Move over Trader Joe's, Costco, Total and Bevmo. Here comes the Wedgewood Shell Station! The what? Yeah, it's a gas station in northeast Seattle. What's a gas station got to do with wine? I told you you could find one of the best buys in the world, Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Chardonnay and Merlot, at gas stations all over Washington state, but Kent Jeppesen, owner of the Wedgewood Shell station (9501 NE 75th Street, phone 206-384-48440), has taken gas station wine sales to the next level. He had the business acumen to realize that wine has an excellent markup and that people want wine for under $10. When it comes to wine, you can get get anything you want, almost, at the Shell Station. Washington, Australia, France, Chile, you name it and chances are they have it. You may not be able to find the pepperoni or the chips, but you can find a decent quaff for the night at less than ten bucks. Kent keeps his prices right. He buys closeouts from distributors and sometime has a lower than normal markup to give you a good value. Soon, or maybe already, wine may contribute more to gross revenue and profit than that other necessity, gasoline, at the "Wine Station."
Living in Washington state, you can't help but become a strawberry lover. Of course, the best strawberries are local ones from places like Spooner Farm and Sakama farm. The season for these is a few scant weeks in June, but good strawberries can be had at other times of the year. When I am desperate for a strawberry, the overly firm, last forever, simulacrum from Watsonville will do, but if you want something with real flavor look to Mexico and other California venues. IMO, Santa Maria produces the most flavorful commercially grown fruit, followed by Santa Ynez, Oxnard and Salinas.
Strawberries are great by themselves and, of course, dipped in chocolate. Try strawberries with prosciutto or cold smoked salmon. Strawberries and semi-soft cheese are the perfect accompaniment to wine. Semisweet wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer work well, as do almost any dessert wines. I've never had a bad match with red or white wine, but a real Northwest eyeopener is Washington Strawberries and Oregon Pinot Noir, though I wouldn't object to a California Pinot or a Red Burgundy.
Thunderbird or MD20/20? Well, not quite that bad. How many times have you ordered wine on a flight only to be disappointed? Even in First Class? The last wine I had in First Class was a not so first class Viognier from California. I vaguely recall having some good wine in Business Class many years ago. At least in steerage you can buy those little six ounce bottles. Water is probably a better choice and sometimes offered free on some airlines. Anyway, I decided to see which of those 187ml bottles offered the best chance of a decent quaff on a plane, not that you really have a choice on a given flight. We only tasted Chardonnay. Sutter Home was sweet and flabby. Gallo was acceptable. Delicato anything but delicate, but workable, Stone Cellar from Beringer was not bad at all, well balanced with a (oh, no!) slightly stony quality, and good fruit. BTW, This is available at Trader Joe's for only $3.99 ( four buck chuck ?) and it is a lot better than Charles Shaw Chardonnay. Too bad you can't BYOB. I am so far behind on my posts that I thought I would send this little post along just to remind you that I'm still in the game:)
BULLETIN: FWC (Federal Wine Commission) to bailout wine industry. The FWC is a little known division of the Federal Reserve. Fiat will take control of Deageo and the Federal Government will own 60% of Constellation Brands. Deageo and Constellation will let go of over 50% of retailers and restaurants. Constellation will sell a significant portion of it's portfolio of wineries to buyers in China and Japan. Congressmen have complained of a lack of oversight, arbitrariness, unregulated rule by fiat, lack of clear and sound guidelines and criteria, and the impact on local communities. Some may have to drive more than 100 miles to get some wine. This will be beneficial to state budgets as the number of DWIs will increase. Goldman Sacks has indicated an interest in securitizing these debts (DWIs & DUIs), even under the regulation of the Federal Reserve (too bad Hank ain't around no more). A certain amount of wine in large formats with be held in Reserve for the Feds' own use. Already there has been a populist outcry over these outrageously oversized last minute bonuses.
On Wall Street there has been a huge rally in the stocks of American bucket manufacturers. In pre-market trading American Bucket(ABC), Kick The Bucket(KICK), and Bucket List(LIST), have risen 24%, 39%, and 103%, respectively. A little known earmark in fine print specifies that only American buckets from Arkansas and Kansas are to be used to drain the lake of wine in the U.S. resulting from excess inventories of cult wines and and wines priced at $14 and up. Like housing, there has recently been noted a slight increase in consumption by entry level buyers and those who have had to scale down during the "worst Recession since the Depression of the 1930s". Wines priced at the high end have suffered the greatest drop in sales and anyone who has a few bucks left can get on virtually any "list". "Allocated" wines can now be allocated to YOU, if you want them. Overseas, Asian and European bucket makers fell on the news. Several Asian CEOs and one French CEO kicked the bucket on the news. Interestingly, very few top level bucket makers had the decency to kick the bucket. Instead they seem to have taken out their bucket lists and are flying around the world checking off items at a rapid rate.
President Obama made it perfectly clear that he had no intention of nationalizing the wine industry or the bucket industry. He stated that it was necessary to bailout the wine industry because the country is drowning in a lake of high-priced wine. At his speech in Napa, he noted that roughly half of the countries in the world, including many Muslim countries, produce wine. He stated, unequivocally, that countries must abide by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that, while no country could or should dictate the wine-growing behavior of another country, non-producing countries must sign the treaty and abide by its provisions. He also pointed out the absurd maze of state regulation and the intra-state attempts to coerce the behavior of individuals living in particular regions. He called for an end to the checkerboard of dry and wet counties found in some regions. Conservative Senators accused Obama of being unduly influenced by what they called a special interest group - Free The Grapes. Former Vice President Cheney virtually accused Free The Grapes of socialism and terrorism
Returning to the international arena, he said that the peaceful use of wine for domestic consumption enhances the GHP (Gross Happiness Product) of individuals and countries, but that threats of overproduction from rogue terroiristes are unacceptable and will be met with firm opposition by the international community. Terroiristes who turn in their plows will be welcomed into the community of nations. He expressed optimism that in the long run, the American wine industry could recapture it's lead by cutting prices and increasing innovation. He said that he understood the long suffering of the followers of Bacchus and Dionysus and history of hostility between them. He acknowledged how difficult it will be to overcome decades of cultism, but said that we must, and will, be guided by our moral obligations to do the right thing. While acknowledging the rights of teetotalers, he asked the world to unite in celebrating diversity, and asked us all, within the bounds of our various values and religious beliefs, to eat, drink, and be merry which is a universal human desire and a human right!
We were back to the old stompin' ground in Santa Barbara County, Los Olivos. We wanted to leave some time for the Foxen Santa Maria area, so we skipped Santa Ynez, Lompac/Buellton, and Solvang. We couldn't resist Los Olivos, but we really wanted to get to Foxen Road. No toilets, no water, just wine - that's Los Olivos. We skipped some old friends such as Consilience and Andrew Murray(rude reception). We always have fond memories of Andrew Murray Esperence, but wonder what it is like these days.
We started at Arthur Earl where the 2006 Viognier tasted like a peach tree with a little bark thrown in. Altogether a fruity, friendly wine, but, like most of its Olivos cousins, too fruity for my taste. I need some minerality and stoniness. The Rhone blend of Grenache, Counoise, Cinsaut and Syrah had a great nose with nice hints of vanilla in the flavor, but ultimately the lean mean taste of Counoise came through. The 2006 Tempranillo was a winner with a nose of cherry and Havana cigar.
Next a stop at Stolpman to pick up a wine club allocation for a friend. How agreeable the little red house just off the main street of Los Olivos . What a relief from the claustrophobic feel of the tasting room in Solvang surrounded by Scandinavian bric-a-brac stores - a Danish mortuary for great wine. The 2006 L'Avion has a deep golden color, almost russet, reminiscent of a big white Burgundy in style, structure and color, although, of course, the flavor profile is different since this is no Chardonnay, but a Rousanne with a touch of Viognier. The 2006 Grenache is beautiful, light and elegant - a good example of this style. We tasted two Syrahs, but the most interesting wine was the 2006 "La Croce" a cross between Syrah and Sangiovese. This seems to be a new trend in Los Olivos, the first of three such crosses.
Across the street at Carina Cellars we tasted wines created by winemaker Joe Tensley who also has his own line of wines. The 2007 Viognier had a subtle nose, followed by a round fruity peachy wine. Another fruity Viognier from Los Olivos. It's a style! We tasted several Syrahs - our favorites were the 2006 Terra Alta and the co-fermented 2006 "7 Percent" Syrah, that is, 7% Viognier, 93% Syrah.
At Coquelicot (kok - li -ko) Kerry very ably served up the offerings. The 2006 Estate Chardonnay was very light and perfumed - a good patio wine. The 2006 Estate Chardonnay was more classic, but still very fruity - flowers in a glass. The 2006 Estate Syrah tasted of roasted coffee. The very good 2006 Black Oak Vineyard Syrah was round balanced and flavorful. The 2006 "Mon Amour" Estate Bordeaux Blend was very lovable, round, fruity and perfumed - a come hither wine. The 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc was an odd C. F. with spice that might lead one to think of Syrah. The winemaker's notes say it tastes of roasted pasilla pepper, still an unusual , if not unpleasant, taste profile for a Cab Franc.
Qupe recently opened a new tasting room at the entrance to Los Olivos from the north. Stealthily manned by Ethan, one of owner Bob Lindquist's able winemaker sons, Ethan, quietly poured wines from Qupe, his father's wines, from Verdad, his step-mother's wines, and "Ethan" his own wines. He quietly recommended his brother Luke's wines at Tres Hermanas. The 2006 Verdad Rose was, good, but truly, the 2007 Verdad Albarino was even better. Fruitier than a Spanish Albarino, but still recognizable. The Qupe Roussanne was round and fruity, the Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee, a Syrah/Mourvedre blend, was light to medium-bodied, round, with good fruit. I have spent years searching for this wine in San Francisco ever since my son-in- law had a bottle and loved it. Ethan's 2006 Sangiovese was round, medium-bodied, and spicy - no lean mean Chianti, this one. Ethan's Cuvee Los Alamos Syrah was excellent, too. His father's Qupe 2006 Syrah from the Stolpman vineyard was really good, too, with a nose of black fruit and toast. In truth, this is a family of very talented winemakers. Es verdad! Truth telling even extends to the tasting notes offered. Just the facts, ma'am! Vineyards, grapes and ageing. That's it. No hype about "lead pencil and cassis." Just the data. They're not going to tell you what you "should" taste or try to influence you. You decide how it tastes to you and whether you like it or not. This is truly rare.
Since Longoria was just next door, I couldn't resist the opportunity to revisit an old friend. The 2007 Pinot Grigio was pleasantly balanced, the 2007 Cuvee June Rose was pleasingly dry. The nose of the 2006 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido, put me off, the nose of of the 2006 Clover Creek Syrah was toasty and appealing. The "06 Blues Cuvee was complex and jazzy. The 2006 Clover Creek Tempranillo was round, balanced and delish, but all of this was just a prelude to a mind-blowing wine - the 2006 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is from Rick Longoria' only estate vineyard. I had only one thing to say about this wine - "Fantasic!" Like Miles in "Sideways," I have spent years searching for truly great Pinot and have only found a few bottles in Burgundy and a few more in Oregon that satisfy me. This one is spectacular and worth every penny of its $54 price point. Well, it looks like we only left a few hours for the Foxen Santa Maria area but that's better than last time.
Back to Taste Washington. Let's try doing this in alphabetical order. Airfield Estates has been growing grapes for a while. Recently Marcus Miller has started making wines that are appealing and reasonably priced. Anna Schafer, continues to make outstanding wine at aMaurice Cellars. Both the 2006 Viognier and Chardonnay have a stony European quality. The Malbec is fabulous. Balboa wines have been friendly "value" wines, but now they are going upscale with "Mith" the outstanding Sayulta from Walla Walla grapes, but is this the time to start offering $40 bottles. I guess we will see. It seems to me that Beresen wines fell off a little this year, but not the 2006 Malbec. Everyone seems to be hitting home runs with Malbec. Caderetta had a nice Merlot. Chad at Dusted Valley ventured into the high end with an outstanding '06 Reserve Cab for $45. The 2007 Stained Tooth Syrah is always good at $24. Gifford Hirlinger came up with another really good Malbec. All of the wines from newcomer Gilstrap were excellent.
The 2007 Riesling from Palouse was light and balanced. The 2006 "Ahh" Syrah brought "oohs and aahs" as did the Cab Franc and the Cab Sauv. All of the Ponum and Ponder wines were excellent. Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine - "That's really good!" The Saviah 2006 Reserve Syrah was excellent, but the 2006 "Une Vallee" Red Wine was outstanding - velvety and smooth! Once again, Trey Busch worked his magic with the 2007 "The Magician" Gewurz and the "Spellbinder" Red Blend. Chris Sparkman's 2007 "Lumiere" Chardonnay will light up your life and lighten your burdens. The 2007 Syncline Mourvedre from Horse Heaven Hills is heavenly and since Syncline is biodynamique should help you get centered in your life. The trio of winemakers at Trio Vintners made an outstanding Rhone Style Mourvedre that is delightfully rustique and reminiscent of southern French wine. It appears that virtually all of Larry Lehmbecker's wines have won awards for their friendly unoaked style. Newcomer Ward Johnson's Cab Blend was worthy and of course, Lloyd Andersen's Walter Dacon Syrahs were all big fruity, jammy and delish as always. I alway seem to prefer to prefer the C'est Syrah Belle.
Four hours is just not enough time to do justice to so many outstanding winemakers, wineries, and vineyards, but Taste Washington is a great way to discover new wineries and find out which wines you really like. I've often said that the only way to buy wine is to taste it yourself at the winery. At Taste Washington the wineries bring the wine to you all in the same place making it easy to choose your faves for the year.
This year we did Passport in a day. To do this, we had to skip some good ol'boys, some old new wineries and lots of good friends. Brian Carter was mobbed as were Red Sky and Edmonds. DeLille, Betz and Gorman were closed. We tasted Sparkman and Efeste at Taste Washington Phoenix. We tasted Ponum and Pondera at Taste Washington Seattle. So we sandwiched everything else between two truly outstanding new wineries. We started early at Adam's Bench and finished late at Hestia. In between we checked out wineries with great wines, great wine names, and great marketing.
We also got greater clarity about some complicated relationships among winery names and product lines. Smasne, for example, also produces Alma Terra, Gard and Farmer Boy wines. Alexandria Nicole has a second line called Altered States Of Wine. Their unoaked Girl Next Door Chardonnay was quite good. The John Pattersons, father and son, seem to be shifting their winery name from Washington Wine Company to Patterson Cellars. They had cool music ( lots of people dancing), cool names like Big F'n Syrah and Recession Red. The Syrah was F'n Amazing and so is the price. In addition to Recession Red they are offering a "stimulus package". They have yet to offer "Crash", "Crisis", "Flaw", "Bailout", "Bonus", "Made-Off", "Greenspan Grenache", "Geithner's Unpaid Tax ", or "Bernacke Bordeaux Blend", but they are off to a good start.
Guardian Cellars offered their 2006 Syrah with pleasing soft cherry flavors. Darby English offered Chaos and Purple Haze. I was particularly fond of the Purple Haze. I sorely missed the Deuce Viognier/ Chard which will be released in a couple of months. Steve Snyder is having trouble with his plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but made fine light, tart, Roussanne from Horse Heaven Hills grapes. XSV wines were better this year. The 2003 Chardonnay seemed overoaked, but very French. the '03 Syrah from Horse Heaven Hills was unusually spicy and interesting. the '03 Cab was balanced, soft with good fruit.
The only new winery for me was Barrage a cross between barn and garage. Kevin Correll started making wine in a garage, thus earning his "Diplome Garagiste." He also has a certificate from U.C. Davis. In keeping with the style set by the gang in the hood, Kevin has a barrage of quirky, explosive names such as Nuclear Blonde, Trifecta, Secret Weapon and Alias. The wines are excellent with lots of character. Kevin figures with so many excellent winemakers around, he needs to do something a little bit different.
Adam's Bench, last year's next new thing, is still going strong thanks to the winemaking skills of owners Tim and Erica Blue. You had better get on their list before they are discovered. It is no myth that the 2007 Myth is an excellent wine. The barrel sample of this 50/50 Cab Franc & Merlot that we tasted was loaded with fruit, but had a slightly hot finish that should go away with bottling and a little age. I preferred the 2007 Reckoning, a blend of 48% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, in other words, a Bordeaux style blend. Beautiful black berry fruit. The 2006, being a year older is rounder and softer. Love them both! The 2006 Reserve Cab, aka, "The V", is another beautifully balanced Bordeaux style blend predominantly Cab Sauv(75%) with 23% Merlot and 2% Cab Franc blended in, more in the style of a left bank Paulliac. There also are a 2007 100% Red Willow Cab and an '07 "V" still in barrel. The '07 "V" has an incredible pedigree with fruit from Stillwater Vineyard and Discovery Vineyard. Discovery provides fruit to some of the best wineries in the state - Quilceda Creek and Andrew Will. Did you miss the Leonetti and Quilceda mailing lists? Here's an opportunity to get great wine at reasonable prices. You would pay twice as much for comparable Napa wine and moreyhan three times as much for Bordeaux.
We closed our session with an after hours visit to Hestia Cellars. Hestia is the Greek Goddess of home and hearth, but, trust me, there is nothing homely about winemaker Shannon Jones's wines. Shannon has acheived that magical trick of creating a wine both smooth and seemless, but big and full. Most of his wines are marked by deep purple colors followed by big rich fruit. Perhaps the winery should have been named after Hermes, the trickster, rather than placid Hestia. In any event this is definitely a "go to" winery, My faves are the Cab and the Syrah which would have getten scores of 91 and 93, if I were into scores
The boys and girls in the hood are doing a fine job. The whole hood is just F'n amazing. And so close to Seattle. Just think, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by just driving a few miles to Woodinville, instead of the Napa Valley. Then you can use your savings to buy wine instead :)
Ladies and Gentleman, we interrupt this broadcast to bring you a Bulletin: We interrupt our posts about Taste Washington to bring you almost real-time reports from Woodinville Passport.
On my return to Columbia Winery to get a replacement copy of my "Woodinville Passport"which apparently fell out of my pocket early on, I thought I would taste some Columbia Winery wines. You may have noticed that for the most part I have never been particularly fond of Columbia wines, but I thought I would at least try the Red Willow Sangiovese. No Passport, no wine! Such rigidity! As recompense, I immediately headed to Novelty Hill where I hoped for a better reception and where I knew there would be so many good wines. I once said that I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill. This time I tasted through so many good wines made by Mike Januik. The tasting room staff led by Diane were extremely helpful and accommodating. Destiny poured so many excellent wines, that I quickly developed palate fatigue as they all started to blend together in my mind. One reason for this is that winemaker Mike Januik has a very distinct winemaker signature. Virtually all of his wines are made in a smooth seemless style, well balanced, medium bodied with lots of fruit. Almost all of Mike wines are delicious. There are very few winemakers who are so consistent, just as there very few wine regions that are consistent. Chinon, Dolcetto, Champagne, Port and Sherry are the consistent regions. Mike and Tim Narby at Note Bene winery are among the few truly consistent winemakers. In Mike's case perhaps this comes from his years of experience at Chateau Ste. Michelle. This consistency makes it easy to choose wine from a wine list or a retail shelf. The truly amazing thing is consistency at such a high level. Tasting Mike's wines is like tasting flight of Bordeaux First Growths and then trying to pick the best one. Each wine would be outstanding on it's own and tasting them together tends to diminish them all. They become average , except that the average is extremely high. So forgive me if these notes seem somewhat similar. Rather than give numeric ratings I will give you the asterisk system that I actually use when tasting wines. Only really good wines, wines that I really like, get stars - three stars = outstanding, two stars = extraordinary, one star = excellent. These notes are pretty much in the order presented from light and white to big and red.
1) *2005 Novelty Hill Semillon - GRASS, a pleasing grassy nose leads to a smooth, balanced wine with good minerality - great! Gives L'Ecole Semillon a run for the money.
2) 2006 - Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc - As most of you know I'm not too fond of S.B., This one was like a cool fresh stream without that annoyingly tart grapefruit flavor. The anti-New Zealand Sauv.
3) **2005 Viognier - Minerality, hint of citrus, lively, not big and heavy like so many Viogniers, definitely a food wine. If I were using numbers I would have given in a 90.
4) ** 2006 Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay - Minerality, citrus, food wine. The Cold Creek was the first Januik wine we tasted and we fell in love with it's cool French style reminding us of a French Meursault. This vintage is lighter and less full bodied than our first Cold Creek Chard from Mike.
5) ** 2007 Januik Elerding Chardonnay - Bigger, fuller oakier than the Cold Creek. Reminiscent of a French Chassagne Montrachet white Burgundy.
6) * 2006 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Chardonnay - OAK, oak nose, big mineral apple, fruit, citrus. Somewhat like a French Puligny Montrachet.
7) 2005 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Sangiovese - light color, cherry nose, light cherry flavors, need a year or two to diminish the tannins.
8) ** 2005 Januik Columbia Valley Merlot - This blend of 91%, 7% Cab Sauv, 2% Cab Franc is soft and smooth with cherry vanilla flavors - the quintessential Januik wine. Blended from Klipsun, Ciel Du Cheval, Conner Lee and Weinbau grapes, it has a heck of a pedigree.
9) 2006 Januik Klipsun Merlot - Blended with 4% Cab Sauv, this one has a complex nose with notes of toast.
10) * 2004 Novelty Hill Stillwater Merlot - Amazing berry nose with hints of blueberry. Round & soft - friut, fruit, fruit.
11) ** 2006 Januik Ciel Du Cheval Petit Verdot - Strawberry/rhubarb nose, yum, so soft, like a Merlot - not as big and structured as the 2004.
12) *2004 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Syrah - Soft, toasty nose, Light fruity, refreshing, delightful Syrah.
13) *** 2006 Januik Lewis Vineyard Syrah - WOW! Toast and fruit - speechless.
14) * 2006 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - round soft fruit.
15) * 2006 Januik Ciel Du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon - Wow! great fruit.
16) 2006 Januik Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon - blueberry - palate fatigue.
17) 2006 Januik Reserve - 88% Cab. Sauv., 7% Cab Franc, 3% Malbec, 2% Merlot - Champoux and Weinbau
Well, that's more than a baker's dozen. Across all price ranges, delicious wines. One of the tasting room staff recommended the Januik Red Wine which was not available for tasting so I bought a bottle. It couldn't be bad. I also tasted the newly released 2006 Novelty Hill Stillwater Malbec which was excellent, same style but bigger and fuller. I finished with the Rose, a great palate cleanser. What a tour de force!
For the first time, this year, Taste Washington had a special section for Washington State Vineyards called Common Ground. IMO, it should have been called uncommon ground since these special vineyards produce uncommonly good grapes for dozens of talented Washington State winemakers who make uncommonly good wines from them. Not everybody was there, but the vineyards present all have fabulous and distinct terroirs.
Lots of other fabulous vineyards missing in action, especially Ciel Du Cheval and Champoux. A great opportunity to check out terroir or micro-climate by tasting wines by different winemakers from the same vineyard. Also an opportunity to notice winemaker "signatures" or style. A great Idea! Hope it will continue in the future.
For some reason it seemed like there was more food and less wine. No problem, though. The food was all excellent. Once again, Elliott Bay Oyster House served fabulous, Totten Inlet Oysters ( very similar to Quilcenes) and Kumomotos - pleasure on the half shell. In addition there were copious amounts of Moules and Seafood Ceviche The crowd seemed smaller which made it easier to get around and taste wine. This time let's start with the new wineries. These, of course, were new to me, even if they may have been around for a while:
360s Cellars Estate Winery
Chateau Walla Walla
Esther Bricques Winery
Holmes Harbor Cellars
Martinez & Martinez
Memaloose/ McCormick Vineyards
Rock Meadow Cellars
Shady Grove Winery
The Buried Cane
Ward Johnson Winery
Whisper Ridge Winery
White Cellars Winery
Perhaps the most interesting new winery is Rotie Cellars. Sean Boyd, who worked at Waters Winery in Walla Walla, is obviously a fanatic winemaker. He exudes integrity and passion for Rhone style wine. He produced two 2007 Rhone style blends - one Northern: a Syrah/Viognier blend in the Cotes Rotie(get it) style, the other a Southern: Syrah, Mourved, Grenache(?). Both are exquisitely seemless, smooth beauties, sort of more elegant versions of Cotes du Rhone Villages wines from Sablet or Seguret. Though the wines are a little pricey ($35) in this environment, this is definitely a winery to watch. At the other end of the price spectrum we have Revelry Vintners. Joe made his wines to price out at $15 or less. They are delicious, fun wines. Kontos winery is so new that they didn't even make it into the event program. Sergio and Monica Martinez, Martinez & Martinez, are producing interesting wines in Horse Heaven Hills. Warren Gilstrap of Gilstrap Brothers snuck across the border from Cove, Oregon to bring us some fine wines. Speaking of Oregon, my friend Isabelle Dutartre, winemaker at Del Ponte winery has started her own winery - 1789. Vive La Revolution! Ward Johnson, an urban winery on Elliott Ave in Seattle produced some nice Syrah and Merlot from Red Mountain grapes. Good to see so many new names. Alas, so many wines, so little time.
Yes, today is my birthday. Sigmund Freud's, too. And Karl Marx and Darwin, too. Isn't it amazing that so many great people , including Albert Einstein, were born on April first! Must be a spring thing or something. Checking the history books, I see that Darius, Alexander and Tutmose II were also born on April 1.
Well, this is a slightly different approach to "Bests." These are the wines that I really liked at Taste Washington Phoenix:
Hafiz might not have been able to cross the road because he may have been drunk much of the time. Writing about a hundred years after the better known Persian poet, Rumi, Hafiz ( 1320-1389), also known as Shams, born in the Persian city of Shiraz, is said to have produced over 5000 poems in his lifetime of which only about 500 survive. Many of his poems, appear to be about wine, though historically, these references are taken to be metaphors for God and god's love. In the introduction to his book, "Drunk On The Wine of The Beloved," Thomas Rain Crowe describes allusions to the Winebringer, Winemaker, and Wineseller as metaphors for God. So did all you distributors, grapegrowers, winemakers, and retailers know that you have been compared to God by a great poet? In this metaphorical view, wine is love, the wineglass, the heart, and the Beloved, God. The Beloved can be represented by the rose, the sun, the falcon, the friend, the painter, the architect, the gardener. Much of the action in these poems takes place in the Winehouse or Wine Seller's Street. Raines says this is not a simple tavern or bar, a wine bar perhaps, or more likely something like a cafe in Latin America where poetry is recited along with music and other performance art to the accompaniment of good conversation, coffee, wine and who knows what other substances. According to my friend Walter Andrews, in his book, "The Beloved," around the reign of the great Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, poets reached the pinnacle of influence at the Ottoman court. Even though the Sultan had absolute power of life and death, it appears there was a culture of cafe life in which poets were for the most part allowed the latitude of a King's fool. Andrews also says that more often than not, The Beloved was not only metaphorically God, but also another man with "rosebud" lips.
Sufis, especially poets, seem to have been striving to achieve the highest high, spiritually and otherwise. To this order, they apparently whirled and spun like dervishes, smoked hash, had sex, and drank lots of wine. So is wine a metaphor? Of course, it is. After all, isn't metaphor the essence of poetry? Doesn't poetry pack so many meanings into a few words? So is wine only a metaphor? I don't think so. These poets were wild men and mystics. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Hafiz, "He fears nothing. He sees too far..." Goethe said, " In his poetry Hafiz has inscribed undeniable truth indelibly...." As with everything, nothing is what it appears to be, so it is my guess that Hafiz drank like a fish, made love to both sexes, did drugs and thought and lived outside the box. A veritable genius who could see and speak the truth. So wine is love and truth.
In vino veritas!