What Makes Avennia a Leading Winery in Washington

Although it is my regular practice to spread the word about notable wines and wineries, I don’t normally write about clients. However, these are far from normal times. Not to mention, I have been a fan of Avennia since the release of their inaugural vintage in 2012. Working with them for nearly two years in order to help wine lovers connect with the brand has just been icing on the cake. I consider myself extremely fortunate to assist such a celebrated winery and a team of generous and talented people. Through our partnership it’s become clear that there’s a lot to admire about the winery in addition to first-rate winemaking. Here’s an insider’s update on what’s happening at leading Washington winery Avennia lately, along with an exploration of some of their wines I’ve recently opened and the foods paired with them.

Avennia Winemaker, Chris Peterson (photo via Facebook)

Founded by Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson, Avennia is based in Woodinville, Washington about 20 miles outside of Seattle. The two met while working harvest at DeLille Cellars in 2009. When Chris reviewed Marty’s business plan for a winery, an innocent inquiry as to who was going to make the wine led to a partnership. By the 2010 harvest, the two were working Avennia’s first crush. Since then, Avennia has amassed top accolades and earned some of the highest scores in Washington State for their world class wines. Marty manages the business side of the winery while Chris oversees the cellar.

Avennia Founding Partner Marty Taucher during Avennia’s first live tasting

At the first signs of the pandemic, my company was impacted significantly. As business plummeted, so did my spirit. I remember speaking with Marty on the phone right when everything started going in a tailspin. Thankfully, the first thing he did was offer reassurance, “Don’t worry, Nancy, we’ll get through this.”

Principled Leadership

It turns out that Marty had read an article of mine that highlights five lessons on marketing during these challenging times. Like so many other businesses, Avennia was planning a quick pivot. In order to stay engaged with customers, social media would play a key role much to my relief! Additionally, employees would be kept busy with curbside pickup and wine delivery to customers’ homes. Remarkably, the winery also stepped up to help out the distressed hospitality industry.

With news of rising wine sales making headlines, it seems that most people are under the impression that the wine industry as a whole is booming. It may be true for wine sales in grocery and chain stores. Conversely, that is not the case for the majority of boutique wineries. The pandemic has forced the closure of tasting rooms and the cancellation of events. At the same time, wineries faced the shuttering of restaurants that carried their products. Wine sales have actually diminished for many smaller operations as a result. This is by no means an easy time for independent wineries.

Nevertheless, in the face of all these challenges, Avennia’s leadership remains community oriented. They even found ways to give back to the restaurants that have been part of their story.

Delivery of Frank the Tank, a Bordeaux-style wine that Avennia makes for Ethan Stowell Restaurants (ESR), was bumped up. This enabled ESR to offer the wines for take-out with ESR@HOME meals to go.

Over the years, a collaboration between Chris Horn, Purple Café’s lead wine buyer and beverage director, and Avennia winemaker, Chris Peterson, resulted in wines made under the Purple label. The folks at Purple Café, like so many other restaurants, had to close and lay off their employees. So, Avennia offered these wines for purchase. For every bottle sold, they pledged $5 to a GoFundMe account in support of those employees currently out of work. A donation of nearly $5,000 was contributed.

Adapting to Change

With wine club events cancelled, Winemaker Chris Peterson stretched beyond his routine activities and immediately began making videos as another way to connect with club members and customers. Chris and Marty also hosted their first virtual tasting, with more to come.

As of this writing, Avennia includes local delivery or UPS ground shipping with all new purchases of 3 or more standard bottles or 2 or more magnums. As the weather warms up, shipments are put on hold so take advantage of this great deal now if you can! Alternatively, local customers can request no-contact curbside pickup.

Tasting kits will soon be available in the local market. Each kit serves at least two people and contains 5 different Avennia wines in 5 oz. bottles. Plus, three different options are currently available.

Also, it’s the season for the annual release of the ever popular L’Egerie Rosé (it sold out in just three weeks last year!). The wine is currently available exclusively to their club, which makes it a great time to become a member.

Acclaimed Avennia Wines

One of the characteristics of Avennia’s wines that I most appreciate is that they truly showcase the vineyards from which the fruit is sourced. That’s partially because the wines are fermented with native yeast. It’s one component of Avennia’s winemaking philosophy based on doing less in order to let the fruit speak for itself.

During the stay at home order, wine from our cellar has been making more frequent appearances on our dinner table. The following are bottles we’ve recently enjoyed. Although these vintages may not be readily available, don’t fret. Avennia’s wines offer consistent quality year in and year out.

Note that I do not receive sample bottles from the winery. Bottles purchased at the winery included a modest discount.

Avennia Cabernet Franc 2016

Champoux Vineyard
Chris told me that 2016 was stellar across the board. So, although it is still a little young, it’s a terrific vintage to open now.

One of the calling cards of Cabernet Franc is a green bell pepper trait. However, Chris makes a point of not picking too early so that it doesn’t dominate the finished product. What does shine through, is a beautiful essence of violet that I associate with wine sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Additionally, raspberry, dark chocolate, and tamarind comingle without any one flavor dominating. It’s a stellar expression of this variety and this vineyard. Open a bottle to transform a night from ordinary to extraordinary.

Cabernet Franc Wine Pairing
A recipe for a pasta dish by Nigel Slater recently published in Food + Wine Magazine made a wonderful partner for the wine. A creamy Dijon sauce envelops the pasta and incorporates Italian sausage and fresh basil. It’s an absolutely harmonious pairing.

Avennia La Perle 2017

This blend of 55% Roussanne and 45% Marsanne was Avennia’s inaugural release of their Rhône style white wine. It is an elegant wine delivering flavors of pear and apple followed by a sophisticated mineral/chalk driven texture.

La Perle Wine Pairing
Although it’s an upscale wine, we poured it with a simple dish of Kielbasa and apples over polenta in order to elevate another night of quarantine cooking. After all, this is a wine that deserves to be the star of the show.

Frank the Tank 2016

Purchased at Frelard Pizza, this accommodating red wine is a steal of a deal at just $20 a bottle! Chris crafts this fruit forward Bordeaux style blend specifically for Ethan Stowell Restaurants. While the restaurants currently focus on takeout, this easy drinking wine is also available to go.

Frank the Tank Wine Pairing
Frank is one of our favorite wines for pizza or spaghetti night. Then again, it would also perfectly accompany fancier fare that features red meat.

Avennia Arnaut Syrah

I am a sucker for Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, so we will likely be uncorking at least one of our bottles of Arnaut Syrah in the near future. Chris notes that the 2013 vintage of Arnaut is in a real sweet spot right now. Also, the 2012 vintage was one of the leading vintages to date.

These are all top notch selections showcasing the quality of Washington State vineyards. Consider treating yourself to wine from Avennia.

Resources

Avennia Website
Follow Avennia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube
Tips for Pairing Cabernet Franc with Food
Ethan Stowell Restaurants – ESR @ Home Meals to Go
Heavy Restaurant Group Employee Relief Fund

New Walla Walla Winery: Devison Vinters

Some things never change. Spring eventually comes, a rebirth takes place in gardens and vineyards, and the latest rosés are released for consumption. Last year my beverage of choice for sipping on the deck in the days of sunshine and warmth was the beautiful Devison Vintners Rosé. My latest order of the wine from Walla Walla winery Devison Vintners recently arrived on our Seattle doorstep. Clearly, spring is here!

A new vintage of blushing wine is a reminder that there are still exciting things happening. For Peter and Kelsey Devison, it means the launch of their brand, Devison Vintners, along with highly anticipated newly released wines. Coincidentally, the couple also have a baby on the way! So, let’s hold onto a sense of optimism, talk about the winemaking, and dive into a couple of their fantastic new bottles with eager anticipation.

Photo courtesy of Devison Vintners

Winemaking Style

Continue reading “New Walla Walla Winery: Devison Vinters”

Celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month During the Coronavirus Scare

This week I’ve been getting all kinds of messages related to the current COVID-19 situation. Some ask my thoughts on wine events being held in spite of the panic-inducing situation. Others request help in rallying support for our local wineries. Then  the colossal bomb dropped yesterday. Taste Washington, Seattle’s biggest wine and food festival due to take place March 19-22, 2020 in Seattle, has been canceled. WHOA! Don’t panic, there are still ways to celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month.

Over the years, my personal preference has been to attend the Taste Washington seminars. While it is unfortunate that the event has been canceled for 2020, the consensus on social media leans toward the “better safe than sorry” anthem. The hedonistic wine and food festival is intended to be hosted again in 2021.

Support Washington Wine

Although Taste Washington is not taking place in 2020, there are still other opportunities to experience Washington wine and support the community. This is particularly critical at a time like this. Given that many Washington wineries are small, locally owned operations they can suffer greatly when there is a dip in customer activity. After all, they just barely got over dry January (don’t even get me started about that). So, please do whatever you can within your comfort zone to show these businesses some support during this challenging time. If you were going to Taste Washington, take that money you planned  to spend anyway on some Washington wine or an alternative event. While I am not a health professional, I can say from experience that conscientious winemakers keep a very clean environment.

While doing some online checking it’s apparent that the status of some events on websites such as LocalWineEvents.com haven’t yet been updated. This is no fault of these sites; however, it serves as a reminder to check directly with organizers regarding the status of any event. Luckily, sources have confirmed some events going ahead as of this writing.

10th Annual Cabernet Classic

Saturday, March 7, 2020
6:00-9:00pm
Tickets $50

The quality level of wineries pouring at this showcase for Cabernet Sauvignon is staggering! Among the featured wineries are Den Hoed, Figgins Family Estate, Passing Time Winery, and Sheridan Vineyard. These purveyors of high quality juice don’t have tasting rooms regularly open to the public, so this is a rare chance to have such an upscale lineup of wine to taste!

Avennia Spring Release

While writing this, VinoSocial client Avennia cancelled their release party at the winery this Saturday, March 7. Nevertheless, the latest vintages of the highly acclaimed Sestina and Valery wines are still being released. Member allocations are available for pickup at the winery. Additionally, the tasting room in Woodinville’s “Gateway District” will be open regular hours this weekend. Their welcoming staff will be happy to assist, and pour, the latest wines for members and non-members alike. This is the place for those who appreciate world class wine.

Avennia Tasting Room
19255 Woodinville Snohomish Rd #1,
Woodinville, WA 98072
Open daily 11:00am-5:00pm, Fridays until 7:00pm

Devison Vintners Winemaker Dinner at Barking Frog

Thursday March 19, 2020
7:00pm
$150 per person + tax and gratuity
Call 425-424-2999 for reservations
Having worked with talented winemaker, Peter Devison, I am full of anticipation over the new releases he and his wife Kelsey are launching under their Devison Vintners brand! Taste them for yourself paired perfectly with a delectable five course dinner created by Chef Bobby Moore. This has got to be the most indulgent way to celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month!

Celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month at Home

If you don’t feel like braving the crowds, follow my suggestion on Instagram to help raise awareness of this great region and its award winning wines:  simply uncork a bottle of wine from Washington State sometime this month, and post about it using the #WaWineMonth hashtag!! With over 1,000 wineries there are a lot of first-rate selections from which to choose.

Meanwhile, the majority of the population is raiding the supply of toilet paper and I’m at local wine shop Esquin thinking what we really need to buy is more wine (p.s. they’re offering 10% off Washington Syrah in-store on Saturday, March 7, 2020). Make good choices, my friends, and be careful out there!

Maryhill Winery Opens New Tasting Room in Woodinville

On Saturday, November 16, 2019 doors at the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse open to Maryhill Winery’s new tasting room in Woodinville. Notably, the space will be Maryhill’s fourth and largest tasting room and restaurant in Washington State. The winery has renovated a 10,000-square-foot space and occupies the grand ballroom and upper floor, along with a full commercial kitchen.

Maryhill Winery Woodinville Tasting Room (via Facebook)

What’s going to set this new tasting room apart from other Washington wineries? Their entrance into the Seattle area market coincides with a new name and brand. Maryhill Winery Tasting Room & Bistro is now showcasing regionally inspired food along with award winning wines. Not just in Woodinville, either. This wine and food experience is also available at locations in Goldendale, Spokane, and Vancouver.

According to Craig Leuthold, who co-founded Maryhill Winery in 1999 with his wife, Vicki, “Our new name and brand along with our culinary program marks a new strategic direction for Maryhill.” He adds, “Many people are intimidated to experiment with food and wine pairing, and our restaurants are one way to show customers how well certain foods go with certain wines.”

Tudor Sangiovese destined for Maryhill Rosé

Maryhill sources more than 30 unique varieties from some of the most highly regarded vineyards in Washington. One of those sources is Tudor Hills Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. A family operation owned and operated by Tom and Sean Tudor, the father and son value working with another family owned business such as Maryhill.

Maryhill Woodinville Opening Event Details

This grand opening follows the recent news that Washington State is now home to more than 1,000 wineries. I look forward to getting a preview of Maryhill’s new tasting room in Woodinville this week. Follow me on Twitter as I share the experience!

Maryhill Winery Grand Opening Weekend
Hollywood Schoolhouse
14810 NE 145th St # A, Woodinville, WA 98072
• Saturday, November 16, 10 a.m. – Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
• Saturday, November 16, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. — Public Grand Opening Celebration; live music 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
• Sunday, November 17, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Public Grand Opening Celebration; live music 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Resources

Maryhill Winery Woodinville on Facebook
Maryhill Winery on Twitter
Maryhill Winery on Instagram

Washington State Exceeds 1,000 Wineries

It’s a time of exciting growth for Washington State’s wine industry! As of October 2019, more than 1,000 winery licenses were active. That is a major milestone.

According to the Washington Wine Commission, vineyard acreage in Washington also continues to grow at a rapid pace. Twenty years ago, there were four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) producing 24,000 acres of wine grapes and 70,000 tons of grapes. Today there are more than 59,000 acres of vineyards across 14 AVAs that produced 260,000 tons of grapes last year. That translates to more than $7 billion contributed to the state’s economy and roughly $2.4 billion in revenue.

Hollywood Star Kyle MacLachlan owns a winery in Washington State (image by Andrea Johnson courtesy of Washington Wine Commission)

“We still have so much room to grow, both on the winery and vineyard side,” announced Steve Warner, President of Washington State Wine. “Washington is the New Epicenter of Wine – and truly, still just getting started.”

Celebrate this Washington Wine Milestone

Well, my friends, this milestone calls for a toast! What shall we uncork? With all those wineries, and since Washington State is the second largest wine producing state in the U.S., there are a lot of choices. Reflecting back on the hundreds of wines I had an opportunity to taste this year, here is a recap of some that would certainly be appropriate to celebrate this significant achievement.

Winning Wines from the Seattle Wine Awards

Medal winners from  the Seattle Wine Awards always add life to a party!

L’Ecole Semillon received my highest score in the white Bordeaux category. Year in, year out, this Double Gold winning wine is always tops in my books. Plus, at $15 a bottle, the quality for the price is exceptional.

Of course, Cab is king! Of those I reviewed, the 2016 Ambassador Wines of Washington Estate Plenipotentiary Cabernet Sauvignon was at the top of my list.

Walla Walla Wines

Walla Walla offers up a number of wines to get to know. The highly acclaimed Figgins Estate Red is a surefire head turner. However, for something more moderately priced,  Elephant Seven’s Cosmic Reflection would make an out of this world party guest.

Red Mountain Wines

Savvy wine drinkers know, “Red Mountain does an amazing balancing act between power and elegance.” Even Texas based Certified Specialist of Wine, Kat René of The Corkscrew Concierge will tell you that. Therefore, if you’re looking for a wine with a big personality, taste Red Mountain wine.

Whichever wine you choose to celebrate this Washington State wine milestone, be sure to share it on Instagram or Twitter using the #wawine hashtag. I look forward to seeing what Washington wines you’re drinking, so be sure to tag me and #letstalkaboutwine!

Resources

Washington State Wine Commission
L’Ecole No 41
Ambassador Winery
Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance
Red Mountain AVA