Sunday, November 15, 2009

Keep On Rocking In the Wine World

The second annual Wine Rocks Seattle took place on November 12th; it was an event that brought together a lot of what Seattle and Washington do well. Music, wine and food made the night a perfect party. The event was sold out, so the folks at The Oregon Wine Blog certainly appreciated the media credentials to get in and see what the fuss was all about.

There were 20 wineries pouring, most of them pouring two or three different wines (there was one brandy from El Chalán, which was very tasty). The Palace Ballroom was packed to the gills and the joint was jumping, which was particularly gratifying given that the event benefited PEPS, the Program for Early Parent Support.

Gwynne, my lovely photographer, assistant, and wife, and I decided to attack the room in a counter clockwise maneuver. This strategy didn’t necessarily last very long, and we found ourselves wandering from table to table. It was obvious that everyone was in a great mood: the winemakers or their representatives were all very friendly, and more than eager to talk wine and music. By the time we had arrived the first act was already on stage and it was none other than Boudreaux Cellars’ Rob Newsome. Rob (originally from Louisiana) was rocking out some blue grass sounds.

We tasted most of the wine that was poured on this evening, maybe missing out on one or two. I had made a decision early on to focus on a handful of wines. That would let me write some tasting notes while I could still actually taste something. Here are the favorites from the night:

Des Voigne Cellars
Both of the wines that Darren was pouring, San Remo and The Duke, were quite good. San Remo (2007) was a 100% Sangiovese from Ciel du Cheval that was excellent and zesty, and would be a fantastic addition to any dinner party. As good as that was, Gwynne and I both really liked The Duke (2007)($28) even more. A 60% Zinfandel blend with Lemberger and Petit Sirah (13% each), Cab Franc (10%), and a tiny bit of Syrah. This was a fascinating wine. It had dark herbal and fruit notes, and a peppery finish. Des Voigne makes very small lots; there were only 239 cases of The Duke made. Darren was eager to talk about his wines, and told us to come on by the tasting room out in Woodinville. As a fun bonus, they have great labels made to look like old school jazz concert posters.

Boudreaux Cellars
Boudreaux Cellars are known for Cabernet ($52). The 2005 Cab was pure velvet in the glass. The wine was incredibly smooth and balanced with subtle notes of chocolate and cherries. This is a big wine that drinks well now and will only get better with age. Boudreaux’s wines are made in small lots in Rob Newsome’s Leavenworth winery. I think I probably threw Rob for a loop when I asked him not about his wine, but Steven Seagal. I learned from the Boudreaux website that Seagal had filmed On Deadly Ground at Newsome’s Icicle Creek Canyon home. Rob makes very fine wines that warrant their price tag.

Cuillin Hills
Probably Gwynne’s favorite wine of the evening, and one of mine as well, was the Shackled Red Wine ($35), a Rhone style blend of Syrah and Mourvedre. The wine was complex with an earthy and smoky nose. The licorice stood out on the palate, accompanied by a hint of berries. Cuillin Hills is another Woodinville winery, known for their Dungeon Syrah ($29) which sells out all the time (if you lay your hands on some, send me an email).

We tasted a lot of Cabernet that evening (Thank you, Washington!) and two really stood out, Boudreaux and Donedei. Donedei is one of just a few wineries located down near Olympia. The winemaker, Carolyn Lakewold, was not in attendance but was very well represented by Monika from Kelnan Wine Management. Donedei doesn’t fine or filter this Cabernet. This is a smooth wine, with very well balanced tannins and great black cherry and berry accents; definitely deserving of the accolades it consistently gets. This wine will definitely find its way into our rotation. Monika also mentioned a new wine project in Washington, Grand Rêve, that brings together the best grapes and the best winemakers in Washington. I will definitely be bringing you more information on Grand Rêve in the near future.

In addition to the wine, there was also great food and fantastic music, and we partook of everything. Chris Ballew closed out the night with a solo acoustic set, including some interesting children’s songs, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Poor Little Dust Bunnies, as well as his classic Presidents hits. (He looks a little bit like Lance Armstrong in a hat, maybe it was the wine.)

The food line was prohibitive for the first hour or so, but once the line cleared out, Gwynne and I moved in. Tom Douglas catering hit a home run with the Barnyard Meatballs, easily the best meatball I’ve ever had, some freshly griddled pita with three different tapenades, and two dessert options, including a triple coconut cream tartlet that was out of this world.

This was a great event, so make sure you put the 3rd annual Wine Rocks Seattle on your calendar for next fall.


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