Ask anyone in Seattle for directions to the center of the universe and they'll inevitably point you in the direction of the Fremont neighborhood. Not only is it the center of the universe, it's also home to Seattle's newest urban winery, 509 wines.
Gwynne and I both had a long week and we were looking for a diversion on a Friday night, so I suggested we head over the 509 tasting room. When we arrived, we were pleased to find light appetizers and free tastings to celebrate the end of the week. The tasting room is an airy, open space with a long bar made from reclaimed wood. Thoughtful touches like candles from recycled wine bottles and under-bar purse hooks impressed. Stacey started us out with the '08 Viognier ($18), which we have at home but haven't yet opened. It was very nice wine, with light floral and fruit notes. The Viognier is sourced from Columbia Valley fruit and is made in stainless (with minimal time in oak barrels before release). The result is a bright, balanced wine with a smooth finish. This is definitely a wine we'll look forward to opening soon.
Just as Stacey finished pouring the Syrah, Kevin Conroy, the man behind 509, walked in. We got to talking while we drank the Syrah and Kevin told us that 509 got started in his garage in Edmonds, when, together with his brother-in-law Mike Blom, he decided to make a bit of wine for friends and family. After that first batch, there was no turning back. The grape sourcing and craftsmanship led to an amazing wine and their friends insisted they make another batch...and another. Six vintages later, it can all be traced back to that first batch of Merlot.
The Syrah ($25) is a Walla Walla sourced wine that's very pretty in the glass with beautiful glossy plum coloring. The taste is a classic Washington Syrah; black pepper, dark cherries, and balanced tannins. Intriguing echoes of cocoa rounded out the taste and made this wine one to pick up soon.
While the Merlot was what propelled them from the garage to where they are today, 509 has been sold out of their Merlot and Cabernet for the last two years. Luckily for us, Kevin had a bottle of that sold out '05 Merlot behind the bar and very kindly opened it for us. It was velvet in the glass with a nose of tobacco, leather and cherries. Smooth and balanced tannins with toasted oak, blackberries, coffee and chocolate made it remarkably easy to see how this wine got the 509 ball rolling.
In terms of varietals, 509 Wines' current plans are to stay with the two Rhone style varietals and add a Syrah-based blend for their next release. Kevin also shared a little about an upcoming Syrah-based Rose and he even gave us a preview of the Naked Cyclist, Cotes du Fremont label. It's brilliant.
It was a well-rounded good time at 509 and our conversation bounced from wine to bicycle racing. Kevin, who has a day job as the founder of Blue Rooster also sponsors a bicycle team. He showed me the new team kit for Blue Rooster in 2010 and I talked to him about the team I ride for, Motofish Racing. We finished off the night, and the rest of that Merlot, discussing Steven Seagal, Law Man on A&E.
509 wines currently has their tasting room facilities and offices in Fremont on Stone Way, right next to the Burke Gilman trail. They're going to move the production of white wine there in 2010, followed eventually by the reds. They have Friday evening tasting hours right now, so if you're in Seattle, what are you waiting for? Get down there. The wine is fantastic and the conversation could go anywhere.