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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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