Saturday, August 7, 2010

WBC or Bust Day One: The Seattle Winemakers Dinner

Our first official evening in Seattle was spent on Pier 70 at the famous Waterfront Seafood Grill. It was so beautiful outside that evening and I soaked in every second of being near the Puget Sound, watching the boats and the sunset. What a great place!! In the midst of all this awaited a fabulous five course dinner with three to four wines per course and some winemakers along to speak about their wines. The host wineries were Sparkman Cellars, Nota Bene Cellars, Cadence Winery, Andrew Will Winery, Fall Line Winery, OS Winery and Sleight Of Hand Cellars...

When we first arrived, we were encouraged to grab a glass of wine and enjoy the view outside. It was gorgeous and I just relaxed and let my mind float away…all the while sampling my first wine of the evening, 2009 Sleight of Hand Cellars The Magician’s Assistant--a Rose’ of Cabernet Franc.

I strolled around outside enjoying the view and enjoying this wine. I’d never had a Cab Franc Rose' before. Delicious! I have heard from the winemaker himself, Trey Busch, that the winery, located in Walla Walla, is about sold out! Get it while you can!($19).

Then it was time to bring on the fabulous wines and food! What a treat it was!!!!!

The first course of this fabulous tasting dinner was a small plate with a roasted snail with a lemon garlic butter sauce. I sat there staring at my plate and thinking, “Oh my God! I’m gonna eat a snail!“ They were meaty but rich and the acidity of the two corresponding wines, 2009 OS Winery Champoux Vineyard Riesling ($20) and the 2008 Sparkman Cellars Lumiere Chardonnay ($25 and sold out) did them well! Here’s a small bit of history on these two wineries…

O.S. Winery stands for Owen & Sullivan. The winery was founded in 1997 by winemaker Bill Owen, who attended our dinner and Seattle-area banker and wine-lover, Rob Sullivan. Their winery, located in Seattle, is known for its “Opulent and Voluptuous Reds”. Indeed, as we would find out later in the evening.

Sparkman Cellars is a small family-owned winery. Chris Sparkman, the winemaker, is also the general manager of the Waterfront Seafood Grill. He and his wife make handcrafted, traditional wines that are very popular with local wine-lovers. This was the first time I had tried their wines and I have to say I was very impressed! I hope I get the chance to visit their winery some day!

The second course was a seared sea scallop atop a bed of wilted spinach in a red wine butter sauce. Three wines accompanied this dish: 2007 Andrew Will Two Blondes Yakima Valley Red ($50), 2008 OS Winery Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Franc($35) and 2006 Fall Line Winery Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28). Now, I had never thought to pair up scallops with reds but this pairing really worked!

What can I say about Fall Line Winery? Their story is inspiration for anyone wanting to take a hobby and turn it into a career. Winery owner Tim Sorenson and his wife Nancy Rivenburgh are college professors and together they have made their dream of owning a winery a reality. They have chosen to keep their day jobs in addition to making wine! Tim has educated himself in wine at UC Davis and is working to further his education. The winery is located in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown for those of you who would like to visit. I really enjoyed their wines.

Another seafood pairing that worked with reds was our third course--Columbia River Sturgeon with braised fennel, watercress coulis, shallot and bacon relish. This was paired with three big red wines: 2006 Fall Line Winery Artz Red Mountain($30), 2007 Cadence Bel Canto Cara Mia Vineyard (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, $55) and 2007 Nota Bene Una Notte Columbia Valley($32). Heaven!

Cadence Winery is owned by a couple of Washington transplants, Caye McNutt (originally from Texas) and her husband, Benjamin Smith (who is from Ohio). Ben, a former Boeing employee, and Caye strive to make the best Bordeaux-style blends from Washington’s best vineyards. Their wines are top notch and it shows! The two we sampled at this dinner were spectacular! These wines are highly rated and definitely worth seeking out!

I could have stopped right there but course four was upon me: An Angus Beef short rib with red wine sauce, horseradish and French fries! This course just couldn’t have been anymore decadent and the big reds they chose to pair with it were over the top!!! The 2006 Nota Bene Syrah($30), 2007 Cadence Tapteil Vineyard Red Mountain (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, $45) and the 2008 Sparkman Cellars Darkness Syrah Yakima Valley ($48) were all exceptional red wines. I can honestly say the Darkness Syrah is by far one of the best Syrahs I encountered in Washington. Wow! I really enjoyed the Nota Bene Syrah as well! (Remember, I am Syrah-challenged! That’s changing quickly however…)

Nota Bene Cellars is truly a family affair! Owner/winemaker Tim Narby started out at Boeing as a systems analyst. He joined the Boeing employees wine and beer making club and quickly moved up the ranks becoming their vice-president. He and his wife, Carol Bryant, an attorney, decided to venture out on their own, and now that their kids are old enough to join the ranks, everyone in the family plays a role in the winery’s everyday operations--even their dog and cat! Their wines are a terrific buy for their price points!

We had some fabulous wines that evening as you can see. But the wine that stole my heart was the 2007 Andrew Will Ciel Du Cheval! ($65) This Bordeaux-style blend was paired with the meat course. Having just sampled the 2006 vintage recently, it was my favorite and everywhere I went that week, Andrew Will wines were by my side. I was so excited to find out that Andrew Will’s assistant winemaker, David Oldham, was in attendance at our dinner! Meeting him made the evening really special for me! He and winery owner, Chris Camarda, make some really special wines at their Vashon Island winery and they are not to be missed! David was funny, very personable and as you can see from the video above (shot by the WBCorBust crew), he was having a whacky and wonderful time! Chris and David source their grapes from different vineyards in Washington state. The Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, where this wine's grapes come from, is located in Benton City, Washington in the Red Mountain AVA and I was so fortunate to be able to visit the vineyard later in the week and meet the vineyard's owner Jim Holmes! Some of Washington state's most expensive and sought after red wines come from this AVA and their ageability is just amazing! They're a great investment!

I was still drinking these wines when the dessert course arrived--a panna cotta with bing cherry, star anise, black pepper and chocolate. Simply wonderful!

Alas, the day finally had to come to an end and I was, pardon the pun, “Sleepless In Seattle” as I pondered about my wonderful experiences that day. Surely there was more to come, but a little piece of my heart remained in Seattle as we headed east towards the Cascades, Yakima and Walla Walla. This was just the beginning of a new love affair I'm having with Washington state wines! Stay tuned for more of my escapades in the coming weeks!

My thanks again to Cuvee Corner Blog's Bill Eyer and Tom Plant of Wineormous for some of these fabulous photos! I should take you both on all my wine country trips!

For more information on the wineries and the restaurant, please see the following websites:


  1. Wow I'm hungry after reading. Sounds like some very outstanding wines you had the opportunity to taste and some top wine folks to rub elbows with. Thanks for sharing Grace.

  2. Grace-

    What a great recap of an awesome night. This dinner was possibly the highlight of my week in Washington, and also kick started an intense love affair with Washington wines. And yes, the Andrew Will was overwhelmingly amazing that night. Thanks for taking me back.

  3. Looks like a fine meal.

    The scallops and the reds does sound unusual. However, I guess conventional wisdom is to pair with the sauce, so a red wine sauce with red wine makes sense, I guess.

    Still interesting to see a scallop with that kind of sauce, even. I'm sure they knew what they were doing!

  4. Everything was pretty darn tasty! Even the scallop with the red sauce. Funny,I had scallops earlier in the day (see previous post) and they had paired theirs with a white Bordeaux-blend. Interesting how different these two were. But they worked!

  5. Ah I was so sad to hear WBC or Bust judges were not to be a part of that dinner. Now I am heart broken and hungry! Thanks for letting me enjoy it at least vicariously!

  6. Grace, I suppose I'm happy any time I can get my hands on some scallops, regardless of the sauce :)

  7. Your recap on the first day of this event is so detailed. I am happy that you shared the different menus and the wines that are in there. It is such a great treat to be able to experience those. Thank you for sharing them it was such a joy to read your blog.