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!
I still recall my first encounter with Elsom Cellars wine years ago. It was a malbec, and a distinctive one at that. It exuded a spicy, black pepper nuance. Is there a spice more popular than pepper? It adds abundant flavor to life. As do the wines coming out of this woman led business.
While Malbec is still considered the signature variety of Elsom Cellars, the winery is about so much more than that. Especially to me personally. I am a member of the board of Seattle Urban Wineries as a result of Winemaker Rebecca Weber’s outreach. Even if it weren’t for that, I find it admirable that the people behind the brand create such a welcoming space and foster community. They also have much to offer wine loving consumers such as a one-of-a-kind urban tasting experience on the outdoor patio, an indoor space available for private events, and a diverse range of tantalizing wines that even includes a vermouth. There are also bottles that give back to the community.
Meet The Keeper
Elsom Cellars recently scored a collaboration with celebrated Seattle Sounders goalkeeper, Stefan Frei. The wine project, aptly named The Keeper, benefits youth sports programs through Washington Youth Soccer. The bottle is adorned with label artwork created by Frei, a two-time MLS Cup champion and an avid artist.
Look up “Colorado wine” and Google suggests people want to know, “Is Colorado good for wine?” and, “Does Colorado have good wineries?” Up until last week, I had no idea.
Enter Colorado winery, The Ordinary Fellow. The labels on the samples I received are anything but commonplace, splashed with colorful artwork. A small peel off tab enables an outer sleeve to rotate around the bottle. With each turn of the clever wrapper, cutouts highlight different images below along with clever sayings. The innovative approach is something perfectly playful and enchanting for those who feel that stodgy wine labels can be a snooze fest. Perhaps this is one way to attract a new audience to wine?
While the labels may be unique and unconventional, the varietal contents are more commonplace. Bottles I received include consumer darlings Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling. What may be a surprise to learn is that the Riesling and Cabernet come from the same vineyard. However, different microclimates can enable very different grapes to flourish within one vineyard. That’s not to say Colorado wine country doesn’t have distinctive qualities. By way of example, here’s a quick overview.
Fun Facts About Colorado Wine
Want to dazzle people with your knowledge of Colorado wine? Here are some talking points to share the next time you’re at a party courtesy of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.
Colorado has more than 170 licensed wineries.
It is home to two federally designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA.
These two AVAs contribute 90% of the wine grapes grown in Colorado.
At 4,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation, Colorado lays claim to the highest growing regions in the Northern Hemisphere (by comparison, Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA ranges from 200 to 2,000 feet).
The Ordinary Fellow Origin Story
Interestingly, Ben Parsons, the bloke behind The Ordinary Fellow, sounds anything but ordinary. The winemaker previously founded The Infinite Monkey Theorem (TIMT) winery in 2008. A 2019 Wine Spectator article announcing his resignation reports, “He kickstarted the urban winery and canned wine trends.” Sounds like Ben is intent on making wine more accessible, something the industry desperately needs. Continue reading “A Colorado Winery for The Ordinary Fellow”
“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.
Walla Walla Valley is a must visit for wine lovers! I’m not the only one who thinks so. It has been named America’s Best Wine Region in the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards two years in a row. If you’re wondering where to eat and drink in Walla Walla and want the perspective of a wine industry insider, just use this personal itinerary from my trip last June as a guide. These wineries and restaurants are not to be missed during two days in Walla Walla.