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Passport to Woodinville 2009 Wrap Up

2009 April 19
by Eric Hwang

Crowds flock to Page CellarsToday was a great day to be out visiting the garagiste-styled wineries in the business parks of Woodinville, Washington. Unlike visiting the nearby wine regions of Eastern Washington, Willamette Valley, Oregon or even Napa, there are no long travel times between each winery. It wasn’t raining so we simply parked the car and walked from one small business park warehouse to the next, most within a few hundred feet of each other. The other great thing about the Passport event is being able to go to all these wineries, some that are not normally open, for just $40 per person. You’d pay that much after just 4 wineries any other time, but you wouldn’t get any food with the wine normally.

In all, we visited nearly 16 wineries:

  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Baer Winery
  • Sheri with Mike LemieuxBrian Carter Cellars
  • Cuillin Hills Winery
  • Darby Winery
  • Des Voigne Cellars
  • Edmonds Winery
  • Efeste
  • Gård Vintners
  • Guardian Cellars
  • Matthews Estate
  • Northwest Totem Cellars
  • Page Cellars
  • Sparkman Cellars
  • William Church Winery
  • XSV Wines

But to make it through this many wineries means a lot of dumping and spitting, so I once again brought my own spit cup. Something that surprised many of the people working at this event because very few people actually spit. Of course, there were a few wines actually worth drinking such as these:

200911412006 Baer Ursa Red Wine, Columbia Valley – A very nicely balanced right-bank Bordeaux style wine with 50% Merlot, 24% Cab Franc, 17% Cab Sauvignon, 7% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. Baer has scored another hit with this vintage and now I have a 3-year vertical of this wine. Surprising, since it didn’t taste like what they poured at Taste WA.

2007 Sparkman Lumière Chardonnay, Columbia Valley – Not your typical Chardonnay with a bright fresh citrus taste and just a touch of butter and not much oak.

2006 Gård Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley – Ripe and chewy with lots of berry and chocolate from the 100% new French oak. It shows lots of potential with firm tannins and great structure. I’m glad I was able to taste this after missing it at Taste WA.

XSV SyrahMatthews Semillon Ice Wine, Red Mountain – Although this was almost sickly sweet after all the other wines we tasted, this ice wine was the liquid equivalent of apple pie complete with cinnamon and buttery crust. Pour this over vanilla ice cream and you’ll have pie à la mode. A little steep in price though at $25 for a 375ml bottle.

2006 William Church Syrah, Yakima Valley – Deep color, intense aromas of smoke and spice and a rich palate of red fruit, blueberry and spicy, smoked-meat finish. I liked this wine enough for it to be the second of two wines I bought.

2003 XSV Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills – Wow! This was easily the best Syrah of this event, but considering it is 3 years older than most of the others I’ve tasted, that shouldn’t be surprising. Loads of smokey bacon aromas with rich ripe black fruit taste, rounded tannins, well integrated oak and a meaty resinous finish.

Brennon Leighton with Big Papa2006 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley – Up until I tasted this wine, my favorite wine was the Baer Ursa. The Big Papa is from old-vine Cabernet and has aromas of black fruits and plum with some licorice and cigar-box. On the palate, it was chewy and full of blueberry, plum and chocolate. The long finish showed cedar with firm tannins and good balance. Wow.

Also worth mentioning and trying are the 2007 Edmonds Winery Solstice Red Wine, the 2006 Gård Vintners Don Isidro Red Blend, the 2005 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance Southern Rhône Blend, and the better QPR 2006 Northwest Totem Cellars Longhouse Syrah for only $20. If you are an Arlington Road Cellars fan, this was also one of your last chances to visit their winery and get the 2006 Arlington Road Monotlith for just $25 before they close.

20091133Many of the wineries I’ve visited and bought wine from in the past didn’t show very well this time around. It seems the established wineries scored some initial hits and decided to sit on their laurels. That’s too bad for those who wish to be loyal, but I guess they’ll find others who like their new style. I also was disappointed by a few relative newcomers too. So much so that they weren’t even worth mentioning. That’s okay too, because I discovered some great new wines.

On a side note, I noticed that too many women and a few men dress up for this event. I mean really dress up in designer dresses, stilletto heels and coiffed like they’re attending some formal event. Uh…excuse me, but you’re going to a warehouse filled with barrels and walking along uneven parking areas. What were they thinking? People in Seattle dress up to go to a business park to taste but they don’t even put forth this much effort to go to the symphony or opera. I just don’t understand it.

Copyright © 2009, Eric Hwang and Bricks of Wine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eric Hwang and Bricks of Wine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Melinda permalink
    April 20, 2009


    Nice write up. I was there both days and this is my 3rd Passport. I agreed wholeheartedly with XSV wines, especially the Syrah. Also the Baer Ursa was excellent. Other highlights for me were Anton Ville Cab Franc and the Adams Bench Cab as well as their “Myth” Blend they were barrel sampling.
    Funny you mentioning the “attire” of some of the crowd. I noticed the same thing, I mean come on are you going to prom? Geesh.


  2. Eric Hwang permalink*
    April 20, 2009

    Thanks. Didn’t make it to Anton Ville but I guess I’ll need to try their Cab Franc sometime. I have some of the Adams Bench Cab in the cellar and tasted their other ones at Taste WA. I didn’t get to taste the barrel samples. I assume it’s good or else you wouldn’t mention it. Maybe at their next release.

    Yeah, riding in a limo doesn’t make one a celeb, nor does it require formal attire. We were not impressed, but rather surprised with the amount of pretentiousness going on.

  3. Sam permalink
    April 23, 2009


    Interesting notes, this was my first Passport event- glad the weather cooperated.

    Couldn’t agree with you more about XSV wines- they are DELICIOUS!!! I’m really looking forward to tasting their 2004 varietals when they release on May 16.

    And I’m always amused watching the intoxicated attempt to walk in heels- great wine, good food, and a show!

  4. Eric Hwang permalink*
    April 23, 2009

    Yes, I plan to be at the release on May 16th. Can’t wait.

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