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.
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.
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.
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!