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

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Art Or Wine?

To those of you sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for my posts on Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, or the Willamette Valley, my apologies. Life interferes with blogging - carpenter ants, burglaries, dead refrigerators, you know, the usual stuff. Bear with me. We will catch up. But, first, my most recent venture to the Eastside. We went to the Bellevue Art Museum to hear independent scholar, Matthew Kangas give his "Hybridity and Dislocation" talk on the work of our artist friend Sherry Markovitz. A glass of Waterbrook Cardonnay got us off to a good start. The talk was relocated from the Museum to the Westin Bellevue because of demand. On my way to the art forum, I passed through something called The Showcase at the Bellevue Collection. There I spied wine and winemakers. I couldn't resist. How to clone myself?

Fortunately, I had already had had a sneak peak at the Sherry Markovitz show. The first time you see her stuff, it is arresting. Fortunately for my heart I have gotten used to it over the past twenty plus years, but I still love it. You should check it out. Matthew's talk was arresting, too. I imagine that Matthew has much more than a B.S. in Art History, but listening to his musings, associations and fantasies about Sherry's work made me think about the relationship between critic and artist, between wine writer and winemaker. It seemed to me at times that Sherry and Matthew were not just on a different page, but in a different book. It made me wonder if I wasn't in a different book from the winemakers, too. But I saw so many winemakers that I know at "The Collection" that I knew I couldn't stay away, so I crashed the Showcase after Matthew's lecture. I never did figure out what the Bellevue Collection was - a marketing thing, a retail experience?

Anyway, the "Showcase" featured wineries that had received Seattle Magazine's 2008 Washington Wine Award Winners - so many of my favorite wineries, so many Walla Walla wineries paired with culinary delights from ten Eastside restaurants. Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, master of ceremonies so to speak, was unfortunately speechless in Seattle due to laryngitis. He was there promoting his book Perfect Pairings. The best pairing for me was McCormick & Schmick's Endives stuffed with Mango, Avocado, and Dungeness Crab Salad with McCrea 2006 Ciel du Cheval Roussanne. Tasting this combo, you flash on why sommeliers make such a fuss about wine/food pairings. The wine was great, the food was great, the pairing was great.

The Wine - As usual it was impossible to taste them all. Here are my impressions by winery in alphabetical order. As usual Abeja wines were excellent. The 2006 Chardonnay was very good, well balanced, the 2004 Cab Sauv was beautiful, but sold out. Winemaker Anna Shafer at Amaurice served up two whites and a red. Unfortunately, the whites were not sufficiently chilled. Warm wine shows its defects, but there were none. Beautiful 2007 Viognier and 2006 Chardonnay were followed by an excellent black cherry flavored Malbec. Balboa Winery, another Walla Walla winery, offered 2006 Cab Sauv, Syrah and the Cat's Meow. One of the few value wineries in Walla Walla, the price is right at $16, but the Cab and Syrah were not quite as good as last year. The Cat's Meow truly is the Cat's Meow. Beresan presented a 2005 Cab Sauv, a Red Blend, and a Merlot. The Merlot was the standout wine for me - soft fruit at the lowest price of the three. Still in Walla Walla wine country, Bergevin's Calico White was bright and fresh and reasonably priced at $16. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Horse Heaven Hills was full of chocolate and cherries.

Brian Carter's 2005 Oriana was it's usual full flavored cheerful self and the 2004 Byzance was balanced and delicious. Chateau Ste. MIchelle was represented by some of its higher end wines such as Eroica Riesling, Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot and Artist Series Meritage. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste these. Ditto Chinook, but I am willing to bet that the 2007 Cab Franc Rose was delish as usual. Sadly, no one was there to pour the three winners from Domaine Pierre Noire. Ensemble Cellars issued Release Number Two. These non vintage wines are an unusual blend of the last three vintages. I guess consistency is the goal. Anyway both releases are excellent but pricey. Gramercy Cellars founded in 2005 by New Yorkers Greg and Pam Harrington is one of the new kids in Walla Walla. All three reds from this winery were excellent. The '05 "Lagniappe" Syrah is the best value at $32. Mike Januik's 2005 Lewis Vineyard Syrah was classic. His 2005 Novelty Hill Merlot is a very fruity good value. McCrea's 2006 Roussanne "Ciel du Cheval" is a lush wine and a value at $18. "O" Wines 2005 Chardonnay is an amazing value at $13 retail. This is great glass pour for restaurants.

The Rulo 2006 Viognier and Syrah were quite good, but not quite as good as my memory of previous vintages. The Silo Syrah has been excellent in the past and the new vintage will be released soon. The Syncline 2006 Viognier has pleasant pear flavors, the 2006 Syrah from McKinley Springs Vineyard is tasty, and the Subduction Red easy and seductive. The 2006 Viognier from Wilridge is well made and the unusual 2005 Nebbiolo di Klipsun is light but flavorful, but nothing like a big Nebbiolo from Italy. Wines of Substance makes a good value Merlot at fifteen to twenty dollars and although I didn't get to taste the Woodwood Canyon wines they are usually very good.

Forty-four percent of the wineries were from Walla Walla. What happened to all the Red Moutain wineries, all the Puget Sound Wineries, the Rattlesnake Ridge Wineries. Where are Terra Blanca, Hedges, Kiona? Where are Sheridan, Wineglass, and Massett? Where are DeLille, Cadence, Fall Line, Note Bene, OS, Willis Hall? Walla Walla makes great wine, but as my friend Bob Tovey would say, c'mon folks!

The Food - O/8 Seafood Grill offered sashimi scallops with soy-miso vinaigrette, wasabi aioli and pickled ginger. This Japanese style treat would have been interesting with the Calico White or some of the Viogniers. Cypress presented Teriyaki Beef skewers which were cooked to perfection and would have gone well with almost any of the reds. Godiva Chocolate would have paired best with some of the Merlots. Lucky Strike Lanes' Tuna Midi Burger was an outstanding idea, but not cooked rare enough for my taste. As I already mentioned, the McCormick & Schmick Stuffed Endive was great with the McCrea Roussanne. I never tasted Maggianno's Grilled pear, goat cheese, and arugula crosini. Nor did I Taste Oil & Vinegar's White Truffle Oiled Popcorn. Now that would a trick to pair - probably with the Calico White, a Chard or a Viognier.
Ristorante Luciano's Tortino di patate e cipolla was delish, but the excellent artichokes were hard to eat. The Westin Bellevue offered a spread of all the classic wine accompaniments - cheese, olives, ham roasted veggies. Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill produced Grilled shrimp with guacamole tostada bites - excellent with most of the wines. After all the fuss about pairings, it is a shame that Evan didn't make some suggestions.

Wine or art? Obviously, both! Oh, yes, and food.


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