Several wineries are creating events personalized to our tastes. These innovators are bringing what we crave: an experience we can get no place else.
TASTING ROOMS are so last millennium.
Wine festivals? Our cupboards are jammed with logo’d glasses … Wine-appreciation classes? Meh.
Seems we can’t help ourselves; we’re always looking for a new experience, another level of understanding, something that puts the sizzle back in our love affair with wine.
But we don’t need to rub shoulders with the Napa Valley elite, not when we can have it better in our beloved Pacific Northwest.
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Fortunately, several wineries are creating events personalized to our tastes. These innovators are bringing what we crave: an experience we can get no place else.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars — “ANC” to fans — is charging forward like few others. Owners Ali and Jarrod Boyle have always been about creating something unusual, something to talk about. At their tasting rooms in Woodinville and Prosser, they have special wine-club rooms hidden behind walls that slide open “Get Smart” style. They capped their wine club at 2,000 members because they didn’t want to get so large that they couldn’t give people a great experience.
Now they’ve hired Frank Magaña — one of Washington’s most innovative wine-country chefs — to lead a culinary program that is changing the way we think about wine, food and how we spend our leisure time.
“The marriage between wine and food is a beautiful thing,” says Jarrod Boyle. “We’re creating an experience, not just selling a product.” That’s crucial, he says, because so many great wines are out there, you need to do more.
Want to attend a wine dinner at ANC? Magaña does them on both sides of the Cascades, and they sell out in hours. Same with his cooking classes.
How about a gourmet dinner in your home or, better yet, at the estate Destiny Ridge Vineyard overlooking the Columbia River as the sun sets behind ancient basalt cliffs? What if you could invite a dozen of your friends? What if you could walk through Magaña’s half-acre estate garden as he shows you how to select the ripest tomatoes, cradle the perfect bell pepper or pick the juiciest melons? You’ll discover that food tastes best when it’s straight from the farm and you can feel the soil that grew it. And the wines, made from grapes grown a few yards away, taste so magical as you sip and reflect.
This might just turn into one of the best three hours of your life.
Let’s make it a cooking class instead. Same scenario, but you learn how to caramelize Walla Walla sweet onions, deglaze a pan with ANC’s estate verjus or concoct the perfect beurre blanc.
Like to learn how to make the most delicate sorbet using ice wine and fresh Yakima Valley raspberries?
Sushi, paella, salmon, steak, squid ink risotto cakes — it doesn’t matter to Magaña. The Tacoma native can handle them all, and he’ll do it with ingredients fresh from a local farm.
Sound fancy? It is. Expensive? Not really. In fact, none of this costs much more than a meal at one of Seattle’s finer restaurants. Including the wine pairings, it might run $75 to $90 per person.
Not bad for an experience like no other.
Andy Perdue is editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.