Drinking Wisely and Well: Who, What & Where, The 411 on Washington Wine

Page 1

FALL 2022 A publication of It’s A Winederful Life

Further, you can create an exciting, wine-oriented weekend (or longer) with visits to Woodinville or even Seattle, without the lengthier drive to the Columbia Valley and beyond.

The Washington wine industry is definitely one to watch and I strongly recommend seeking these wines out if and when you have the opportunity. Admittedly, many of these wines never make it beyond the confines of the state, but if you find them at a retailer or restaurant near you, I highly encourage you to check them out.

hile many people are familiar with California wine, Washington wine might be a new discovery. Moreover, for those that do know that Washington State makes wine, they are likely thinking of damp, rainy Seattle. But, that’s not the real story.

climate, this is Cabernet and Syrah country, not Pinot Noir territory, which is a grape more appropriately correlated with Oregon. Consequently, while only three hours away from Seattle, Washington wine is truly a world away from one’s initial conception. Yet, as I recently discovered, there are many opportunities to become acquainted with these wines without having to travel too far.

Rather, the majority of Washington grapes are grown east of the Cascade Mountains. What that means is that the cold, wet weather we associate with Seattle stays on the West Coast while the state’s interior provides desert-like conditions. In many cases, grape growing is made possible here due to irrigation. There is also a blend of wide, open land, mountains and hence, altitude, all of which impact the climate and growing conditions of these Thanksgrapes.tothis

Moreover, this is an exciting time for the state and its wines as it stands on a precipice for even further greatness. These are well made, balanced wines, representing good value, diversity and innovation. As I spent three days immersed in Washington wine, I grew more and more bullish about what is to come and treasured the interactions with the passionate people who are behind these amazing wines.


Within the town borders there are four main districts, each with its own personality and focus. Established about 15 years ago, the Warehouse District has become an incubator for up and coming producers and small batch productions. This is often a place for hobbyists to get their start. In contrast, the West Valley District has become more industrial and is home to the majority of distilleries and breweries.

What makes Woodinville particularly unique is that it makes the wineries accessible to tourists who might be visiting Seattle for a short period of time such as on a business trip or before or after a cruise. This is a perfect foray into Washington wine with a plethora of tasting rooms and restaurants from which to choose. There is an incredible focus on hospitality and each tasting room has its own unique approach to serving guests, but all are excited to welcome you to taste their wines and enjoy the experience.

ituated 25 miles northeast of Seattle, Woodinville, WA was initially home to a logging industry which was then replaced by agriculture. Yet, today, none of that remains and, instead, the area has been thoroughly converted into the epicenter of Washington wine.

With its tagline, “Where Washington pours,” Woodinville is home to 120 wine tasting rooms representing 19 of 20 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), 10 breweries and five distilleries. Sixty of those wineries actually produce wine in the Woodinville area while the remainder have their winemaking facilities elsewhere.

Woodinville got its start as a wine centric town in 1976, when Chateau Ste Michelle established it’s beautiful French style chateau winery building, vineyards and winemaking facilities there. It took some time for the area to catch on, but it is now in the midst of significant growth and expansion, yielding even more opportunities for people to learn about Washington wine and other state centric products.

Where to Weekend: The Wonders of Woodinville

Hills is also home to Patterson Cellars (see page 24), Gorman Winery (see page 23), Sparkman Cellars (see page 26) and DeLillle Winery (see page 20), the latter of which launched a full service, wine centric restaurant, The Lounge, in 2021.

Named for an old schoolhouse, which presently serves as the tasting room for Maryhill Winery, the Hollywood Hills District caters to tourism and will soon be home to a 22 acre project in development which will include a 128 room hotel called Somm, under Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The property will also include event space, dining facilities and a custom blending operation. This accommodation will join the existing boutique Willows Lodge, with its Barking Frog restaurant and luxury Hollywoodspa.

Most notably, the Downtown District has seen incredible investment in retail and residential real estate. In particular, the area has seen the building of 1,599 new housing units, including high end apartments and single family residences, which appeal to both retirees and young, tech folks. With close proximity to Redmond, Bellevue, Tacoma and Seattle (and thus the headquarters for Microsoft, Space X, Amazon, Costco and more), as well as skiing and other activities, there are many people interested in moving in. There are number of new tasting rooms here, too, such as the brand new outpost for Rocky Pond Estate Winery (see page 25).

The job of shepherding and spearheading promotion of the area falls to Woodinville Wine Country and during my visit, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Adam Acampora, who joined the organization earlier this year as Executive Director. His background is both on target and unusual coming from Tennessee where he ran the state wine program there, not a place most frequently associated with wine. But he is well versed in wine, marketing and hospitality and is well

As new restaurants (such as the newly opened Walla Walla Steak Co., see page 12)), wineries (L’Ecole 41 (see page 24) opened September 2022) and hotels continue to make the move to Woodinville, the town will become

Adam Acampora, Exec. Dir, Woodinville Wine Country

poised to lead the renaissance well underway.

yourself in Washington wine.


Two doors down, situated in the 1906 Sellar Building, designed by architect A. Warren Gould, Browne Family Vineyards (see page 18) opened their Seattle tasting room in 2017. The winery was inspired and named for William Bitner Browne, the late grandfather of proprietor Andrew Browne. The tasting room offers various tasting flights and is also available for private parties and events.

And, if you didn’t get enough wine while in Woodinville or in town, there’s always a final hurrah at the airport. Located in the Central Terminal and open daily 12pm – 9pm, Vyne Washington Tasting Room exclusively serves Washington state wines and was awarded “Best New Food and Beverage” full service concept by the Airports Council International North America.

The Four Eleven Wine lounge is collaboration between Bledsoe Family Winery (see page 18) and Gramercy Cellars (see page 24), both of the Walla Walla Valley, who looked to find a shared tasting room on the West side of Washington State. The result is Four Eleven Wine. Open daily, the space offers a traditional tasting room experience until 5:00pm and wine seminars on Tuesday evenings, along with a wine bar and full retail selection of local and international wine selections.

Where in the world is Washington wine? It’s at the top of its game and hopefully in your glass. Now you just have to start planning your weekends away! 

f you are more pressed for time or simply don’t want to leave the confines of Seattle proper, you still have tasting options. First and foremost, most Seattle area restaurants feature Washington wines on their menus, both by the glass and bottle. In particular, check out Purple Café, with locations in both downtown Seattle and Woodinville.

Just steps from Pike Place Market, The Tasting Room offers a selection of wines from winemaker owned wineries in the state. On any given day, over 60 different wines are available to taste in flights (four one ounce pours) or by the glass. Open daily, with live music on Friday nights.

The historic Pioneer Square area counts itself as Seattle’s first neighborhood, incorporated in 1869. The area is currently home to two tasting rooms: Four Eleven Wine and Browne Family Vineyards.

Scenes from Seattle Sips...

This page (clockwise): Tasting at Four Eleven Wine, Vyne Washington Tasting Room at SEA TAC, The Tasting Room in downtown Seattle and Outdoor seating at Four Eleven Wine.

Opposite page (clockwise): Exterior of Browne Family Vineyards Seattle tasting room, Four Eleven Wine entrance,

For a casual, yet delicious Italian lunch or dinner, check out Vivi Pizzeria, which is perfectly situated alongside both the Gorman and Patterson tasting rooms in the Hollywood Hills District of Woodinville. Vivi is owned by husband and wife team of Rick and Riesa Ragan, who met and fell in love while they both worked at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. The pizza was yummy, but I especially appreciated the tip to try to fried artichokes, thanks to Carrie of the Pacific Northwest Wine Life & Style

espite being in Woodinville for only three days, which included three food focused events in connection with Auction of Washington Wines, I also managed to enjoy meals (or at least light bites) at three of the area restaurants.


the date night worthy The Lounge is a food porn dream. During the pandemic lockdown, DeLille Cellars did its best to remain solvent and busy by partnering with a local caterer with whom they previously worked. As a result, wine club members were able to drive up to the winery’s Woodinville location and depart with a delicious dinner and accompanying wines. It was a successful venture that they have since parlayed into a full scale restaurant on site, which has quickly gained a well deserved reputation. Managed by Executive Chef Michael C. Toni and Chef de Cuisine Taylor Kinnebrew, this gastronomic destination was recently named as the 4th best winery restaurant in the U.S. by USA TODAY.


yet still laid back is the brand new Walla Walla Steak Co., which opened in Woodinville in late July. As I was advised by Executive Chef, Adam Reece, they focus on buying the freshest meat, limiting their purchase windows to certain times of the year. The restaurant is actually a connected restaurant concept with Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing each sharing the space, centered around a live fire grill. The upstairs offers space for private events and group din-


Adam Reece, Exec. Chef, Walla Walla Steak Co.


• Cascadia Creamery Sleeping Beauty with house made bread crisps and fruit preserves

Our multi course lunch featured the following dishes:

• 5 spice yellowfin tuna with compressed watermelon macerated chilies citrus caviar ash farms micro pea shoots

• Filet Mignon with Crispy gnocchi, roasted mushroom conserva, four flags demiglace, olive oil verde

• Pork ragu al latte with fresh strozzopreti pasta lemon sage and pecorino

On a closing note, while we did not dine at the Woodinville Cut Shop, I did enjoy their signage and its nod to Tommy Tutone’s 1980s song. From their website: “The Woodinville Cut Shop is your neighborhood, good timin’ roadhouse restaurant and lounge located on the Slough in Woodinville, WA. Open seating, order at the bar kinda place. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, ribs, tacos, fries, local craft beers, and the rough stuff done right. Covered & heated outdoor seating, fire pit, big screen TVs and always kid friendly until we’re definitely not.”

Chef de Cuisine Taylor Kinnebrew

Executive Chef Michael C. Toni

with video welcomes from Honorary Chairs Marvin R Shanken, Editor & Publisher, Wine Spectator and Marchese Piero Antinori, Honorary President of Marchesi Antinori, each representing early outside recognition of the region. On hand in person was Honorary Chair Renzo Cotarella, CEO Marchesi Antinori SpA. Antinori’s Col Solare, produced in partnership Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington’s Columbia Valley, has become synonymous with high quality wine since the 1990s.

Then, as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Bob Betz, MW did indeed take the stage and was eager to relate the history of the state, noting how much progress has been made. In particular, the founder of Betz Family Winery pointed out that Washington State is presently the second largest wine producer in the US and now has a strong position on the global stage.

Coming after two years of the pandemic, people were especially keen to mix and mingle, sip and savor and truly celebrate. In this regard, a brand new event was added: Toast!. Emceed by Linda Chauncey who joked that the evening’s high turn out was due to a rumor that Bob Betz would be speaking, the night was a veritable list of “Who’s Who in Washington Wine” equally dedicated to recognizing long time leaders as well as members of the next Guestsgeneration.weregreeted

Auction of Washington Wines returned this year for its auction offering up three spectacular events all in support of a great cause. The non profit organization works in close cooperation with the Washington Wine Commission and brings together the Seattle area’s philanthropic community along with the Washington wine community, benefiting both. All told, at the end of the weekend, this year’s event secured $4 million dollars in support of Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program, and Vital Wines.

Betz further shared that, “Today we toss around 98 point Parker scores and AVA names as if it’s nothing, but that was simply unheard of 30 years ago.” In 1934, the area was known for Concord grapes (which are not particularly good for making wine). However, in that year, Dr Walter Clore, now known as the Father of Washington Wine, showed the potential of the Columbia Valley for vinifera

In his closing remarks, Betz said, “The hero of our story is the Columbia Valley,” adding that, “There are no bounds on you,” admonishing his colleagues to do the work and tell our story through wine and the growers.

Bob Betz, MW, Betz Family Winery

grapevines (those most associated with the production of quality wine). While there were only 1200 acres of vinifera vines planted by the 1970s, today this figure stands at 60,000 acres, reflecting significant growth over the past 50 years.

Coming to the stage a short while later, Honorary Grower, Kevin Corliss, of Ste. Michelle Estates was quick to share that he loves Concord grapes since they put him through college (his dad was a horticulturist at Welches), among his humorous remarks.

All in all, it was a celebratory and festive evening, making it clear that Washington wine is truly deserving of such a toast.

Further attention was given to the area in 1967 when the well regarded winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff came to Chateau Ste. Michelle to do proper site selection and also assist with better sanitation techniques, ultimately having an enormous influence on the quality and focus of their wines and the industry as a whole. Additional milestones included the opening of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s property in Woodinville in 1976; pioneers planting grapes in Walla Walla; the establishment of the Washington Wine Commission in 1987; international ventures such as that with the Antinori family; and reaching a count of 1,000 wineries in 2019. Together, these underscore the importance of Washington wine today.

Other honorees from the evening included: Honorary Vintner: John R. Bookwalter, J. Award of Distinction: Dick Boushey, and Emerging Leaders: Sadie Drury, North Slope Management Shae Frichette, Frichette Winery Lacey Lybecker, Cairdeas Winery Andrew Januik, Novelty Hill Januik Winery

Linda Chauncey, Emcee

While not as long lived in the wine industry, the Cakebread Family has made a name for themselves and their wines in Napa Valley, CA with their eponymous Cakebread Cellars. When Dennis Cakebread was looking to expand the family business in a reasonable way he looked to Washington Walla Walla as his region of choice. Moving slowly and carefully, Dennis has selected two vineyards in the Royal Slope AVA from which to produce a single Bordeaux blend each year. Named for the road that bears his name, Mullan Road Cellars honors John Mullan who led a team of 200 workers to build a 600 mile long wagon road into the Pacific Northwest over the Continental Divide.

One of the true benchmarks of a great wine region is the influx of investment from outside the area. With 26 generations of experience in the wine industry, the Antinori Family is synonymous with world renowned wines in Tuscany and beyond. Consequently, they have the cash and the cache to go anywhere in the world. In the 1990s, they chose to partner with Chateau Ste. Michelle to establish Col Solare, which has become highly regarded.

Mullan Road Cellars: Napa Goes North

However, it’s important to recognize that 90% of the more than 1,000 wineries in the state produce less than 5,000 cases annually. These relatively small producers are no less important or innovative and, in fact, likely more so, as their size enables them to be nimble and experimental. And, as I like to think of them, they are mavericks in the truest sense of the word finding their way in a challenging, yet creative, industry, crafting quality wines that appeal to their palate as well as those of their customers.

Browne Family Vineyards: The Spy Who Loved Wine

Bledsoe Family: Dream Job x Two


Most people are lucky if they get to have one dream job in their lifetime, let alone two, yet Drew Bledsoe is a very lucky person. After a successful career in the NFL, Drew and his wife, Maura, returned to his roots and found land in his hometown with the aim of growing an estate vineyard. He then recruited “winemaking wunderkind” Josh McDaniels and began making wine as Bledsoe Family Winery. Eager to make his mark and assert his passion despite his lack of experience as a winemaker, Drew found an open ear in Josh and the two jointly collaborated on their Doubleback wine, which garnered top ratings nearly immediately.

Browne Family Vineyards was inspired and named for William Bitner Browne, the late grandfather of proprietor Andrew Browne. Bitner Browne served as a spy during World War II and the Browne Family Vineyards Spymaster series of Cabernet Sauvignon wines follow his story, which include: The Farm, London is Calling, Liberation of Paris, The Continent and Homecoming. Plus, how can you resist a wine called Do Epic Shit? Adding to their locations in Walla Walla, Tacoma and Seattle, a fourth tasting room will open in Bellevue in Fall 2022.

noted, Washington wine is hot right now and deservedly so. If you are familiar with Washington wine, it is most likely in the guise of industry leader, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which was a pioneer in the state in the early 1970s, but has since grown to become “the nation’s third largest wine company”. Additionally, “the company accounts for about 60% of all Washington wine sales, by volume.”*


In the words of “Law & Order”, these are their stories…

Jason Gorski, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, DeLille Cellars

Clearly he enjoys the challenge of creating new and exciting wines on a regular basis. In fact, Jason jokes with his wife not to ask him about what he’s thinking because, as he notes, in reality he’s always thinking about wine.

Jason Gorski, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, has been with DeLille for 11 years and was quick to say that, “I could make wine in Napa Valley, but why would I?” He further added that Washington wine is “the best domestic value since ever.” With over a decade of tenure at the winery, Jason has developed a strong reputation and a high level of trust that extends both within the company and externally. In this regard, there is often an informal nature to collaborations. For example, there is no actual contract with Harrison Hill Vineyard; it’s simply a handshake, but the length of that relationship endures and paperwork is not necessary. Similarly, Jason gets to create smaller batch wines especially for the wine club that permit him to stretch his creativity, experiment with new varieties, test out new vineyards or simply explore new ideas. He does admit that the blessing and the curse is when these small batch productions take off and make it challenging to scale. Yet it continues to be his modus operandi. Among these transformations is his Four Flags Cabernet. Additionally, he has significant latitude to explore outside the Bordeaux box. Case in point, his Riesling.

DeLille Cellars: Always Wine on the Mind

Founded in 1992, DeLille Cellars is the third oldest operating winery in Woodinville, WA and is known for pioneering Bordeaux style blends from Washington State. In 2019, it moved into a large facility previously occupied by Redhook Brewery, which it thoroughly renovated to exacting standards.

With roots in the cattle and orchard industries, the 2200 acre, Goose Ridge estate has been in the Monson family since the early 1900s. After meeting wine consultant, Dr. Walter Clore, Arvid Monson developed a passion for growing wine, shifting the family’s focus from cows and apples to grapes. Consequently, their vineyards were planted in 1998, with its first contract already in place before the soil was tilled that’s how much potential Chateau Ste. Michelle saw in their land.

Tiffany Stetson, GM Direct to Consumer Sales, Goose Ridge Estate Winery

Goings on at Goose Ridge

If all of this wasn’t enough to keep them busy, they helped establish a brand new American Viticultural Area (AVA), which became official as of July 2021: Goose Gap AVA. This new AVA was essentially superimposed on their property and was established based on the wind conditions and soil type. Here, the temperature is cooler, and the elevation is higher, than the neighboring Red Mountain AVA. despite the proximity; hence the need for this new AVA. They are excited to begin using the new name on their labeling.

Today, they grow 16 varieties, maintain four tasting rooms, and continue to seek out new and innovative projects to expand their offerings. In this vein, they are producing cider from their orchards and recently made vodka from their Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, becoming the only winery in the state with its own distillery. Distilled 24 times, VIDO Vodka is flavorful and has no burn; a gin is coming soon. Other innovations include the use of unconventional packaging such as their still and sparkling canned wines under the Cascadian Outfitters brand and the use of fun and eye Each year, they commission local artists to create new labels for their Wine Club Artist Series.

Chris Gorman, Gorman Winery

Gorman Winery: From Music Maker to Winemaker

In his early stages, Chris was “too cool for school” and did not want to be reviewed by wine critics. But, of course he was and received good scores, ultimately ensuring his success as a winemaker. Today, music is still a passion, but wine is no longer a hobby; it’s his fulltime vocation, yet clearly still a labor of love. Moreover, he is entirely self taught and considers himself still learning.

Among the wines we tasted with him is Luanne. I asked if this was the name of a former girlfriend, but instead Luanne pays tribute to the wife of Dick Bouchey, a well regarded, local grower, since Luanne picked the grapes that went into this white Rhone blend. In 2012, he set out to be the (self proclaimed) Chardonnay King and presently makes six Chardonnays, which he refers to as the tofu of grapes. Big ChardonnaySissygot its name because, according to Chris, “It is malleable, and you can beat it up.” Perhaps the culprit was his The Bully Cabernet Sauvignon? Most of the Chardonnays are produced under his Ashan Cellars label, which is the Hebrew word for Beyondsmoky. his other passions, Chris loves to cook and is happy to make dishes that take three hours to prepare.

Originally from Sunrise, FL, Chris Gorman attended college in Bellingham, WA and aspired to be a musician. Like many aspiring artists, he had to find a day job while he waited to make it big in the industry. In his case, he chose to sell wine and even began making wine as a hobby. He had friends who had wineries and they would do projects together. But, as he jokes, somewhere along the way he became too big for his britches and eventually needed to become legal given the volumes he was creating. Thus Gorman Winery was founded.

Gramercy Cellars: Have a Dream, Will Travel

Launched in 2000, John Patterson founded Patterson Cellars with his father, Jack, who has been an instrumental part of the project, helping to support John both emotionally and financially. Today, Patterson produces 20,000 cases of wine utilizing Washington fruit from a variety of well respected vineyards as well as the 14 acres he purchased in Walla Walla. In fact, John is known for his collaboration and community building, working closely with local growers as well as area wineries and collaborating with more than 40 in Woodinville alone.

No other winery is committed to the Semillon grape variety than L’Ecole 41 and in this regard, it was truly a pleasure to taste their age worthy 2021 Luminiesce, a 70% Semillon/30% Sauvignon

Due to the significant growth, they are currently moving their production from Woodinville to Walla Walla since they’ve outgrown the space. This will also allow them to increase case production further. But, the Woodinville tasting room, which has been open since 2007, will continue to operate, along with the other four tasting rooms, including his newest one in downtown Seattle, which opened in 2018.

L’Ecole 41: Semillon’s Savior

“A Manhattan based sommelier tastes some Washington State wines and is so inspired, he sells everything to move across the country to make his own.” If that’s not the opening to a maverick’s story, I don’t know what is. That Manhattan based somm was Greg Harrington, who moved to Walla Walla in 2005 to focus on “old world meets new Rhône and Bordeaux varietals” and established Gramercy Cellars (yes, that is an ode to New York City’s Gramercy Park). And while the story isn’t over yet, by 2014 he had been named Seattle Magazine’s Winemaker of the Year.

I’ve written about L’Ecole 41 previously, but it was with no less enthusiasm that I looked forward to becoming reacquainted with this winery and its wines on our trip. We met up at Walla Walla Steak Co. for a tasting with L’Ecole 41.

Blanc blend, with fruit sourced from the Seven Hills Vineyard. The 2019 Estate Merlot offered up beautiful plush and lush fruit. Yet, for all of their acclaim, in the end, owner Marty Clubb says we just make wines to drink and and that are well priced. L’Ecole 41 opened a new tasting room in Woodinville in early September 2022.

Among his latest ventures is Four Eleven, a wine bar and retail store in collaboration with Josh McDaniels of Bledsoe Family Wines. The two share the philosophy of not wanting to push boundaries with their wines. Rather, they want to maintain freshness and, to this end, they use less new wood and focus on whole cluster fermentation. In tasting his wines, this aim has been realized. Moreover, his Rhone Valley influence is evident in his Viognier, which he refers to as the gateway drug to his reds with its viscous texture, tropical fruit character and full body.

Patterson Cellars: In Close Collaboration with Community

Here, the emphasis is on affordable prices and hospitality, the former of which is attributed to their good relationship with growers. With a burgeoning wine club of 2,000 members (and growing), they seek to curate high end food and wine experiences and have been working with local restaurants, chocolate and charcuterie partners and have developed a Late Harvest Roussanne gelato with Seattle’s Gelatiamo. In addition, they offer virtual

The family’s further emphasis on their property is reflected in their participation in the Sustainable Washington’s pilot program (now an official certification program), which has been focused on seeing the bigger picture and making sure that everything is sustainable from the very start, not just with regard to the environment, but also with regard to elements such as the economy and safety training. Moreover, they have been able to recruit top talent to the winery, bringing on Elizabeth Keyser from Napa’s HALL Family Wines as well as make important investments in technology such as a recently acquired optical sorter. Adding to these enhancements, they will be opening up a boutique hotel and spa on their property in the near future.

classes. As additional evidence of the community they are building, Heidi West, their Director of Sales & Operations, is a former club member who became so enamored with the wines and the company that she completely changed careers and began working for them, eventually becoming a partner.

Most recently, Rocky Pond opened a tasting room in Woodinville near Wine Alley. Like many of the tasting rooms they are very serious about hospitality and food and maintain two chefs on staff.

Rocky Pond Estate Winery: Getting a Label

In particular, the soils are significantly different with cobblestones and boulders; in fact, they found a 60 foot sized rock in one of the vineyards. These large stones are accompanied by quartz and mica, over a predominantly granitic bedrock, a feature it shares only with Lake Chelan. With lower elevations, and a resulting warmer climate and long growing season,

the area is particularly lauded for its Cabernet Sauvignon, although the Rocky Pond grows over 20 different grape varieties.

Owned by David and Michelle Dufenhorst, Rocky Pond Winery is situated on Lake Chelan and the Columbia River, directly three hours east of Woodinville in what is considered the northern tip of Washington wine. Their winery and two of their vineyards are situated within the latest AVA: Rocky Reach, which was designated in 2022 as Washington’s 20th American Viticultural Area. The Dufenhorsts hired Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College to help write the petition for the new AVA to help delineate the unique characteristics of the area, which previously fell solely under the much larger Columbia Valley AVA.

Sparkman Cellars: Damn Fine Wine

Steve Wells, Winemaker, Time & Direction

Linn Scott, Vice Pres./Winemaker, Sparkman Cellars

Founded by Chris Sparkman and his wife, Kelly, a former wildlife biologist, Sparkman Cellars was launched in 2004 with the mantra, “Family. Good Livin’. Damn Fine Wine.” During our visit, we met up with Linn Scott, Sparkman’s Vice President and Winemaker at Walla Walla Steak Co. to taste a selection of foods from the new steakhouse menu as well as several of the Sparkman wines. While Linn advised that, “We make a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon,” interestingly, we tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache and Malbec; not a Cabernet in sight on this particular occasion.

Time and Direction: Taking Direction of One’s Life Originally from Wisconsin, Steve Wells later settled in New York City (and coincidentally briefly lived on the same street as I do) under the tutelage of Master Sommelier, Laura Maniec (now Fiorvanti), at Blue Water Grill and Blue Fin restaurants. There, he developed a true love of wine and service. When he traveled to Washington state as part of the Washington Wine Commission‘s Road Trip Washington Wine in 2008, it was love at first taste. By 2011, he had convinced his wife and kids to make the move and they landed in Walla Walla where he began working in the tasting room at Gramercy Cellars (very fitting given the similarity in their origin stories).

After two years at Gramercy, he had the opportunity to pursue an Associate’s Degree at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College, while also working with Aryn Morell, as a production assistant at M&L Production. In 2016, he launched his own brand, Time and Direction, taking its name from the distinctive tattoos that run the length of each of his arms that mark momentous moments in his life.*

I was initially introduced to Steve through a chance encounter with his 2020 Space Pants Mourvèdre at the Auction of Washington Wines’ Winemaker Picnic. This intriguing label caught my eye and its delicious palate caught my attention further. I then had the pleasure of sitting with him at the Gala Dinner the next night (another coincidence). As a further reflection of his engaging personality, his 2021 ‘1.21 Gigawatts’ White Rhone Blend is a nod to “Back to the Future” and his self appointed title is Director of Awesome. 

In this regard, the tasting underscored his other point: “Our weaknesses are our strengths, with Washington wine having such a diverse portfolio and no signature grape on which to hang its hat.” In perusing their website, they do have five Cabernet Sauvignons, but they are clearly willing to experiment and take risks. For example, the Preposterous Malbec was launched in 2009 as “a complete shot in the dark.” Yet the gamble paid off in spades: Their receipt of 94 points from Wine Spectator on the 2010 vintage “is still the highest scoring Malbec in Washington State history.” Some might say that’s simply preposterous.

The Auction of Washington wines’ annual extravaganza comprised three separate events: TOAST (see article on page 15), Winemaker Picnic, and the Gala. Friday afternoon’s Winemaker Picnic provided guests with the opportunity to mix and mingle with winemakers who “roamed and poured” or choose to taste from among over 100 wines at the tasting bars. An assortment of light bites were on offer from local vendors. Additionally, guests could also bid on a case of wine from 30 different Washington wineries in the Barrel Auction.

Briana Clark, Amos Rome Vineyards

Here I had the pleasure of meeting:

But the big moneymaker was Saturday night’s Gala dinner, the proceeds of which brought the totel raised to $4 million, benefiting Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program, and Vital Wines. DeLille Cellars’ auction lot garnered the highest bid of $200,000, along with a $50,000 match from The Ellison Foundation. This top earning prize package featured a trip for four to Bordeaux with Founding Winemaker Chris Upchurch, with visits to Bordeaux’s Grand Cru wineries and a five night stay at a 17th century chateau in Saint Émilion. 

Joanne Dunham, Founder, Dunham Cellars andMarty Taucher, Managing Partner, Avennia among others.

in the room, we were introduced to Sadie Drury, vineyard manager/ viticulturist of Seven Hills Vineyard; Alex Stewart and Hal Iverson, two of the three winemakers at Matthews Winery; and Matt and Kelly Austin, owners/winemakers at Grosgrain Vineyards.

Washington Wine Takes Manhatta

And it was a special opportunity to renew my acquaintance with this wine region and expand my knowledge. While I have been aware of Washington wine for some time and understand the basics from a big picture perspective, it is a region with which I am less familiar. With over 1,000 wineries in the state, 90% of them producing less than 5,000 cases annually, our local wine shop shelves predominantly feature wines from the larger estates, thereby telling only a fraction of the story.

Thus, despite being the second largest wine producer in the U.S., this jewel in America’s wine crown is perhaps less recognizable to many wine consumers than California, Oregon or even New York. Yet, this is indeed a region worth knowing and is definitely one to watch. While Hal jokingly referred to Washington’s past as having once been the “wild, wild west”, it was

The desert-like landscape of Eastern Washington state is a far cry from the cityscape view from the 60th floor of Manhatta restaurant in New York City. Yet, the two came together beautifully at a recent dinner welcoming the Washington wine industry and members of the press for a long overdue

While the focus was decidedly on Washington wine, it was clear that everyone was ready to reconnect after the lengthy absence due to the pandemic. It was a pleasure to linger over conversations, foster new friendships and simply enjoy time together over a glass of wine… things we had all missed over the past several years.


clear that the state is distinguishing itself as a high quality, innovative wine region.

Matt Austin, Owner/Winemaker, Grosgrain Vineyards

Still in its nascent phase (the majority of wineries didn’t get started until after 2001), the state’s grape growers and winemakers are embracing their innovative spirit. Taking advantage of a blank slate, there are no rules as to what can be grown or what can be produced; there is no signature to follow. Moreover, there is still a lot of trial and error, as newcomers investigate novel (to the region) grapes and winemaking production methods. Given this bent toward experimentation, not surprisingly, folks are reluctant to hang their hat on a single grape. Consequently, Washington holds lots of potential, with its current influx of energy, enthusiasm and outside investment.

Equally important, they recognize the need for flexibility and adaptation. As one of the winemakers said during our dinner, “If you are stuck in your ways, it won’t work.” This is especially true given the recent climatic shifts that they have endured over the past several vintages. In particular, in 2021 they experienced a heat dome event, forcing them to pick very late, based on taste instead of Brix levels or other numerical values. Plus, they found unusual situations with potassium due to the excessive heat, which had an interesting impact on the grapes and wines with regard to their pH, resulting in more alkaline, savory wines. They anticipate the need to pivot on a regular basis going forward. Case in point, the 2022 vintage is expected to be much cooler.

This desire for innovation and enterprise was immediately evident upon arrival, when we were welcomed with a pour of Grosgrain Les Collines Vineyard Sémillon Pétillant Naturel 2020. This sparkling wine offered up beautiful effervescence with a dry palate and was a great introduction to this winery with its unusual treatment of this variety. With a relatively romantic origin story, Matthew Austin and his wide Kelly saw the movie Sideways on their first date, inspiring a joint dream to open their own winery. They eventually left their previous careers, bought property in Walla Walla at a bankruptcy auction and launched Grosgrain Vineyards in 2018, adding a second vineyard on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla valley shortly after.

As further evidence of the pair’s love of trying new things such as unique grape varieties and techniques, we tasted their Grosgrain Philips Vineyard Albariño. Additionally, a Traditional Method sparkling wine produced from Cava grapes is planned. With a focus on sustainability measures in the winery, they use light weight bottles, which purposely don’t sport a capsule on the neck.

Sadie Drury, Vineyard Manager/Viticulturist of Seven Hills Vineyard

Alex Stewart, Winemaker, Matthews Winery

With a much lengthier tenure in the state, Matthews Winery was established in 1993. While the winery is situated on the west side of Cascade Mountains, they source grapes from sustainably farmed vineyards in the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley and have established long term contracts with their growers, nurturing relationships as part of their sustainability practices. Matthews is primarily known for its Bordeaux varieties and Bordeaux style blends. Harvesting at high ripeness, they describe their style as one pushing extraction. They do use new oak but Alex clarified that there are a wide variety of options available to them ranging from grain texture, vessel capacity, and toast strength and aim to use oak sparingly and thoughtfully.

Jointly owned among three wineries who produce wines from 50% of the annual harvest, the remainder is sold to more than 25 other premium wineries. Sadie has overseen the vineyard for ten years and explained that it provides every orientation, high elevations, and is generally self


Hal Iverson, Winemaker, Matthews Winery

perfect evening, full of great conversations, delicious cuisine and fabulous wines. In many ways, Washington state wines are still figuring things out, but they ingworthnitelyarenousThesethemondnotcertainlyareadia-inrough.vi-gemsdefi-seek-out!

First planted in 1980 and later expanded, Seven Hills was one of the first commercial vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley and now encompasses over 200 acres.

Equally important to these stories are the farmers who grow the grapes, which is why it was such a treat to meet Sadie. Although she comes from a farming family, she is the first to grow grapes in her lineage. She talked about the vaunted Seven Hills Vineyard under her jurisdiction and we were given the opportunity to taste the literal fruits of her labor.

heading around the corner to Gard Vintners. Its Ellensburg tasting room is open late on Friday nights (4:00 9:00 PM) with the winery’s full range available for tastings as well as by the glass and by the bottle. Live music was a welcome treat as we sampled several different wines, under the tutelage of Riley, our tasting guide that evening. Founded in 2006, this family winery has garnered high scores from the wine media and it was easy to see why. We were wowed by the Roussanne, Vaucluse (a Rhone style red blend of Syrah and Viognier) and their Provencal style rosé and added these to our growing collection.

Before we headed out, Riley recommended visits to: Cave B Winery, Beaumont Cellars and Jones of Washington, all of which are in Quincy, WA and situated within the Ancient Lakes AVA.

destination was in George, WA (someone had a sense of humor), but we found a welcoming oasis along Interstate 90 in Ellensburg This small (Population:town19,786) is home to Central Washington University and several wineries. We selected Brix Wine Bar as our early dinner option. Owned by Elevage Wine Co/ Raised by Wolves, the restaurant lists several wines by the glass (or bottle), but doesn’t provide a tasting option. Surprisingly, they do have gluten free pizza on the menu, which was quite delicious. We ordered one glass of Malbec and one of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a unanimous preference for the latter.

Thus, we added a bottle of the Cab Sav to our tab to enjoy later, before

Created in 2012, the Ancient Lakes AVA’s geology is the result of being carved out by ancient ice age floods, leaving behind 35 namesake lakes. It encompasses 1,600 planted acres with Riesling and Chardonnay as the most planted varieties due to the relatively northern latitude and cooler

Ancient Lakes AVA: A Meeting of Mountains, Music & Merlot

the Pacific Northwest was a two day music festival at The Gorge Amphitheater, as wine lovers we could not resist the siren call of the local vinous culture and were excited about exploring this region along with immersing ourselves into the music.

Although the impetus for this visit to


rriving in Seattle on an unusually clear day, we could see the majestic Mount Rainier through the airplane window, which we took as a good omen of the trip to come our first foray into Central Washington and our maiden voyage in an RV.

We loaded up the vehicle with our possessions and hit the road, essentially heading due east. Our route took us through the Cascade Mountain range, which offers up beautiful views and is also responsible for keeping most moisture to the west. Consequently, Washington State’s eastern areas are sunny and dry (and well suited to irrigated agriculture), while Seattle is steeped in foggy, wet Ourweather.final

The next morning, well fortified with a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast, we walked the two miles to Cave B Winery (Riley’s other suggestions were too far for a walk and getting the RV out of camp was just too difficult a proposition). Originally founded as Champs de Brionne by Dr. (a neurosurgeon) and Mrs. Bryan in 1980, Cave B Winery’s vast estate boasts 140 acres of vines comprised of 17 different varieties; orchards; a


weather compared to other areas within Columbia Valley.

As a state, Washington ranks as the second largest premium producer of wine in the U.S. Grapes were planted as early as 1825, but today’s vineyards were more recently established during the 1970s. Currently, there are 900 wineries, spread out over 14 AVAs, with the majority (75%) of production centered on Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. However, diversity does still exist with more than 40 different grapes grown within the

the Ancient Lakes AVA, the wider wine touring region is known as the Cascade Valley and North Central, which is situated between Seattle and Spokane. Within this area, there are 34 wineries or tasting rooms on the Cascade Valley & North Central map in Washington State Wine’s magazine, with another 21 listed in nearby Leavenworth and 7 in Wenatchee, providing tourists with plenty of places to taste.

All of Cave B’s wines are produced with estate grown fruit and a $10 tasting fee will get you a sample of 3 whites and 3 reds. While I liked all six wines, I was especially enamored with the Tempranillo. Among the whites, their off dry Riesling stood out. Overall, this region and its wines were quite unfamiliar to me before our arrival, but I was impressed with what we tasted.

After departing Gard Vintners, we arrived at The Gorge, queuing up behind a long line of fellow RVs. As we made our way, we were both welcomed and warned to adhere to the campground rules. First and foremost, we were admonished to have a fkin’ good time! In truth, the rules do

forbid weapons, but, thankfully, alcohol is permissible (at least for the show we attended). Once in place in our assigned campsite, we unpacked our bags before setting off to explore the venue, then it was time for bed.

During Champs de Brionne’s early days, a natural bowl on the property was discovered to have near perfect acoustics and the idea of a music venue was born as a way to draw people to the winery “in the middle of nowhere.” Before long, the popularity of these summer music began to grow, transforming the original concept from a small theater into the grander The Gorge Amphitheater, accompanied by the build out of a much larger stage and capacity for 20,000+ participants.

By 1993, the Bryans divested themselves of The Gorge Amphitheater and its campgrounds, but retained the vineyards and additional acreage. During this period, they continued to grow grapes, which they sold to other wine producers. But, in 2000, the couple was ready to re enter winemaking with the creation of Cave B Winery, a smaller, premium winery. They added the inn and restaurant in

this history, it was fitting to have tasted at Cave B before heading back to our campsite for the main event: ABGT250

DJs and musicians, Above & Beyond, comprise three London based guys (Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki) who started making music together in 1999. They have cultivated a rabid following that spans the globe and inculcated a special ethos among them. They have also launched record labels Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, giving a start to other EDM artists. Fans assert that their concerts are life changing experiences after attending just a single one, so it is no surprise that their events are well attended.


spa; a restaurant with stunning views of the Columbia River; and a myriad of lodging options, including yurts and cave rooms.

NB: This article was originally published in October 2017.

We were up early Monday morning ready to return to civilization, but would certainly consider the trip a success. Admittedly, it was an interesting combination of hobbies, but this meeting of mountains, music and Merlot was a perfect balance for us, as we navigated new adventures and divergent musical tastes. And, I didn’t hate the RV; it was definitely much more comfortable and luxurious that a tent would have been..

Named for their podcast series, Above & Beyond Group Therapy (ABGT), their ABGT live events draw fans from around the globe. The group began doing live shows on the occasion of the 50th podcast (ABGT50), a tradition that has carried forward each year (coincident with the next 50th show). The first was held in London, followed by New York, Sydney, Amsterdam and now Washington State. Rumors have it that ABGT300 will be in Asia.

The festival itself kicked off with a free screening of Above & Beyond’s live filming of a recent performance on Friday night as a thank you to those who arrived early, but the main event took place on Saturday evening with a special set by Above & Beyond. The line up included Luttrell, Yotto, Oliver Smith, Genix & Sunny Lax, a reprise from the headliners at 11:00 PM, accompanied by fireworks and glowing digital bracelets (from sponsor TMobile), before concluding with Seven Lions & Jason Ross.

Sunday’s daytime set was more mellow, with Above & Beyond’s music as the backdrop for a morning yoga practice and the use of the venue’s smaller stage. Highlights included Moon Boots, Eli & Fur, Jody Wisternoff & James Grant, 16 Bit Lolitas, and a joint return to the stage by Yotto and Luttrell at the end. A brief rain shower on Sunday evening did not seem to put a damper on anyone’s spirits, with music continuing long into the night, thanks to “pop up” concerts embedded in the food court area and the campgrounds.

All content and images, copyright © 2022 Tracy Ellen Kamens. All rights reserved. www.ItsAWinederfulLife.com | contactme (at) TracyEllenKamens.com

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.