I know, I know. I did mop the kitchen floor and vacuum, so I didn't totally shirk my house responsiblities. Oh, and I made Cream of Wheat. Go me!
On today's agenda were three wine shops:
Champion Wine Cellars
Pike and Western Wine Shop
Pete's Wines [Bellevue]
I've been itching to visit Champion ever since I moved here... but the first time I went, it was a Sunday and as a result they weren't open.
Anyhow, I hopped in the car and headed west to Seattle. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day: I could clearly see not only The Mountain itself [Rainier], but I could also see Mt Baker [almost in Canada] and the Olympics as well. Everywhere I looked, there were beautiful, snow capped mountains surrounded by green, inviting forests. To make things even better, it was fairly sunny and warm enough to open the sunroof and enjoy a cool winter's day on the road - temperatures were in the mid 50s. Yay!
After adroitly performing the dreaded Mercer Weave, I headed past the Space Needle and then to Champion. I parked in the back - in a scummy, dank parking lot. The back door to the shop had a small sign that said OPEN, so I charged on in.
Wow, what a freaky-weird wine shop! Because I entered from the rear, I hit the "really fucked up wine" section first. They had some truly heinous plonk from Moldova and Georgia: $12 bottles of generic Moldovan crap labeled "Vin de Casa" as well as stupendously ugly crockery "bottles" of Georgian Kindzmarauli for a whopping $24. This stuff can't possibly be worth more than $2 and $5 respectively. Ugh.
However, the rest of the shop was moderately interesting. The owner - I think - said hello and offered me a free sample of Bordeaux, which I declined. I'm never comfortable tasting stuff I probably won't buy, eh? So I had myself a nice, long look around the shop. The inventory was generally superb, with a wide range of expensive, obscure stuff, such as a range of Washington zinfandels. Yes, you heard me right. Washington state zins, most of which cost far more than known-good California zins, so I said no thanks. Similarly, everything else I recognized in the shop was marked up about 20% more than you'd ordinarily expect to pay for it. Not pretty.
So I finished my long slow tour around this [fairly tiny] store, thanked the owner, and left. Needless to say I didn't buy anything - I was mildly intrigued by Washington zin, but not at those ticket prices. :(
From there I was going to go straight to Esquin, a big wine shop south of downtown that I don't generally like [they're too snooty], but I figured I might as well finally go to Pike and Western. Magically, I happened across it by accident, and found a parking place right across the [very steep] street. Wow, only $1 an hour for parking! But no worries, I figured I wouldn't be more than 18 minutes.
Whoops, my mistake. When I got out of the car, I noticed something calling itself the Washington State Wine Tasting Room [?] across the street. It was on a small alleyway and totally deserted, so I stomped right in and introduced myself. I had a look at their wines available for tasting - it's a co-op run by five small wineries, none of which I'd heard of - and decided I could afford the $2 for some of the 2000 Apex dry riesling. It was OK, but not great at $12 a bottle of whatever it cost. Strangely, it was displaying some of the petrol nose you'd normally associate with much older riesling.
Luckily for me, though, they had autographed copies of the Northwest wine guide I almost bought from Amazon this week. I checked this thing out of the library last month and found it to be really helpful, so I was pleased to go ahead and spring for a copy at $15. It's not the most fantastic thing I've ever read - that would have to be the free South Australia wine guide the government tourist office puts out - but it is a reasonably good guide as to what you can expect from various Washington state wineries.
Afterwards, I headed down the hill to Pike and Western. I was... surprised. I was expecting an insufferably posh wine shop filled with matrons shopping for bordeaux, but whoops, this was something totally different. The staff were all in their late 20s or early 30s; all of them were very, very knowledgeable about wine in general and Northwest wines in particular. They were very happy to just talk about stuff in general when the shop emptied out, even!
Best of all, though: the stock. This is a small-ish wine shop with room for maybe 120 different wines, but the selection was well thought out and the prices were dead correct. If you buy a case, you get 15% off, which makes it even more appealing - but with 6 bottles you get 10% off, which could just be perfect.
Here's what I picked up:
2002 Wishing Tree Shiraz [Western Australia], $9
This was made by the proprietor of The Australian Premium Wine Collection. His company imports some of the best Aussie wines I know of, e.g. the Clonakilla shiraz viognier and the Grosset rieslings. I've heard good things about this and so was happy to pick up two bottles.
2002 Tin Roof Sauvignon Blanc [California], $8
I think this is the Stelvin-only product line I vaguely remember hearing about late last year whlie doing some screwcap-related research, but I'm not sure. It's apparently from Murphy-Goode, whose wines I don't really know anything about. I'm willing to risk $8 on it being good, just 'cuz it's under Stelvin. I know. WINE GEEK.
2002 Woodward Canyon Dry White Riesling [Washington], $19
Phew, that's a lot of money for a bottle of American riesling... but I had to try it. I've currently got 14 bottles of American riesling that I'm just itching to hold a tasting for... sadly, however, I don't know anyone local who'd be interested. I'll have to take them one at a time over a fortnight this summer, I suppose.
Woodward Canyon seems to make obscenely expensive wines with terrifically naff labels. I'm not too hopeful on this one, but I am happy to have purchased it as I'm currently in a gotta catch 'em all state of mind wrt Northwest riesling.
2002 Holloran Vineyard Riesling [Washington], $16
Again, a "gotta catch 'em all" purchase. They also had the 2002 Chehalem riesling for $17, but I just bought a case of that direct from the winery based solely on two recommendations and a very friendly employee's gentle suggestion that I do so. I am mildly irritated that the Chehalem staff suggested it could not be bought at retail, but them's the breaks. At least it was no more expensive purchasing direct from the winery.
Pike and Western's cashier stated unequivocally that this was really, really good stuff, but also admitted he'd tasted neither the Chehalem nor the Woodward Canyon. We'll see.
2002 Kaesler Barossa Valley Semillon [South Australia], $9
One of the biggest lessons I learned in Australia was that aged semillon is a thing of beauty indeed. The 1994 Penfolds Adelaide Hills semillon I drank with jcoldrey was a revelation. Since then, I've been slowly buying Aussie semillon in hopes that it too will metamorphose into something that wonderful in eight years' or so time. This will join half a case of the Torbreck 'Woodcutters White' Barossa semillon and a weirdo $7 bottle of 1998 Hogue Genesis semillon from Washington... that's all I have so far. I did find a mail order outfit with some 1998 Penfolds but their shipping rates give me hives, and the pricing is terrible too. Wish me luck with this one.
I then left for Pete's in Bellevue. I was a man on a mission.