One of Seattle's newest wine bars is 106 Pine, where their motto is "Fresh Finds, Local Wines," and much of what they feature comes out of the nearby Pike Place Market. While that is reason enough to check them out, as of January 2, 2010, they're also offering a Urban Wine Tour on Saturdays at 2pm. Shannon Borg, the beverage manager, invited me to come join them on their inaugural trip. Given that it was advertised as a three hour tour, I was a little nervous!
Shannon is the wine writer for Seattle Magazine and has really come to develop a relationship with the wines and wine industry of Washington. She sees her role at 106 Pine as a way to give back to Washington wine and showcase the work of those she's known and worked with for so long. Though this first tour was a dress rehearsal with the owners and staff of The Chocolate Box and 106 Pine, it quickly became evident that Shannon was going to make an excellent guide. It was immediately apparent that she knows a lot about wine; I mean a lot.
The tour kicked off at the facilities at 106 Pine with a sparkling wine made by Masquerade, the Effervescing Elephant. It was a very well made Washington sparkling wine that Shannon paired with a chevre from Idaho's Rollingstone Creamery. As we tasted, Shannon explained the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne, along with the traditional "methode champenoise."
We piled into a bus-like van and made our way to Ward Johnson Winery. On the way Shannon explained the state of the Washington Wine industry and the role that Prohibition played in the industry's rebirth in the '70s. Kurt Johnson was there to greet us and to pour their Counterbalance Chardonnay, which will be featured at 106 Pine. Kurt told the tour-goers how he and Charlie, his brother got started in the basement of their mother's house in Richland, Washington.
Shannon and Kurt talked about the Counterbalance Chardonnay's high acidity and fruit characteristics, which make it stand out in the Chardonnay land of butter and oak. Shannon paired the Ward Johnson Chardonnay with the Cirrus, an amazing and highly recommended Camembert style cheese from Mt. Townshend Creamery.
From there we went a few short blocks down Elliot to The Wine Outlet. The Wine Outlet is owned by the guru of Washington Wine in Seattle, Richard Kinssies. Richard has been here from the beginning of the rebirth of Washington Wine. Richard gave us a run down of the history of his role in Washington Wine, and then shared with a JW Bridgman Viognier based blend ($7) that he blended himself. He explained the philosophy behind the Outlet: he won't sell a wine he can't get his customers a deal on. From the Voignier we transitioned to a '06 Northwest Totem Cellars Longhouse Syrah (a steal at $15). Shannon paired this wine with the Barolo and Tartufo salamis, cured meat from Creminelli.
Our final destination was in Sodo, the neighborhood that surrounds Seattle's sports stadiums. Our van pulled up at 85 Atlantic Artisan Vintners, where we were greeted by Jim of Sodo Vino and Judy of Falling Rain. Jim talked to us about the cooperative wine operation that they had running out of 85 Atlantic, and explained that as an urban winemaker, he works in Seattle because they want to be where the wine buyers are. He touched on the role the barrel plays in imparting flavor to the wine. To wrap up our visit to 85 Atlantic, Judy treated us to the highlight of the tour, a barrel tasting of two of her Merlots; one from Clifton Hills vineyards and one from Stone Ridge. Judy will eventually blend these in her Falling Rain releases.
Once the tours get underway, they'll conclude the tour with a chocolate and dessert wine pairing back at 106 Pine and wrap up in time for you to enjoy happy hour at 106 Pine. Tours are planned for every Saturday, and tickets will be $50. I'd call it a deal, particularly for those new to wine. The barrel tasting alone will be worth the price of admission, and you'll leave knowing much more about wine than when you arrived.