Woodinville's Efeste Wines

I've seen Efeste (pronounced F-S-T) at a good number of wine events and tastings, and I've even met the very nice, and very well regarded winemaker, Brennon Leighton a few times as well. And yet, somehow, I hadn't tasted their wine until relatively recently. When I realized that I had neglected that particular area of my wine education, I said to myself (in a Scottish accent like the Uncle Argyle of a young William Wallace), "Well that is something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?" Off I went to Efeste for a visit.

Efeste is located in the blossoming Woodinville Warehouse district, set slightly apart from the main thoroughfare. While the exterior is constrained by the warehouse in which it's located, the inside is a beautiful and modern tasting room. There is a $10 tasting fee (which Efeste waived, thanks, guys!), a nice bar, casual dining space, and some comfortable furniture. Towards the back of the space, Efeste has installed a series of windows that allow you to see into the production area.

Efeste's first vintage came out in 1995 under the direction of Delille Cellars' Chris Upchurch. From there, Upchurch recommended Brennon Leighton and the winery has been moving forward under his direction since 2007.

Brennon wasn't around when I showed up but I spoke with owners and bartenders, Dan & Patrick, who led me through their current releases. We started out with one of the most talked-about Efeste wine, the Feral, a Sauvignon Blanc. The Feral is produced using all natural fermentation, 100% neutral oak, and all indigenous yeast. This Sauvignon Blanc has a stony quality to it that I find unique; the native fermentation process makes it a bit less refined, and frankly, refreshing. This wine is definitely not your run of the mill Sauv Blanc, but is absolutely something you should try.

As we drank through their wines, Dan told me some of the stories that go along with the names of the wines, and the imagery on the label. Efeste can be a confusing name for the uninitiated, and people tend to over-pronounce it, and the the label is interesting albeit confusing. The pronounciaton is "F-S-T," the initials of the owners, but there are stories everywhere else.

Australia played a substantial role in Efeste's labeling and naming. The image on the label is the Aboriginal symbol for kangaroo, which are all over the place down under. Their Syrah, the Ceidleigh (pronounced "Kaylee"), is named after a waitress they met in Australia's Barossa Valey. The '07 Ceidleigh was a 93 pointer and is made using Red Mountain fruit. The wine is big and full and has the nuances you expect in a Red Mountain Syrah.

While I think my favorite wine was the Feral, my favorite story was about their Babbit Rose. They've been making the Rose for a few years, and it's named after a family friend who has since passed away, Dick Babitt. Every time they'd go out fishing or have a party, Dick would always bring along his box of White Zinfandel. When they decided to start making a pink wine, they knew they had to acknowledge their old friend.

Head out to Efeste so you can taste some excellent wine made in a way that respects tradition and the wine making process, and that pairs well with fascinating back stories.