Writing about a big multi-winery event is tough, and not just because the crowds jostle your elbow and make it difficult to take notes. Most wineries are pouring only a couple of wines, and they’re usually not the winery’s best. The format is designed so that wine tasters will move through the tasting quickly rather than linger; after all, there’s thousands of customers flowing through during the day! Rather than giving a detailed write-up of each winery, here’s our quick hits on what we saw.
Brian Carter Cellars
Brian Carter Cellars is one of Shawn and Matt’s favorites. Carter focuses on making blends that highlight specific flavors he’s trying to draw out of the wines, with a focus on Iberian-style grapes. The view from the back porch, over lines of pastures that go straight out to the mountains, was very pretty and would be even more beautiful on a day where the sky was not so ominous.
The moment we walked in, we were hit with the delicious aroma of truffled popcorn, which permeated the tasting room (and explains why we don’t have any scent notes on the wines; everything smelled like popcorn!) Sadly, the winery wasn’t pouring any of Shawn and Matt’s favorites that day, but we did get to try two tasty wines.
2008 Corrida (Columbia Valley): This had a nice, savory flavor loaded with plums, prunes and tannins.
2007 Le Corsier (Columbia Valley): Fabulously fruity start with a nice oaky finish.
The Warehouse District
From Brian Carter, we took a shuttle to an area in Woodinville called “The Warehouse District.” This cluster was like the Lompoc Wine Ghetto on steroids. While the Lompoc Wine Ghetto has 16 tasting rooms, the Woodinville Warehouse District has 40. There was no way we would hit anywhere close to a majority of these wineries.
Many of the tasting rooms were very small, and all were very busy, making it impossible to take notes. We do have some basic impressions, and clearly we want to go back here the next time we’re in Woodinville!
Not all 40 Warehouse wineries were participating in St. Nicks, but several were drafting off their proximity to participating wineries, holding events of their own.
Convergence Zone is named after a weather phenomenon in the Puget Sound area. The winery references the phenomenon by creating a “convergence zone” in wine with their grape blends. The wines are all named after weather events (“Drizzle,” “Squall Line” and “Storm Front”), and were all very enjoyable.
In order to maximize space, Convergence Zone and Michael Florentino were both pouring out of the same room. I did not get to taste these wines, but the rest of the crew did, and I heard a lot of “yum.” That may also have been from the great food that the two wineries rolled out for the event.
Des Voigne Cellars
Des Voigne channeled a whole lot of elegance into the tasting experience; despite the crowds it felt very relaxed and enjoyable. We tasted several wines, but the one that stood out for me is the Solea, which had nice chewy fruit wrapped around a strong tannic core.
Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle isn’t listed on the Warehouse site and they weren’t part of the event. However, their window dressing looked gothy and the tastings were free, so how could we pass it up?
Unlike most other wineries, Eye of the Needle doesn’t grow their own grapes. They find surplus juice from other wineries and then blend it into low-cost, extremely drinkable wines. And drinkable they were! These were the wine equivalent of comfort food, and well worth our time.
There’s no question why these wines regularly make the “Pour Fool” wine column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The wines are readily available in stores throughout the Pacific Northwest; I just wish we could get some of them here.
This was the last stop of our trip, and despite the fact that it was the end of the day the party was still in full swing, with a great band playing, fun activities and tons of wine being poured. Page is known for their “Lick My Lips” Syrah, and were looking for a new lip model for this year’s label. Tasters could put on some lipstick and kiss a piece of paper; the best lips will be on the next vintage.
Woodinville: We’ll Be Back
Woodinville has an overwhelming number of wine tasting rooms, and its proximity to Seattle makes it a great way to experience Eastern Washington wines without the four-hour drive. We had a great time, and we know we’ll have an even better time when we’re not chained to our self-imposed “if we’re not within 50 miles of the AVA it doesn’t count” rule. Keep the light on for us, Woodinville; we’ll be back next year.