Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cellarmistress Does Woodinville Part Two: The Grand Tasting

Upon leaving Chateau Ste. Michelle, our group of bloggers was whisked away across the road to the Willows Lodge, home of the famous restaurant, The Barking Frog. As we walked through the building, I spotted a sign reading “Private Event Wa. Wine Bloggers. Thank You For Joining Us!” At that moment, I felt pretty special! In the courtyard stood many eagerly awaiting winemakers and winery representatives from wineries right there in Woodinville! This tasting would take awhile and in the interest of time, I’m going to discuss a few of the producers. You all know how long-winded I am! I’d be writing a novel if I mentioned every single detail! Anyway, I was like a kid in a candy store! What do I try first? Who do I meet first? Everyone began disbursing to the different tables and guess what?

I spotted vintner Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery. I approached with caution because I didn’t want to seem too eager but who was I kidding? I knew that Bob had a huge history in the Washington wine industry--that he’d worked for Ste. Michelle back when it was Stimson Lane, that his wines were worshipped by many faithful followers, that he had a MW (Master Of Wine) as a title and that his winery’s mailing list had been closed for quite some time. If my trip had ended right there, I’d have had no regrets, after all Bob Betz was legendary! Who would regret sampling two of his finest wines---one of them yet to be released to the general public??? Not I! So I sauntered over and introduced myself! He was as charming and pleasant as could be as his daughter, Carmen, poured me a sample of 2008 Syrah La Côte Patriarche (Est. retail $55, 215 cases, to be released October 2010). I remember thinking, “Wow!” this is going to be the benchmark for everything else I try this week! Sourced from Yakima Valley’s Red Willow Vineyard (the oldest Syrah planting in the state), this wine was velvety with bursts of dark fruit and a very long, lingering finish! And yet to be released! How fortunate could I get? The next wine I sampled was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Familie. ($60 retail, 815 cases-sourced mostly from Ciel Du Cheval, Klipsun and Kiona Vineyard on Red Mountain). Very big, dense fruit with mineral qualities, a bit tight but would open up nicely with decanting or aging, Now that was an experience and I still had several more tables to visit!

The next person I met was Darren DesVoigne of DesVoigne Cellars. I had never heard of them before but the labels on their bottles caught my eye. They had beautiful artwork of jazz musicians on them. I went back to white wines and started off with his 2009 Menina Flor Columbia Valley Viognier/Roussanne. That’s an interesting varietal combination I’d never run across before! I wanted to run away with the bottle! It was unbelievably creamy with a melange of citrus! And for only $20 and 136 cases produced, I’m sure it would sell out quickly!

Next up was owner/winemaker Steve Snyder of Hollywood Hill Vineyards. The sun was beating down on me so I asked to sample a white. One thing you need to know about me is I am crazy about Roussanne. It’s just not a wine I can find a lot of and coming to Washington was the best thing because it opened my eyes to some of the best Roussannes out there! Hollywood Hill makes a fine one, 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Roussanne. ($24, 70 cases produced). Guess I was lucky to sample it because production is so small! Full-bodied and lush with ripe pineapple flavor. Just scrumptious!

At the recommendation of my friend, wine blogger Bill Eyer, I ventured over to the Baer Winery table where I met Lisa Baer, representing her family. Her table featured two reds, 2007 Ursa and 2007 Arctos. Washington has a lot of best kept secrets. Here’s one of them! These two Bordeaux blends are amazing! My first thought was that the price points would be very high and I almost hesitated to ask. I was stunned to find out the 2007 Ursa ($35, 997 cases produced) and the 2007 Arctos ($41, 267 cases produced) were so moderately priced. Good Lord! Beautiful wines at an incredible price! Highly recommended!

distefano and Sparkman Cellars shared a table. Though I will talk about Sparkman Cellars in a later post, I did want to mention that distefano was named 2008 Winery Of The Year by Wine Press Northwest and 2009 Best Winery by people’s choice 425 Magazine. The 2005 Sogno (which means dream, in Italian) was my favorite at this table. Yet another great value , this wine was 98% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was very spicy, with cloves, mint, eucalyptus and blue fruit. Another jaw dropping moment occurred when I saw the price point, $32 (550 cases produced).

Finally, we move on to dessert. Dessert wine, that is. My friends, Mike and Kate Sharadin of Northwest Totem Cellars made a fine fine dessert wine, the 2007 Elerding Vineyard Late Harvest Viognier! ($27) Slightly sweet, with honeysuckle notes and so smooth. I was loving this wine and Mike came up behind me and handed me a bottle to take back to Iowa! I want to thank him for doing this because it’s a beautiful wine and I can’t wait to share it with my family and friends!

Alas, the tasting had to come to an end and we were directed into the Barking Frog restaurant where DeLille Cellars owner/partner Jay Soloff was waiting to pour us some more of his wines with lunch. Stay tuned for my next post featuring Jay and his wonderful wines and the awesome cuisine of Chef Bobby Moore! If you are interested in getting to know these wineries better, all of them have tasting rooms in Woodinville, Washington, which is a suburb of Seattle.

You may access more information on their respective websites below:

My thanks to Bill Eyer for providing the photo of Darren DesVoigne and the distefano and Hollywood Hill Vineyards wines! I also wanted to thank Marcus Pape for all the hard work he put into bringing this all together! And--I want to say how excited I was that I finally got to meet three of my good Twitter friends: Margot (@writeforwine), Shona (@shona425) and Bean (@winebeerwa)!!!


  1. Great post and very informative. Having the opportunity to meet so many great winemakers and winery folks, sharing in great wine and food you must still be on cloud nine. Thanks for listing the wineries so we can learn even more! Cheers

  2. So glad you enjoyed the Grand tasting at Willows Lodge. A great way to get the winning blogger to taste through a number of our Woodinville wineries. I love Betz also, in fact, I had my bottle of Pere de Familie for my birthday on Tuesday night. I'm also a huge fan of NW Totem Cellars Late Harvest Viognier. I hope everyone had as good a time in Woodinville as it sounds like you did.

  3. I enjoyed every moment of WBCorBust! In fact, I think it was one of the best wine-related wxperiences I've ever had! I want to thank you and the other judges for choosing me as a winner! I have a whole new appreciation for the wines and wineries of Washington state and hope to come back next Summer. I know it's been a few weeks but I still have a lot to say so I will keep posting my happy thoughts! I also hope everyone else enjoyed the experience. It by far exceeded my expectations!

  4. Dear Grace,
    It was great to finally meet you at WBC. I’m glad we had the opportunity to hang out during the post-conference excursion. The remaining WBC video diaries will be posted next week at YouTube’s Wine Bloggers Channel.
    Hope to see you in Charlottesville next summer —if not before. Please me posted on your October trip dates, so I can see if it lines up with our Halloween party.
    Take care,
    Lisa Mattson
    The Journey of Jordan: a wine and food video blog

  5. Great job Grace, loved the Betz wines, did a video interview with him if you like to add it here feel free, keep up the good work, cheers!

  6. Looks like you had a great time,met great folks and, of course, tasted great wine. I can't wait to get up there & explore the area. Thanks for sharing the experience.