Saturday, October 17, 2009


Thursday (October 8) was the end of the road. Waking up in Woodinville, I couldn’t believe that the trip was coming to an end. It was a bit heartbreaking, because I met a lot of great people, experienced a phenomenal part of the country, and learned more in 4 short days than I have in the last 15 years. Yet here it was, the 8 a.m. wake-up call, heading to my final winery exercise at Columbia Winery, which was just across the street from Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Sitting down with Linda Conklin, our winery host for the day, as well as Kerry Norton, the current Director of Winemaking, we tasted blind through 4 vintages of single vineyard Cabs from Columbia, all made by the late David Lake. Three of these Cabs came from the Red Willow Vineyard and the 1993 vintage, which bore David’s name prominently on the label, came from the Otis Vineyard, another great source for them.

Our task was to put them in order from oldest to youngest, with the 1993, as well as the 1999, 2002 and 2003 vintages. These wines were impressive, and surprising. The ’93 showed well, yet leveled off a bit as the time went on. Yet the other three were still babies, opening up and evolving in the glass as Kerry talked about David, the future of Columbia, his difficulty in taking the job, and our time spent in Washington State. We took a look at soil samples from their different vineyard sources, and watched as the fog that lay thick across Columbia’s front lawn dissipated, revealing an absolutely gorgeous day.
The rest of the road trippers arrived for our last comparative tasting, this one on Cabernet Sauvignon, led again by our Education Director Shayn Bjornholm, along with panelists Bob Betz M.W. and fellow roadtripper Fred Dame M.S., President of the Guild of Sommeliers. I stared at these wines with all the attraction of an ex-girlfriend, the one that drove you crazy, but you missed something terrible. Guess a hangover will do that to you. Three stunning Washington Cabs from Walla Walla Vintners, Cote Bonneville and Col Solare, followed by 6 blind Cabs, 3 more Washington State Cabs (Buty, Feather and Woodward Canyon) mixed in with Chateau Lascombes Margaux, Joseph Phelps Napa and Jim Barry from Australia.

The day was winding down as the WWC crew rounded us up and bussed us just minutes down the street to our final stop, a farewell luncheon at DeLille Cellars with our host, DeLille co-owner Jay Soloff. A fitting way to end the trip with the man who kicked things off, at least for me, Jay’s winery is a beautiful, almost Chateau-like place, with phenomenal grounds, an intimate tasting room, and even some sheep residing in a paddock next door.
We tasted some great wines from DeLille and Doyenne (their Rhone label), as well as more fantastic wines from around the Woodinville area. Lunch was served, and Education Director Shayn and the WWC staff thanked us for being a part of this trip. It was a remarkable ride that I owe eternal gratitude to Shayn and everyone at the Washington Wine Commission for inviting me, and allowing me to share in this “fantastic voyage.”
Next time, what I took away from this trip.

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