Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sips on the Road: Washington Wine does it big in the Great State of Alaska!


Yes, it’s true. Washington wine DOES exist outside of Washington. But sometimes one must make sure the wine, which is often not distributed outside of Washington, makes it to far away places from time to time. This story begins with a single bottle... What happened from there brought joy to a wedding and helped ring in the start of a new life for one happy couple.

Last year, Barrage Cellars (@BarrageCellars) released their 2009 “&” Rosé, which had the most creative label allowing you to write pretty much anything you wanted on it to go with the “&”. I heard some pretty creative stories from winery owners Kevin and Rebecca about what people had written, but this bottle presented itself as the perfect Christmas gift for my younger brother Trevor and his fiancée Konstance, who were busy planning their Summer 2011 wedding. I hauled that bottle up from Woodinville wine country to Alaska, had a family friend write “Trevor / Konstance” on either side of that “&” and excitedly gave them this gift which I knew they would love for their wedding. Sure enough, this big sister was right and Konstance immediately started working the bottle into her center pieces for the tables.

Fast forward to March 2011 when my Mom and Konstance flew down to Seattle to visit me for a weekend. In addition to their Barrage Rosé, why not have all Washington wines served at the wedding? I had the fantastic idea to take them wine tasting in Woodinville so that Konstance could have the opportunity to pick out each of the wines she wanted to serve. I made a short list of several that I knew were in her price range, would be appealing to most palates, and that I personally also liked, and we set off on our tasting adventure on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Throughout the next several months, each case of wine made a special Alaska Airlines trip via baggage on the return from various trips my Dad had down to Seattle for work. Yes, I am happy to report that we managed to get FIVE cases of wine to Alaska without paying a cent for shipping (Dad is MVP Gold, no baggage fees!). There they waited for a beautiful weekend in July when Alaska got a taste of some pretty fantastic Washington wine. Well.. not ALL of Alaska. Only the wedding attendees...

The wedding was held on the shore of beautiful Big Lake, Alaska at the Sunset View Resort (NO, we could NOT see Russia from there…). The grounds were perfect for the occasion and also for some great shots of the wines!

The first wine was the before mentioned Barrage Cellars “&” Rosé. This bottle was put at the center of each table as part of the centerpieces. As it was also for drinking during dinner, I had the fun task of opening and re-corking an entire case of wine in the afternoon before the ceremony. The wine was a hit, with a ton of comments on the customized bottle label, which looked like it had been specially printed with their names on it. This was such a fun way to showcase WA wine that also helped mark their special day. It was perfect! This Rosé is one that Barrage calls “a red wine drinker’s Rosé”, and it’s definitely darker and not as super sweet as others I’ve had. It’s very enjoyable and it’s too bad I didn’t stock up on more before they sold out at the winery!

The first of the two whites was the Guardian Cellars (@GuardianCellars) 2010 Angel Sauvignon Blanc. This wine wasn’t initially released back in March when we went tasting, however, Jerry happened to be pouring it in the tasting room that day as a preview. Konstance loved it, as I knew she would, and I vowed I’d be back in May when the 2010 Angel was released. You better believe I was in there release weekend picking up a case, along with another two bottles for my own stash! Of the two whites available at the wedding, this was the big hit. This Columbia Valley wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and spends some time in both new French oak and stainless steel, which balances out the flavors beautifully. This is by far my favorite Sauvignon Blanc of the 2010 vintage. I may or may not have been drinking this one all night at the wedding… (ssshh, don’t tell..).

Our second white was the Airfield Estates (@Airfield) 2009 Thunderbolt Sauvignon Blanc. I initially took Konstance tasting at Airfield because I’m a fan of their Unoaked Chardonnay, but they weren’t pouring it that day, and they had the most amazing close out special on their Sauvignon Blanc. This was a nice white that was light bodied and brought forward pleasant citrus flavors.

What was most funny about the day we went tasting wines, was that I predicted, and almost always correctly, which wine that Konstance was going to prefer our of the line-up we tried at each winery. That’s what took us into William Church Winery(@wmchurchwinery), where I had a sneaking suspicion that she’d really enjoy the 2008 Bishop’s Blend, always a favorite of mine. The Bishop’s is a different blend each year, with the 2008 vintage being 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, and 3% Cab Franc. This blend has scored well in competition, and received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast. I was able to get a sneak peak of the 2009 Bishop’s, which this year is mostly Syrah based. It’s definitely smooth and I can’t wait to try the finished product when it’s time for release! The 2008 Bishop’s was definitely the red wine of the wedding. I had several people come up to me asking where they could get some, to which I referred them to their local airline to hop a plane to Woodinville. Hopefully someday soon we’ll see this wine (and others from the William Church line) on shelves in Alaska!

Our second red was from a secondary label for Gordon Brothers Winery. The Kamiak 2009 Rock Lake Red is 58% Merlot, 33% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauv, and 1% Malbec. This was an easy drinking red blend that was a good fit for a wedding, where everyone wants something just a little bit different. This is another Columbia Valley wine, and it spent 19 months in French & American oak barrels.

It was so much fun to be able to bring a little bit of Washington wine country up to Alaska for this special occasion. What made it even more unique was that the bride herself was actually able to travel to try everything and pick out what would be served. She ended up with some great selections and a group of happy guests that were able to try some new wines!

And in the end… I gained a sister. What an absolutely perfect day…

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