Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Friday, April 07, 2006

Garagistes of Woodinville

Walla Walla is not the only place where people make wine in sheds and warehouses. Over half of the wineries in Woodinville are operating out of commercial warehouse space. I much prefer this unpretentious atmosphere of experimentation and innovation to the slick tourist-oriented tasting rooms of Highway 29 in the Napa Valley. Here families and individuals can get a start make wine without having to be megamillionaire celebrities.

Austin Robaire has been around for a while, as have Page and Mark Ryan. The only one of their wines I really liked this year was the 2002 "4th" Street Syrah which at $55 is a little pricey. The Semillon at Page was quite good with nicely balanced fruit and acidity (about $20). My favorite wine at Mark Ryan was the 2004 The Dissident (about $25), a blend of leftover Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. This red wine will probably go great with almost any red meat dish. I must admit that I was taken with the name and secretly hope that next year Mark will make "2005 The Wobblie". Chris Sparkman was pouring the wine and he is fortunate to be starting a new winery with the able assistance of Mark. Look for Sparkman Cellars next year. Also, look for the first vintage of Arlington Road Cellars.

Cuillin Hills Winery and Des Voigne Cellars were started by two brothers and share space. Hopefully having separate wineries will help maintain a good brotherly relationship. Cuillin (cool-in) is Scottish, named, I imagine, after the Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye. The young lass who poured my wine told me that the water used in the winery was imported from Loch Lomand and I think I detected a hint of peat in the taste of the wine and a bit of fire in the finish. Nah, they're normal well made Northwest wines at reasonable prices. I particularly liked the Claret (about $18) , a light Bordeaux-style blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 22% Cabernet Franc with good fruit and a hint of vanilla from American oak barrels. This is what the English (not the Scots) meant Claret to be. The Sangiovese and Syrah from both Cuillin and DesVoigne are also quite good in a somewhat lighter and easy drinking style and priced in the mid-$20s. In the same complex we found Red Sky Winery, another family owned business. Virtually all their wines were good. I particularly liked the 2002 Bordeaux blend (about $30) and the 2003 Cabernet Franc (about $20) which has limited availability.

A little to the south in another industrial park we found Covington Cellars and Stevens Winery.
At Covington, we liked the 2005 Viognier (about $19) which had a nice balance of fruit, acid and body. Unfortunately, the wine we brought home apparently had not completed its fermentation in its stainless steel tank and fermented in the bottle causing the wine to become slightly "spritsig," an unintended sparkling wine which really did not go that well with the accompanying asparagus wrapping in prosciutto. I tasted barrel samples of 2004 Starr Syrah and 2004 Tuscan Red which can be pre-ordered for $28 and $29 respectively. They were good wines. At Stevens, we tasted the 2002 Big Easy which is a blend from Sheridan Vineyard, Inland Desert Vineyard, Champoux Vineyard and Conner Lee Vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon has 10% Merlot in it and it was aged half in new French Oak and half in used French oak. The wine is, indeed, easy to drink in the way that many Merlots are easy to drink ( price -n/a). Around the corner at the new Chatter Creek winery, Gordy Rawson and his wife were pouring seven wines including a limited bottling of Grenache which was light in style but quite flavorful ($16 at the winery). I particularly liked the wines at each end of the price spectrum, a Pinot Gris at $12 and the Clifton Hill Syrah at $35.

As a bonus, several wineries that were technically not part of Woodinville Passport were also open. At Saint Paulia, I tasted two cabs - 2000 Red Mountain Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon (about $28) and 2000 Red Mountain (about $18) which were both good, so I would probably go with the regular version. Winemaker Paul Shinoda is a charming man. Another bonus was a visit to Edmonds Winery, another family operation (it seemed that every family member was there), where Doug Peterson offered up a very good Cabernet Sauvignon at $20 a bottle.

If you missed Woodinville Passport , don't despair. There will be at least two more opportunities to taste many of these wines - some of these wineries will be at Taste Washington tomorrow and many of them will enter the premier wine judging in the Seattle area put on by the Seattle Wine Society(aka Enological Society). You will be able to taste the award winners at the Seattle Wine Festival from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at South Community Community College on Saturday August 5th, 2006. Check out the particulars at: And be sure to purchase your tickets to Woodinville Passport early next year as they sell out quickly.


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