Year of the Grape

The juice from Washington’s vineyards’ peak 2005 season is hitting shelves now.

By Chris S. Nishiwaki June 1, 2009 Published in the October 2007 issue of Seattle Met

TWO THOUSAND FIVE was a very good year. Across the state, and across varietals, Washington grapes were wonderfully small at maturity, yielding complex, concentrated flavors. Due to long hang times, they also boast deep, ripe tannins. Bob Betz, the winemaker behind Betz Family Winery in Redmond and one of only about 260 sippers worldwide awarded the prestigious Master of Wine credentials in the last 50 years, rates 2005 “the best in my 30 years in the wine industry.” Winemakers across the state agree; many of them used their best ’05 barrels for reserve cuvées, wines so distinct they are bottled only during outstanding vintages. Most of those prestigious bottles have already gone to the fanatics who subscribe to the wineries’ mailing lists, but there are plenty of top-notch wines from this top-notch year available now at local retailers.

Cadence Bel Canto $55 This Bordeaux-style blend of 50 percent cabernet franc, 42 percent merlot, and 8 percent petit verdot is luxury in a bottle. Tight, smooth, and soft, Bel Canto’s complex layers express notes of eucalyptus, tar, and tobacco balanced by Northwest berries and hints of Fran’s chocolate truffles. It’s a wine worth polishing the silver for; serve it with a rack of lamb.
McCarthy & Schiering, 2401B Queen Anne Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-282-8500. 6500 Ravenna Ave NE, Ravenna, 206-524-9500;

Betz Family Winery La Serenne $50 Made of syrah grapes sourced exclusively from Boushey Vineyard, La Serenne has a finesse and elegance that steps lightly across every part of the palate. Think of it as a beautiful woman with a very full dance card. Stylistically, La Serenne is in direct contrast to another of the 2005 Betz syrahs, the powerful La Côte Rousse. Serve either Betz syrah with roasted game this autumn.
Esquin Wine Merchants, 2700 Fourth Ave S, SoDo, 206-682-7374;

O-S Winery Petit Verdot, Meek Vineyard, Yakima Valley $45 Winemaker Bill Owen commutes daily from rural Vashon Island to his winery in industrial South Park, and this petit verdot will convince you that he brings a bit of the country to the city. Starting with scents of Grandma’s cherry pie on the windowsill and leading to a juicy-as-a-peach midpalate before finishing with a citrusy and refreshing acidity reminiscent of lemonade, this is an urban wine begging for county fair “Best in Show” barbecued spare ribs.
Metropolitan Market, 100 Mercer St, Queen Anne, 206-284-2530;

Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul $45 The varietals and terroir of this blend conspire to make it the steakhouse of wines: The cab franc’s tobacco nose is the cigar box; the muscular tannins, courtesy of the heat that beats down on Ciel du Cheval’s vineyard, is the aged meat; and the easygoing merlot provides the white-tablecloth atmosphere. Pair it with—what else?—locally raised filet mignon. Supplies are very limited, so look for it now at your favorite steakhouse or pick up a bottle at City Cellars.
City Cellars Fine Wines, 1710 N 45th St, Wallingford, 206-632-7238;

Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills $55 The most complete of the ’05 Andrew Will single-vineyard red blends, this one brings together 45 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc, and 5 percent petit verdot. Eucalyptus, pine needles, rosemary, and bing cherries tickle the nose, and blackberries and currants seduce the palate. Its firm structure promises to make it the most age-worthy of the 2005 Andrew Will single-vineyard releases. The winery’s Sorella will be released in February.
Pete’s Wines, 58 E Lynn St, Eastlake, 206-322-2660. 134 105th Ave NE, Bellevue, 425-454-1100;

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