Friday, March 23, 2018

Seattle: Where Purple is more than a colour, and where one of the great Cabernets on the planet lives.

Spent this past weekend in Seattle, where our main purpose of the trip was to pick up our wine order from Quilceda Creek, one of Washington State's best producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-based blends. We were on the waiting list for about a year and a half before we finally started to get allocations of their terrific products about 3 years ago.

But, we'll get to that. We were picking up our wine on Sunday, and we were heading down on Friday morning, so we had the better part of 2 days to explore the city. We spent our time on Friday at the Woodland Park Zoo, a nice little zoo that reminded me a bit of the Stanley Park Zoo before it's closure in 1996.

The animals here sure seem chill.

I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, marijuana IS legal here.

Before I go any further, I have to talk about our Hotel. We stayed at Loews Seattle 1000, and it was simply sublime. I cannot recommend it enough if you are staying in Downtown Seattle. The staff could not have possibly been more friendly or helpful, our room was spacious and comfortable, the food we had delivered to our room for breakfast each day was terrific, and the ice. Oh, the ice. No need to trample down a hallway with your champagne bucket to fill it up with ice cubes, while spilling them all over the floor, as happens in most hotels. Not here.

That is the ice centre, right outside the elevator, where you just reach in and take all the pre-packaged ice you want. Oh, and if that is just too difficult for you, they will deliver ice to your room, 24 hours a day, free of charge. I almost wanted to test it out, just to see if I could call room service and order ice without breaking out in laughter.

Saturday we spent wandering and shopping, including several hours at the Pike Place Market. I can't believe it took me almost 49 years to get there. For those of you who have never been there, I'd describe it as Granville Island on steroids. We had a fantastic time there and will definitely be back.

For Saturday night's dinner, we decided to check out Purple Café and Wine Bar, which had been recommended to me a couple years ago. The wine list did not disappoint; in fact, it's so big it would be logistically impossible to digest it all.

Think I'm exaggerating?

So although you can get a bottle of just about any wine from just about any wine producing country in the world, they also offer a tremendous portfolio of wines by the glass (or, the half-glass). We took advantage of the 'half-glass' option to sample a bunch of wines, mostly at their recommendation. They take great pride in their food and wine pairings, so we stuck with those and took exactly what they suggested would go with our food. And, outside of one awful Sherry, we enjoyed every single one of them.

The food itself was very good; not transcendent or anything, but very good. After starting our meal with a tasty charcuterie plate, my wife ordered a salad which she enjoyed very much, except that it had "too much bacon". I am sure I have never typed that phrase before (and am positive my wife has never uttered it!!!), so you can imagine how much bacon must have been on that salad.

My steak was cooked perfectly, accompanied by some delicious roasted potatoes and something I have never eaten before: collared greens. They were....fine....I guess. I know you can find those in Canada if you look hard enough, but they are just one of those things that Americans love that we never really embraced.

Anyway, on to the wine!

Since everything we drank at Purple was in half-glasses or wine flights, I have no clue about the prices for a bottle. I've given my best guess based on Internet info.

Vina Reboreda 2016 Godello ($15ish USD? from Spain)

Sweet aromas of stone fruit, red apple, pear and white flowers. Apple and quince dominate the palate, which shows well-balanced acidity and a medium finish. Tasty, and my first experience with the Godello grape.

Calmel & Joseph 2012 Minervois ($16CAD? from France - Languedoc)
50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan

Aromas of black plum, bergemot and white pepper. Blackberry, cassis and pepper on the palate. Medium finish.

Louis Antoine Luyt 2014 Clos Ouvert la Grande Vie Carmenere ($35CADish? from Chile)
Intense green olive notes, with herbs and earth as well on the nose. Little to no fruit comes through on the nose, as it's clearly being saved for the palate. Black fruit, cherry cola and a touch of spice and earth. Medium finish, which is the only thing keeping it from a higher score....but lovely nonetheless.

 Now, onto a flight of Syrah, all from Washington State:

Eight Bells 2013 'Red Willow Vineyard, 8 Clones' Syrah ($42USD from website)
Funky mushroom, forest floor, raspberry jam, charcuterie and smoke on the nose. Blueberry flavors overwhelm the palate at first, soon joined by blackberry, cherry and espresso. Lovely.

Amavi 2014 Syrah ($33 USD from website)

Less intense nose than the above, with red cherry and plum showing. Cassis, eucalyptus, olive and fig on the palate. Lovely, long finish.

Gorman Winery 2012 'Behind the Black Curtain' Reserve Syrah ($80USD from website, wine club only)
Aromas of blueberry jam, mint and just a touch of white pepper. Dark berries, earth, fig and clove on the palate. Nice, but it left me wanting more for some reason; perhaps this one just needs more time in the bottle.

At this point, we were done with food but decided to try a "sweet white" flight, and we added on a Sauternes for good measure. The first sample of the Sauternes was oxidized, which my wife recognized immediately. They were happy to replace it with a much better one.

Elvo Tintero 2016 'Sori Gramella' Moscato ($18ish? Moscato d'Asti, Italy)
Strong aromas of guava, lychee and honeycomb. Flavors are intense and delightful; melon, perfume, and even pineapple. Very pleasing.

August Kessler 2015 'R' Kabinett Riesling ($14.99USD from - Pfalz, Germany)

Slight notes of petrol, mostly pineapple, on the nose. Honeydew, apricot, peach and pineapple flavors. Decent enough, but a far cry from our favorite Kabinetts.

Clos De Nouys 2014 'Demi-Sec' Chenin Blanc (Vouvray, France)

Light aromas of papaya. The palate brings more, with papaya, pear, ginger, Granny Smith apple flavors mixing in. This was my first "sweet" Chenin Blanc, which wasn't really sweet at all. Off-dry, at best.
Chateau Raymond-Lafon 2006 Sauternes ($30ish? Sauternes, France)
Aromas of caramel, honeysuckle, papaya and creme brulée. The palate is viscous and impressive, flavors of honeysuckle, lemon curd and banana. Really tasty, but still a far cry from some of the greats from this region.

All that wine, charcuterie and 2 meals, and a very nice tip to our outstanding server, and our bill was under $300 CANADIAN, even after AMEX's inflated F/X rate. Very fair.

On Sunday, we went to our event at Quilceda Creek, where appetizers and dessert were served along with sample of 2 wines; their entry-level Bordeaux-style blend, and their most-lauded wine, their Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 vintage received a perfect 100-point score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. I have yet to see any scores for this, the 2015 vintage, but from what I hear (and was about to taste), it should be a very comparable vintage.

Quilceda Creek 2015 CVR ($42 USD from winery)

81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

Arresting aromas of black fruit, blueberry, smoke and a touch of spice. Blackberry, cherry, blueberry, mocha and smoke on the palate, framed with impressive minerality. For their entry-level product, this is just wonderful.

Quilceda Creek 2015 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($140 USD from winery)

It's almost unfair to your nose to present it with these aromas and then take them away. Cocoa, toasted coconut, forest floor, violets, black fruit.....they seemingly go on forever. The warmest growing season in Washington State history brings us a wine of unparalleled power, grace and finesse. Blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, tobacco, dried herbs, minerals, dark chocolate...the flavors just keep coming. At this stage of it's life, so young and impressionable, I'd recommend a nice, long decant if you just can't wait. This should age gracefully for two decades. Breathtaking.

That's all folks! Next up, I'm in the process of preparing a random entry of stuff we've been enjoying lately, with a special report on several pricey Chardonnays from new BC winery, Checkmate!

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