Another Round at Lecosho

Another Round is a series of posts that takes a look at the wine and drink lists of area restaurants. The series will consider the story that the restaurant will have in the curation of their beverage list. Though the sightglass this week is Seattle’s Lecosho.

Located on the Harbor Steps up from Seattle’s waterfront, Lecosho has been open since September of 2010. With a name that is Chinook for ‘pig’, one would think that it would be a porcine mecca. One would be wrong. While pork is featured, it’s not exactly the driving force. You could say the same for the wine list. It’s not featured on their website and the list itself feels small with only a few dozen bottles in total. Not small, but not large either. But their porchetta is the star of the show and the wine follows in line.

Here is what I gathered from the wine list:

  • White wines range in price from $39-90 a bottle. French and Washington wines dominate the list. Thoughout the list are unique varietals with a hallmark of acidity (always good to balance rich dishes).
  • Red wines are between $35-98 for a bottle. Wines from the Northwest and Italy are prevalent with acidity and fruit-forward flavor profiles as the name of the game.
  • The wine-by-the-glass program has less well known varietals and white wines are priced between $7-10, with reds between $8-13.
  • Sparkling wines are between $47 (for a a half bottle) to $112.

The drink list is also not on their website, but they do feature the Martinez; an under-rated cocktail that is purported to be the precursor the Martini. And it was an excellent cocktail; the balance of the gin with the sweet vermouth offers a beguiling tone.

What the wine list is telling me is that the wines are intended to have acidity and fruit to balance the perceived richness that the menu entails. The goal of any restaurant is to have a pairing between food and wine balance, and that is what Lecosho is trying to do. It’s not exactly an exciting list, but you go to Lecosho for the notion of pork, not for wine.
Lecosho on Urbanspoon

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Wine tasting with Stephen Tanzer – 2012 edition

I’ve had the good fortune of attending the annual wine tasting with the wine reviewer, Stephen Tanzer (of International Wine Cellar and Winophilia). This is the fifth year running where David Hamilton organizes the event, curates the wine with Steve, and invites us wine nerds to a decadent and entertaining night of drinking the best that our region offers. Every year, I have an idea of what to expect, and every year, I come away with something unexpected. The 2012 edition was no different.

What was once a small intimate gathering of like-minded wine drinkers has now opened up to include winemakers and a few more guests. Thankfully, it’s as intimate as a whisper, but as fun as a party. The attendance of winemakers over the years has made for an interesting dynamic; on one hand, you get insight into the style of wine and how they arrive at their bottle destination. On the other hand, there can be some awkwardness when their wine is voted on by those in the room as the most and least favorite. Even in ultra-polite Seattle, sometimes a local winemaker gets some tough love. But what’s great about having the winemakers attend is that you can speak to them as fellow wine drinkers, chat about what excites them, and hear inside information you wouldn’t get from visiting their tasting rooms or reading about their wines. We were fortunate to sit with Sean Boyd of Woodinville Wine Cellars and had a blast while talking about wine, eating good food from the Tom Douglas Restaurant team at the Palace Ballroom, and soaking in the conversation in the room that typifies this annual event. Continue reading

Washington Wine Tasting with Stephen Tanzer

This post first appeared on Seattlest.

Over the last few summers a wine event in Seattle has flown so far under the radar most wine fans don’t know it happens. And just a few weeks ago, it occurred yet again. Stephen Tanzer is one of the more renowned wine reviewers in the world. His International Wine Cellar newsletter (and Winophilia blog) is required reading for winos. In my opinion, he’s part of the big three with Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker. And he’s part of this wine event that happens the past few summers.

I’ve been fortunate to attend these wine tastings. The first was in 2008 at Art of the Table. The theme that year was the five best Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, in Tanzer’s estimation, that Washington can produce. It was a great event which opened my eyes to the capability of our state’s wines. An added benefit was the opportunity to learn from Tanzer, which has been a bonus to every year’s tasting. In 2009, the event was moved to Tom Douglas’ Palace Ballroom. The theme followed suit, but Tanzer added the wrinkle of one of his favorite Syrahs and Cabs from other parts of the world as points of comparison. 2010 focused all Syrah, showcasing the very best that Washington can produce with this Rhone varietal. In attendance were some of the winemakers whose bottles were being poured that evening. A great night to be a wine nerd.

The theme for the 2011 tasting? To shine the light on 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends from Washington. That particular vintage was highlighted because of the class that it showed and also to have some wine with a touch more bottle age. Why Cabernet? To see what this noble grape can do in the vineyards of our state and in the hands of area winemakers. Speaking of those winemakers, they were again in attendance. Always interesting to see the give and take of what Steve tasted, what the winemakers discuss, and how the crowd responds to the wines – all at the same time.

I was familiar with most of the wines; regardless, all of them had me intrigued to see what Steve Tanzer and the event organizer, David Hamilton, had in store for us. What was exciting about the evening was to try all of these wines in an open format with one of the world’s pre-eminent wine critics shepherding us. This was the format of all the past tastings and it made for a rare wine night to learn and try some world class wines.

Here are the wines that were poured in 2011:

The folks that were at the event to represent their wineries were:

  • Bob Betz – Betz Family Winery
  • Chris Upchurch – DeLille Cellars
  • John Abbott – Abeja
  • David Larsen – Soos Creek Wine Cellars
  • Gilles Nicault – Long Shadows
  • Paul Mcbride – Grand Reve Vintners

In going through this horizontal tasting, the first two flights were red blends with a focus on Bordeaux varietals and how they leaned on Cabernet Sauvignon. The last two flights were almost all Cabernet Sauvignon. As we went through the flights we noted that though these wines did have some age, they were still relatively young. One wine in particular was noted as having life through 2030 in its tasting notes. A key to tasting any red wine is to pay attention to the tannins; are they chunky and harsh? Or fine-grained and supple? Tannins are one of the hallmarks of red wine and having a gauge of their context can help in the appreciation of what you’re drinking.

As we went through the flights, I thought back on last year. On Syrah and how this grape shows much promise in Washington. I remembered the high level wine nerd discussion that broke out when the subject of clonal differences came up; how this clone was better than that one. This year, the talk was a bit more straightforward, not quite as geeky, but still plenty nerdy. We discussed the essence of terroir. That magical French notion, where wine exhibits a sense of place and if it exists in Washington. While some of the winemakers say that yes, Washington does have it, but because many of the wines come from grapes across the best vineyards of Eastern Washington, the goal of the best wine is what they aim for.

We also spent time reminiscing on the 2005 vintage. Often considered one of the great recent vintages for Washington, it gave the winemakers grapes to make great wine.  And for most of the winemakers, they spoke fondly as to what Mother Nature gave them and how the conditions were ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon; the Indian summer that year attributed to the structure of the grapes. That 2005 was a vintage where a winemaker could let the grapes shine. One of the things that I consider when tasting wines, can you taste the winemaking? Can you notice the level of oak that went into the wine? As we embarked in tasting, my mind was swimming in how to taste just these components.

Of the wines we had, my personal favorite was the one from Soos Creek Wine Cellars. I didn’t know much about them going into the evening, but it was an elegant and beguiling Bordeaux-style blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 18% Cabernet Franc. The tannins were like sand with a mid-palate of dried fruits and a rich and fulfilling finish. This wine was great. Even better was that it was unexpected. I’ll be keeping my eye on Soos Creek and the other offerings from David Larsen.

The other winethat stood out to me (note – all of the wines were very good, some just resonated with me that evening more than others) was the Betz ‘Le Parrain‘. We learned from Bob Betz that ‘Le Parrain’ means Godfather, and they don’t make it that often (once in the last 15 years) and this vintage fit the bill to make it. I also really enjoyed the offerings from Januik, Chateau Rollat and Leonetti Cellar. Who am I kidding? All were good.

One of my favorite moments of these dinners is learning about the up-and-coming wineries in Steve Tanzer’s estimation. It was at the event in 2008 where he told us about Corliss Estates. When he was telling us about Corliss Estates, most in the room never heard about it. Now wine nerds all know about this Walla Walla winery. Here are the wineries that Tanzer was particularly impressed by in his recent visit: Kerloo Cellars, Tulpen Cellars (for their Sangiovese), Saviah Cellars, Sleight of Hand Cellars (although their labels leave a lot to be desired), Den Hoed Wine Estates, Eight Bells Winery (particularly the Syrah), Obelisco Estate, Woodinville Wine Cellars, Efeste (white wines were showing particularly well), and Gorman Winery (their best vintage to date). I wonder what Steve’s thought is of Figgins, the new bottle from Figgins Family Wine?

What was exciting and exasperating about this tasting is the exclusivity and scarcity of these wines. It was an honor to be able to taste the high caliber of wines, and exasperating in that they are all probably impossible to get at retail. We’re probably setting sail into the world of wine auctions and the like on eBay, I have no idea how that will work out. So good luck finding any of these.

Key takeaways from that evening; we drank a lot of great wine. The 2005 vintage provides a barometer for how great Washington wines can be. The 2008 vintage is very exciting and quite good. The price and value of Washington wines is amazing. Soos Creek was my winner for the evening. But all of the wines were very good, and some a part of the status of Washington’s new cult wines. And now I’m looking forward to the 2012 edition of this epic wine tasting.

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The quagmire of Washington Wine Month

From the Washington Wine Commission's Facebook page

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

We’re into the second week of August and summer (by Seattle standards) has settled into a groove. Seafair is over. Bumbershoot is right around the corner. On the beverage front, we’re enjoying rose, sparkling wine, and lighter fare to match the breezy notion of the season. But as August is upon us, our focus goes to Washington Wine, which is what we’re led to believe. August is Washington Wine Month, so deemed by the Governor and the State Liquor Control Board. Or is it March? The folks at the Washington Wine Commission say March is Washington Wine Month. Therein lies the trickiness; can one state have two wine months?

Washington does in fact have two wine months. Both deemed as such by rather large and influential groups. And it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. Both factions have been entrenched with touting their months for the last few years. I do wonder why these two groups don’t convene to iron out which month is actually the one. I suppose having two wine months isn’t a bad thing; having more chances to celebrate and drink homegrown wine isn’t awful by drinking or marketing standards. And as we’re knee deep in August, the Washington Liquor & Spirits stores are ringing in the month by having specials on Washington wine. The catchy marketing slogan they are going with is ‘A Fine Time for Washington Wine‘. Here’s more info on the discounts involved.

For context, the March version of Washington Wine Month is more event-oriented than the August rendition. Wine shops and restaurants host dinners featuring Washington wines and wineries, and the headliner event is the grand tasting for Taste Washington. Seattlest went to the tasting this past spring, which is a part of a culmination of seminars, trade tastings, and dinners that put their spotlight on Washington Wine.

There you have it, we have two months among twelve to celebrate Washington wine. While the August version of Washington Wine Month doesn’t have the pomp and circumstance as the March version, it’s a notable effort to bring our state’s eleven American Viticultural Areas/appellations to the forefront for the second time this year. Afterall, budget cuts forced out the Washington Tourism office this year, let’s help support the Washington wine industry by buying local and drinking local. Enjoy Washington Wine Month this month, and when we begin March, we can do it all over again.

Washington’s burgeoning cult wines

This post originally appeared on Seattlest.

Cult wines. Ask wine people their thoughts on them and you’ll get divisive opinions. On one hand, you have wines of high vineyard quality, scarcity, and prestige. On the other, you have wines that are absurdly expensive, nigh impossible to get, and carry a snob level that is only matched by those that regularly read the Robb Report. So this recent article from local wine writer Paul Gregutt is an interesting shift on the notion of cult wines. The tenet is this: The main principles of cult wines and how the scarcity, high quality, allure, etc, can all be attained by delving into the world of Washington wines.

How did the market land at this nexus of bottles of wine that fetch $300 (and more) which are often more suited for collectors than consumers? How it started is debatable, but one of the first of the notable cult wineries mentioned is Napa’s Screaming Eagle. In the early ’90’s, the folks behind Screaming Eagle released a wine with high quality grapes, but low case quantities which received high scores from wine writers. Now, people go out of their way to acquire them and often spend time searching for the next cult winery. Cult wines are often a California thing as a number of their wineries sport this status. Other California cult wineries of note are Harlan Estates, Shafer, Sine Qua Non, and Opus One. In the case of Opus One, they are so revered that Jay-Z has namechecked them.

Ever since breaking into the market, Washington’s wine industry is always on the upswing. With a growing number of wineries, high quality vineyards, and talented winemakers, Washington is consistently poised to set their worldwide mark on the industry. Some feel that Washington is the next great wine region. And in Gregutt’s article, he used Washington wine to tweak the notion of how cult wines are perceived. Instead of thinking of them as difficult to obtain, he thinks of Washington wine as easier to get a hold of and not something for collectors. This speaks to the quality of Washington wine and it’s limited quantity by means of emerging producers, but not a purposeful mandate to produce a cult wine.

Access is one of the nice things that Washington wineries have going for them. While some may have closed mailing lists, they still want to get their wine into the hands of consumers, so they work hard on distribution – a little clever Internet searching and you can likely find most anything. An added bonus to high-end Washington wines? They won’t be as expensive as those in the Screaming Eagle and Harlan fold. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap either.

Washington wines entering the mindshare of the new cult start that leap to mind are Quilceda Creek and Leonetti Cellars. They are often the standard bearers and in the case of Leonetti, starting a second label that draws upon its initial success. But there are other wines in our state that can place in the new cult: Abeja, Gramercy Cellars, Cayuse, Corliss, Long Shadows, and Rasa. All can be found at your local wine shop. This is exactly the advantage about this new cult that Paul Gregutt envisions; high quality wines can not only be found without having to empty the wallet, relatively speaking.

Enjoy searching for the next great Washington wine. Who knows, you may have the next Screaming Eagle in your cellar.

Seattle Wine Outlet’s new rooftop deck

This Sunday is the ‘Deck Warming Party’ for the Seattle Wine Outlet’s Interbay location. The Seattle Wine Outlet has long been a resource to score deals on wines from all over the world. But it also hosts classes and tastings, along with an upstairs room for private events. If you’ve ever been upstairs you know that it has access to a rather spacious deck. Prior to this Sunday, the deck wasn’t used for anything in particular. That has now changed as you can use the rooftop for events or to sip on vino or some noshes. Hopefully under the mercurial Seattle sun.

Richard Kinssies’ Interbay Seattle Wine Outlet is the largest of his three spots. The original, in SoDo, was the first and went through a remodel a few years back. Greenlake Wines is the newest one with more of a neighborhood wine bar feel. Interbay, with their new deck gives another reason to go. If not for the deck, visit for the various roast parties they host through the year. To tally them, they’ve had salmon roasts, lamb roasts, pig roasts, and wurst roasts.

For a fun excursion this Sunday, from 12-5pm, the Interbay Seattle Wine Outlet will be cutting the ribbon and celebrating their new rooftop deck. There will be food off the grill and wine deals to compliment. The three bottles that are priced to sell are an OR Pinot Noir ($7/bottle), Italian Gavi from Piedmont (3/$12), and a NZ Sauvignon Blanc (3/$12). Wine al fresco? I think there is a place for that in Seattle.

How to tick off a wine snob; ice cubes in wine

This post originally appeared on Seattlest

There are a host of faux pas that one can make when it comes to wine. Drinking wine too warm (or too cold). Storing bottles in too warm of a place. Keeping bottles in your car (don’t do this). Confusing your Cabernet Sauvignon from your Sauvignon Blanc. But there is perhaps none worse than putting ice cubes in wine. Or so I thought.

Before we get to the moment where I took pause with putting ice cubes in a glass of wine, let’s delve into why this is bad form.

Would you ever consider putting ice cubes in milk? Beer? Orange juice? Of course not, it’s weird. The additional frozen water just expedites the process of watering down your beverage. And watered down wine isn’t a good thing. It dilutes the flavor and thins out whatever nuance the wine has to begin with. Additionally, it’ll bring down the temperature a bit too quickly. Wine is intended to be served at room temperature, but note that this was room temperature from ancient times. The modern room temperature of 72 degrees is deemed too warm. Wine academics would prefer that wine is served about 12-15 degrees south of that.

But some folks still like putting ice cubes in wine. While there is nothing wrong with it, it’s not exactly suggested practice. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that superstar chef (and Seattle’s own) Mario Batali adds ice cubes to his wine. But, Le Grande Orange does it a bit differently and he certainly ‘chefs’ it up. According to the folks at Grub Street, he makes a light simple syrup and squeezes some fruit juice in it before freezing the concoction as ice cubes. And then he adds it to Rosé. How about that? While this isn’t exactly an ice cube (it’s more of a light popsicle), it does the same thing as ice; it lowers the temperature and dilutes the wine’s flavor. Mario just does it differently and amps it with fruit juice and simple syrup. His noted celebrity chef status simply makes the whole thing sound plausible, so plausible that I even tried it.

In the end, while I’m not an advocate for ice cubes in wine, you have an option. But please don’t add ice cubes to red wine. If you really want to do that, make sangria.