Seattle’s urban wine scene is growing with new wineries and tasting rooms popping up all over our city. As curious Seattleites, we wanted to investigate the scene and taste the bounty in order to suggest wine for you to try.
To that end, we recently went on an urban winery crawl in Seattle’s Sodo district and visited Waters Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. Both are Walla Walla wineries, but both opened tasting rooms in Seattle in order to attract more people, more often. Given that Walla Walla is a 5 hour drive from Seattle, I say thank you!
Both winemakers, Jamie Brown of Waters Winery, and Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand, are really into music. And both make stylistically distinct wines. But that is where the similarities end as their styles are wildly different. Lucky for us, we found a variety of wines that each tribe can love. Before you read any further, be sure to take our nifty quiz to find your tribe and unlock recommendations from others who share your same preferences.
Jamie Brown is an icon in the Washington wine scene. He has mentored a number of young Washington winemakers and through his travels, has furthered the acceptance of Washington wines. Stylistically his wines can be described as food friendly, slightly acidic and fruity, though never jammy. Our tasters dug his wines across the board. But while all were great, there were clear stand outs by tribe.
The Old Stones 2012 Syrah ($50) was a hit, particularly with the Balanced Tribe (and it was the runner up for the Developed Tribe). The grapes for this wine come from the “Rocks District” which is in the Walla Walla Valley AVA, right across the Washington border in Oregon. The Rocks District is known for its Syrah and after tasting this wine we understand why. These grapes, put into Brown’s hands, yielded scents of black fruit, pepper and burnt toast (“in a good way” one taster noted). The wine tasted like it was infused with rich spices with hints of warm berries bathed in brown sugar and smoke, reminding one taster of “ripe cherries marinating in woodchips”. Sounds weird, but it was delicious.
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) was a winner with the Developed Tribe (and the second favorite of the Complex Tribe). This wine is made with grapes from Cold Creek Vineyard, owned by Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle. They don’t share their grapes with many other winemakers, in fact Brown is one of 2 winemakers with access and its a good thing because this wine was dynamite. Scents of blackberry, vanilla and a hint of fresh grass got people excited even before trying the wine; “smells perfect” noted one taster. And its rich, smooth tastes of cooked plum, dark chocolate and cedar smoke was “amazeballs!”
21 Grams is a collaboration between Waters Winery and Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura, blending the best of Washington wine along with globally inspired art. The 2011 21 Grams, a red blend primarily composed of Cabernet was the favorite of the Complex Tribe. Not surprisingly this was a complex wine, with aromas of leather, spice (one taster even detected patchouli), cocoa powder and a hint of barnyard. Tasters loved the heft, the smoothness and tastes of cherries covered in dark chocolate and tar. This one generated comments like “full bodied without being heavy” and “distressingly quaffable”. At $125 a bottle it probably isn’t your go to choice for quaffing but if you want to impress your Complex friends, this is the wine in which to do it. And the wine’s beautiful label, designed by Fujimura, adds to the wine’s stature.
Sleight of Hand
Sleight of Hand is a winery inspired by music and whimsy with a strong winemaking vision led by Trey Busch. Interestingly “funk” is a word that popped up in many tasters’ notes (“funk” as in hints of smoke, barnyard and dirt). You know you are drinking something that came from the earth when you are drinking a Sleight of Hand Wine.
The 2014 Magician is a Riesling that was preferred by the Accessible Tribe. This is a pretty wine with aromas of pineapple, green apple and a hint of petrol which is typical of a Riesling. This light wine had tastes of tropical fruit, green apple and Orange Crush. It was sweet but not overwhelming, light on the palate and would be perfect for summer porch sitting. And at $18 a bottle it won’t break the bank.
The Balanced and Developed Tribes preferred the 2014 The Sorceress ($60) which is 100% Grenache. Tasters dug the scents of smoke, burnt sugar, citronella candle, and yes, funk. They liked the wine’s smoothness and tastes of smoky cherry, cedar, wet dirt and marionberry pie.
And finally, the Complex Tribe’s favorite wine was the 2014 Psychedelic Syrah ($60). This wine makes no apologies for its bigness and it isn’t afraid of being funky. Smells of barnyard, burnt popcorn and smoke reveal tastes of black fruit, dark chocolate and olive tapenade. Tasters commented on its smoothness and gave it a big thumbs up. It is also the only wine that has ever elicited comments from multiple tasters wanting to “drink it while sitting by the campfire all night long”. Only 14 barrels of this wine are made and are only distributed via Sleight of Hand.
And that my friends is one of the best reasons to get out to your local tasting rooms and wineries. You tend to get better pricing and you always get more selection than at your local grocery store or bottle shop.