of pure heaven was the cracker they used for the BBQ sauce, both Duane and I thought a spoon, or maybe a shovel, of this stuff with the Sangiovese would work!

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2009 Taste WA – Seattle – aftershock

For those of you who haven’t been to this event (or something similar) – it could seem fromt the outside looking in that it’s a wine-lovers dream-come-true. 200 wineries pouring quality vino with a supporting cast of local restaurants to help keep the palate in-check is a lot to take in during the relatively “short” 6-hours.

I think what always seems to mess with me at this event is time – the clock starts ticking down at 2pm and before I know it, it’s 8pm and everyone is packing up. It seems I get the chance to hang out with just a few people and “poof” – it’s over. I’d love to hear your stories about this event if you were there.

This year’s event saw – what seemed like – a much smaller crowd than last year and I’m sure that has a lot to do with the state of the economy. Most people I know are looking for ways to cut back on spending money, not shell out $90-120 dollars on a luxury like this event. All that said, it did seem like (from the wineries I did talk to) that everything was going well. They were able to meet their fans, make new ones or even make those who struggle to enjoy their wines feel more validated – who knows?

From our perspective, the Taste WA event is cool in that we get the chance to see industry friends and make new ones as well – one of the things I personally enjoy is seeing all the upcoming wineries striving to make their mark in today’s crowded industry. The guys at NW Totem CellarsSweet Valley and Efeste to name a few are part of the catalyst that’ll help shape the NW wine industry of the future – they are passionate, full of life and have the drive to pursure excellence.

What was striking to me, however, was the lack of passion so many “well-known” winemakers had – if they all had the pure, unadulterated, passion of Gilles Nicault – then we’d all be drinking much better wines.  Gilles has that personality that’s highly contagious, highly likable and quite frankly is a breath of fresh air – the wines he helps make seem to reflect that same spirit.

I felt that, overall, the food quality was better this year as well – there were a few mishaps in the house but I think most of them were sampling foods that adequately reflected their restaurants. A few of noteable ones were, Pike Place Chowder, Psalty’s and Kauzlarich Smoked Foods – Traci’s follow-up article will go into more details regarding the food.

So overall, I’m sure we’ll see the Washington Wine Commission releases stats that talk about what a great year this was for them and the industry, however, I think the real winners are the thousands of people like you and me who get to meet the great men and women behind the vino we all love to enjoy. If you’ve never been to this event, I’d encourage you to check it out next year – at least go once.

Find out who this dude in the glasses is by clicking here.

Related Links:
Taste WA – Official Site
2008 Taste WA Wrap-up
Traci’s 2008 Taste WA Thoughts

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8 “survival” tips for large-scale Wine Events

I’m always amazed at the volume of people willing to pay well over $100 to get into wine events under the notion that they’ll somehow get the chance to properly sample tons of wine – the primary problem is, however, that these events do not cater to helping one develop a good palate for what’s being poured because of many factors. Here are a few guidelines I use if I choose to go to an event like the upcoming Taste WA:

1. Make a mental note to yourself that it’s perfectly acceptable to NOT try every wine being poured.
The reality is that your palate (or anyone else for that matter) gets a beat-down like Mike Tyson on crack at an ear-biting contest whenever you subject it to too much stimulus from more than a dozen or so glasses of wine.

Before you go to the event, get a list of the participating wineries and select (randomly if you want to be adventurous) only a handful to try out during the few hours you’ll be at the event. This way, you get to try out new wines without overwhelming you and your palate.

2. Do make it a point to have some food:
Either sneak some food in (if you’re on a budget) – *cough* I know some folks who will sneak in a pocketful of blue cheese in plastic wrap – or get food from whomever is serving food at the event. You need to do this to be able to coat your palate between glass pours; if you don’t, you’ll find that your ability to pick up on the varying flavors of wine will quickly diminish within the first hour or so.

3. If you do the “sneak” thing:
Here a few examples of foods that should hold up okay in the confines of a loose jacket pocket or backpack etc.:

•    Dried Fruit
•    Nuts
•    Blue Cheese
•    Jerky snacks

Bottom line is that you need the sort of sugars and fats these foods being to the table to make sure your overall tasting experience is good and one to remember.

4. Write things down:
If you don’t have an excellent memory, then bring some sort of notepad and pen to jot down your thoughts on each wine and make it a point to take those notes with you next time you’re out at the store, looking for wine.

Outside of tasting notes about wine, I’ll also make notes about the people pouring the wine, such as:
•    Were they cool?
•    Did they strike me snobs?
•    Did they seem passionate about the wines they poured?

I will purposely avoid buying wine from folks who inappropriately represent their products and the wine industry. It’s a food product; it should be fun and never snobby.

5. Ask as many questions as time allows for:
This is one you’ll need to feel out the situation for. If you you’re at a rather empty table and have some time with the folks pouring, you should ask them questions about the wine, the people behind it etc. Take time to get to know them – many of whom are good, honest folks who love what they do.
If the table is busy, remember, there are others there who also want some time tasting the wine and to chat a bit – be courteous about this. Come back when things “die down” and talk to the folks at that time.

6. Please Spit:
I can’t begin to tell you how many people I run across who either don’t know about spitting or say things like “why would I want to waste the alcohol”? Those spit buckets are there for a reason folks.

For starters, you should be spitting due to the obvious reasons of what too much alcohol intake can do – nobody should ever drive back from an event like this without doing a lot of spitting.

Secondly, if you consume too much, you can easily misjudge the tastes after awhile – why do you think many people start pouring the cheap crap after a few bottles with friends? Because after awhile, it all tastes the same, that’s why.

Lastly, the spit bucket is NOT for rinsing your glass out! I was helping with a pour back in the summer of 07 and there was some lady who came up and rinsed her glass out using the wine in the spit bucket! Ewww – I didn’t have the heart to tell her what she had just done.

7. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes:
Aside from coming across as a wine snob (shudder the thought), wearing those formal clothes and shoes will do nothing for your overall comfort.  I always go casual – jeans, good shoes – you know, the kind of stuff you’d wear on a daily basis (just promise us, you’ll shower).

8. Drink water – don’t rinse with it:
There’s nothing wrong at all to ask the person pouring your taste to have a little “rinse action’ with the wine they’re about to pour. Rinsing with water will only add water into your taste and while I’m sure the local water supply is safe for human consumption, I don’t want it in my glass.

I would, however, highly recommend to everyone to pack in a bottle or two of some good h2o – remember, alcohol dehydrates the body of water – you need to keep yourself well hydrated.

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