Wine in Woodinville and Chateau Ste. Michelle

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Before our WBC or Bust group was to set off east from Seattle to Walla Walla, we had a chance to break in the bus on a short trip to Woodinville, a former suburb of Seattle.  There are over 50 wineries in Woodinville and we were on our way to its most famous, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which has been around since the repeal of prohibition, when it was known as Pommerelle Wine Company.  Now it is nothing short of ginormous, with a large number of lines: Columbia Valley wines which bring out regional and varietal character, Indian Wells brings out new world nuances, Single Vineyard, Ethos Reserve with old world style, Artist series Meritage blend, Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wines, Eroica Riesling collaboration with German winemaker Ernst Loosen, Limited Release wines for club members and Col Solare, a red wine collaboration with Tuscan winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori.

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We embarked on a tour of the winery led by Lynda Eller (Director of Communications) and winemaker Wendy Stuckey.  We went through the winery's long history and partnerships, and saw their large fermentation tanks and multiple storage barrels.  Later, we were treated to a wine tasting and food pairing conducted by John Sarich, winery Culinary Director.  We tasted four different Rieslings: 2007 & 2008 Eroica ($24), 2009 Columbia Valley Riesling ($9) and 2009 Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling ($15), Spiced Dishes & Rieslingpaired with three spicy samples: Indian Spiced Prawns & Tomato Chutney, Sesame Seared Halibut with Orange-Basil Thai Curry, and Currywurst.  I always love comparing different vineyards and vintages against eachother, as this is the best way to catch subtle and interesting differences.  Also, Rieslings pair very well with both exotic and inflamingDuck & Red Wine spice because of the grape's high acidity, citrus fruit profile and varying degree of sweetness.  We were then offered up Roasted Duck with Cherry Merlot Sauce, Sweet Potato Cake and Manchego Cheese paired with three reds: 2007 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot ($22), 2006 Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot ($28) and 2006 Artist Series Meritage ($50), a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Merlot and Meritage wines are a great pairing for rich duck dishes while Manchego, a rich sheep milk cheese, blends greatly with Merlot's silky tannins.  We finished off with 2005 Ethos Late Harvest Riesling ($35) with a lemon cookie and berries.  This fantastic dessert wine meshed well with the citrusy, butter cookie flavor.

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Northwest Totem WinesAfterward, we met a slew of Woodinville winemakers at Willows Lodge: Northwest Totem Cellars, BetzBetz Family Family Winery, DeLille Cellars, DiStefano Winery, William Church Winery, Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Brian Carter Cellars, Novelty Hill/Januik Winery, Sparkman Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, Baer Winery, Des Voigne Cellars and Barrage Cellars.  There I met Bob Betz and his daughter Carmen, and tasted the best wine of the entire trip, 2008 Betz Family La Côte Patriarche Syrah ($55) from Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima.  An inky, black/dark purple color, with deeply spicey, floral, smokey aromas and deep dark fruit, black pepper and a touch of dried, cured meat on what seemed to be an endless palate.  This wine was so complex and lasting that I couldn't stop thinking about it!  I tasted so many good wines that it's hard to mention them all, but Hollywood Hill Vineyard Malbec, DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel and Northwest Totem Cellars Cabernet Franc were a few standouts.

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The Barking FrogIt was a small walk to the other side of the lodge to The Barking Frog, where we were in for a killer lunch prepared by Chef Bobby Moore paired with more DeLille Cellars wines.  It kicked off with Grand Marnier Prawns and led to Seared Sea Scallops.  We finished with Dark Chocolate Coffee Ganache.  I would have been happy to call it a day after that perfect lunch on their outdoor patio, but we were in for more tastings and fun back in Seattle.  More on that in the next post!

Windy City Wine Guy in Seattle

On the wharf by Waterfront Seafood GrillIt was my first trip to Washington and I wanted to let Seattle give me all that it had.  Being from Chicago, I have the priveledge of being surrounded by some of the world's best restaurants, great lounges and bars, music, concerts and an awesome view of Lake Michigan.  When I go to a new city I seek its best aspects and try to live a full experience.  I was only going to be in Seattle for two days so it was time to live it up a little.

My first night I checked into the Roosevelt Hotel, an older building with nice sized rooms and central downtownSatay at Wild Ginger location making it easy for me to walk to my targeted restaurants and bars.  I walked to Wild Ginger, an Asian Restaurant with a reputation for making great satay.  If a restaurant being busy is a good sign, this place would be great- there was quite a crowd for a Tuesday evening.  When I'm in town alone, I like to dine at the bar because there's always someone to interact with.  The bartender's name was Nathan and he clearly had a grip on the action.  He knew his drinks and the menu very well.  I started with two satay- a Thai Chicken and a Young Mountain Lamb, and a Hitachino Nest White Ale (an awesome Japanese whitbier).  Both satay were extremely tasty, accompanied by sticky rice, pickled ginger cucumbers and their own sauce.  The wine list is exceptional with great selections by bottle or glass (which is dispensed by the Enomatic system), and a separate cellar list with over 2000 selections they've collected over a 20 year span.

Purple Wine BarI wanted more to try, so I went to Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, a gorgeous two level building surrounded by windows.  The wine list was full of great choices, with very interesting glasspour options: I went with Tenuta Sant'Antonio Scaia Rosso, 100%Small plates at Purple Corvina varietal from northeast Italy.  Good fruit, light/medium body and cedar box spice.  The menu was full of small plate options and I settled on three:  Housemade Toulouse Sausage, Mimolette and Roasted Garlic White Bean Crostini.  I loved the chance to try a little of this and that while sampling the wine list.  After all these small options it was time to turn in and get ready for another day.

On Wednesday I checked out and met up with the WBC or Bust group at the site of my new hotel room, the Renaissance, before we departed for Woodinville, which I will touch on in my next post.  When we returned that afternoon, it was time for a beer tasting hosted by Charles Finkel himself at Pike Pub & Brewery.  We tasted a lineup of their beers like the Pale, IPA, Kilt Lifter, Naughty Nellie and XXXXX Stout before we moved onto a tour.  I wish we had time for the menu, Roasted Snails in Phyllobut we had to get ready for the Waterfront Seafood Grill where we were in for aBraised Short Rib coursed wine dinner with tasty items like roasted snails, seared scallops and braised short rib.  There was also some killer wine being passed around from producers like Andrew Will and Nota Bene Cellars, both of whom make stellar Syrahs and Owen & Sullivan Winery.  This was an outstanding dinner from a spot with an uncomparable view.

In my visit to Seattle I had a small piece of what makes the city so great and I still have so much more to see.  If you get a chance to visit then make sure to take advantage of it and try to visit the places I mentioned.  If you live there then be proud and let us know what I missed, which places are your favorites and why- share the wealth!

Coming up- Woodinville & Chateau Ste. Michelle, Yakima and Walla Walla.