There’s a winemaker in Woodinville who says, “Not all damsels are in distress.” That vintner is Mari Womak of Damsel Cellars. For nearly two years I’ve had the great pleasure of working with her. The truth is, a lot of winemakers relish days hiding out in the cellar. However, that’s not the case with Mari. In fact, keeping up with Damsel Cellars and all that Mari is doing can be a challenge.
Regardless, she’s still accessible to Damsel’s wine club and consumers. Perhaps that’s the secret to her success. Somehow, Mari knows how to make serious wine yet keep the tasting experience fun and engaging. It’s not about ego or being a “rockstar winemaker.” However, a rockstar partnership is indeed part of the story. Here’s a glimpse at what is keeping Damsel Cellars so busy besides her fantastic vino (pro tip: her Mourvedre is particularly spectacular). If you’re a fan of supporting small locally owned businesses, take a look and plan to rescue some wine!
Hint: read all the way to the bottom for a giveaway alert!
It’s here – the fun way to make wine discoveries and break out of a Cabernet Sauvignon rut! Take the #TryJanuary challenge and explore Seattle Urban Wineries. The idea is to try new-to-you grape varieties, wines, and wineries. With over 80 varieties grown in Washington State, and a proliferation of tasting rooms in Seattle there is a lot to investigate. Make it even more entertaining and turn wine tasting into an inspired scavenger hunt of sorts. The resources below make it easy.
Disclosure: I am an associate member of Seattle Urban Wineries and a volunteer board member. My idea for the challenge was devised as a way to help wine consumers experience some fun during what can often be a dreary month. At the same time, my hope is to aid the wineries and locals employed by them in the often painfully slow month of January. I am not paid for my work on this. Thank you for all you do to help the local wine industry thrive!
Explore Alternative Varieties
Use the graphic below for inspiration to try some new-to-you varieties. By the way, these unsung heroes are typically priced less than the ever prevalent Cabernet Sauvignon. So if you discover a new wine that you want to take home, it might actually save you money!
“When should I open this bottle of wine I’ve been saving for a special occasion?” That question was regularly posed to Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher in the days when they penned their renowned wine column for The Wall Street Journal. In response, the clever writers started “Open That Bottle Night.” The goal was to encourage the inquisitive to just go ahead and open that bottle. The event continues to take place on the last Saturday of every February. If you’ve ever wondered what wines are on the minds of winemakers and wine writers on Open That Bottle Night here’s a little insight.
“I was lucky enough to try a tank sample of the Block B Syrah with winemaker Jordan Fiorentini when I visited last spring. I got my hands on a bottle and I can’t wait to open it – the Block B is a plush, layered mix of fruit, earth, and mineral.”
When it comes to her desired dish, “I can’t wait to pair it with grilled lamb meatballs with flavors of cumin, coriander, and allspice. Lamb and syrah always signal spring to me and are a classic pairing.”
Wine Writer Kathleen Willcox Soaks Up Paul Hobbs’ Finger Lake Project
Talented wine writer Kathleen Willcox is the co-founder of Thinking Outside the Bottle. Her captivating work frequently appears in Wine Industry Advisor, Wine Searcher, and Wine Enthusiast.
As an Open the Bottle option, “I would love to revisit Paul Hobbs’ Finger Lakes project, Hillick & Hobbs,” Kathleen says.
“It’s a tribute to his upbringing on his family’s farm in Upstate New York, and the traveling winemaker’s latest estate overlooking Seneca Lake in the FLX is producing some of the best Riesling I’ve ever had. Hobbs is known for running Sebastopol’s Paul Hobbs Winery, and Crossbarn, in addition to working with Mendoza’s Vina Cobos, Cahors’ Crocus, Armenia’s Yacoubin-Hobbs and Galicia’s Alvaredos-Hobbs. All delicious. His Seneca Lakes beauty more than lives up to his reputation for producing terroir-driven wines.”
As for pairing, “This one is delicate but powerful, tangerines, wildflowers, wet rocks, pears, lemons and limes. I love pairing it with chicken schnitzel—a family favorite—with buttered and salty egg noodles.”
Winemaker Jay Anderson Reminisces Over Vouvray
When it comes to memory wines, Jay Anderson of Foundry Vineyards in Walla Walla mentioned Vouvray during an interview for the Slow Wine Guide. The energetic Chenin Blanc comes from the region of the same name in France’s Loire Valley. It was the wine Jay’s father would always order with mussels when dining out. Therefore, it was especially meaningful to Jay when he got access to Chenin Blanc for Pet Project. Not yet familiar? It’s his exciting venture based on the ancestral method of winemaking. The grapes come from the 200-acre organic Arete Vineyard in the Columbia Valley. The result is a zippy effervescent wine with citrus up front and lemon-lime soda like character, contrasted by a rich finish.
Open That Bottle Night Wine Revives Travel Memories
Contemplating memory wines has me thirsty for a bottle over which the hubby and I may reminisce about our travels. A lone bottle from our visit to Castello Monte Vibiano in Italy’s Umbria region still resides in our cellar. I think it’s time to open that bottle.
There’s an exciting new wine awards program launching! Founded by Laura Huston, the Belle and Bottle Wine Awards program is to take place for the first time in 2022. Not only does the program highlight top wines. It intends to give women a platform to share their expertise and elevate one another.
Guest author Dana Van Nest shares a behind the scenes look into the Great Northwest Wine competitions.
“Intriguing nose of cherries jubilee, sweet herbs, and chocolate-covered blueberries,” I noted about the 2017 Siren’s Reserve Beijo Red Wine from Siren Song Wines. “Juicy red berries and plum greet you in this smooth and very drinkable blend, and later give way to chocolate and hints of tobacco.”
With approximately 800 wines entered in this invitation-only competition, we start early with the panels of wine judges receiving their first flights at 8:30 am. The panel is comprised of a number of the region’s most respected wine buyers and merchants. They are a knowledgeable and generous crowd with whom I seriously enjoy getting to work, eat, and drink with for two days. After the panels have chosen the Golds for each flight, the Chief Judges (typically two or three of us) get to work.