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

Monday, July 24, 2006

Escape The Heat - A Weekend Getaway

Being ever alert for all things wine related, I've frequently read the North Sound Wineries Brochure which jumps out at me from the brochure rack on the Washington State ferries. This time I did it - toured the "North Sound." You would be hard put to get as far as Harbinger Winery, just past Port Angeles, in one day, so plan to stay overnight. I had the good fortune to stay with my cousins Barry and Susan in Sequim. They like their wine a little softer, slightly sweeter and fruity. They loved the Elk Cove Pinot Gris we had with crab. They love Olympic Cellars Dungeness White, too.

Most of these wineries have small production and their wines are frequently only available at their tasting rooms or in local restaurants. Most of the wines are somewhat lighter and less expensive than those from Seattle or Eastern Washington wineries. Some of the wineries attempt bigger Bordeaux varietals with varying success. Their wines are fun and easy, as is visiting their tasting rooms. In two days, I only made it to five wineries, but then I wasn't speed tasting, just having a leisurely good time.

Camaraderie is the exception. Don Corson is much more serious about his wine and sources grapes from great vineyards such as Artz in Eastern Washington to make his mainly Bordeaux varietals. This year Don has a new white wine called Trinquer (Tran-kay) which mean to clink glasses in French. The 2004 Trinquer is made from equal parts Viognier, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. It is fresh, crisp, refreshing, balanced with good body - a mouthful of pleasure. Probably best enjoyed on its own or with appetizers. The 2002 Cabernet Franc, sourced from Clifton and Artz vineyards tastes of tobacco, tobacco, tobacco. The 2002 Merlot still has good fruit and should age well for another few years. It's on sale at the winery for only $15. The 2003 Cab Franc is soft and delicious with lots of bright black fruit flavors. It should be released soon at $25. Camaraderie wines are available in Seattle at the Tasting Room in the Pike Place Market and at better supermarkets.

Black Diamond Winery is a fun place to visit. It fits my image of a sleepy hollow somewhere in Kentucky. Very rural and down home in feel, it is really mainly a fruit winery. Their raspberry wine is quite good. Harbinger is the end of the wine trail in an old warehouse. Read more about Harbinger in the next post. Sara Gagnon was winemaker at Olympic Cellars for five years before leaving to start Harbinger. Now, Frenchman Benoit Murat is winemaker at Olympic. He is a charming young man from Toulouse who trained in France and escaped from a six month stint in Eastern Washington to the cooler climes of the Olympic Peninsula. Working Girl White is probably Olympic's most popular wine. Enjoy the incredible lightness of Working Girl white after a long hard day. Rose The Riveter, works almost as well as a pick me up, but is probably better with food. The 2005 Dungeness White seems to have shifted in style to a semi-sweet Riesling and quite a good one at that. Kick back with a glass of Go Girl Red which is soft, light, and easy. Handyman red is a blend of Merlot and Lemberger in the style of a simple light bodied Bordeaux. It would go great with cold smoked salmon. The 2003 Cab Franc is delicious and made from grapes from Sagemore Vineyards, one of the oldest in the state. Thirty five hundred cases are made at the winery and another 15,000 are made at a facility in Eastern Washington. Olympic Cellars wines are available in eighteen states and , finally, our prayers are answered, you can get a decent glass of wine on Alaska Airlines from Olympic Cellars.

On our way back to Seattle we took a short detour toward Port Townsend where we checked out Fairwinds Winery and Sorensen Winery. The most interesting wine at Fairwinds was an Aligote that tasted better than most of the Burgundian Aligote I've tasted. They also had a classic dry Gewurztraminer that brought back the good old days when Gewurz and Riesling were the grapes of choice in Washington. The 2004 Sorensen Sangiovese tasted like the real thing. It's the only American Sangio I've tasted that actually tastes like a real Chianti. Come to think of it, it tastes more like traditional Chianti than most so-called Super-Tuscans - good fruit with a tangy finish. Definitely Italiano! Meatballs and speghetti are a must with this wine. The only thing missing is the straw fiasco bottle. The 2001 Sorensen Cabernet Sauvignon is a beautifully complex wine with an intense berry nose and delicious berry fruit flavors balanced by soft tannins. The flavor profile reminded me of Ben Smith's Cadence Ciel du Cheval and, in fact, the grapes for this wine were sourced from Ciel du Cheval. A good example of the power of "terroir."

For more information on the North Sound go to: www.northsoundwineries.org. You can get a touring map on the Washington State Ferries

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