Held during the annual Auction of Washington Wines, this high-profile event features the best of the barrels.
IF ONE WERE to fashion an All-Star Game for the Washington wine industry, it might just be the Private Barrel Auction during the annual Auction of Washington Wines in August.
The Private Barrel Auction includes exclusive lots from Washington luminaries such as Woodward Canyon Winery, DeLille Cellars, Col Solare, Seven Hills Winery and Reynvaan Family Vineyards. Each participating winery produces small amounts of high-end wine. Typically, only five cases, always select grapes from the best vineyards, crafted with care using the best oak barrels and cutting-edge techniques — sometimes, using grapes not normally associated with the participating winery (Quilceda Creek syrah, anyone?).
At this year’s event, 31 Washington wineries are featured, up from 20 last year. Buyers from across the country will be in attendance. Last year’s event raised $137,000, all of which went to Washington State University to fund research at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland. This is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: More research leads to better Washington wine, so it is in the industry’s best interest to fund the future with some of its best wines.
Two to try
Here are two examples of wines made specifically for Washington’s Private Barrel Auction. The wines are available through the buyer.
Canvasback 2017 Auction 2, Lot 7, cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain: Savory aromas of Provence spices, roasted meat, plump plum, maple syrup, toasted oak and stunning fruit are backed by bright acidity and pliable tannins.
L’Ecole No. 41 2014 Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley: This cab-based blend reveals aromas of blackberry jam, toasted oak and spice, giving way to bold flavors of blackberries, plum and vanilla cream, all backed by firm tannins. A wine built for the long haul. Purchased by Esquin Wine and Spirits in Seattle.
The folks who buy the lots at the barrel auction include a mixture of restaurants (Canlis, Anthony’s and El Gaucho) and retailers (including Esquin, PCC and Impulse Wines in Seattle). For Washington wine collectors, these special wines will have to be sought out. A section of the auction’s website shows where the wines are for sale.
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I suspect that in the years ahead, Washington winemakers will clamor to be involved in the Private Barrel Auction, seeing the opportunity to put their best effort in the spotlight in front of some of the most important wine buyers not only in our region, but also from across the country.
In fact, the Private Barrel Auction (only open to members of the wine trade) could end up in years ahead becoming a showcase for Washington wine, as top buyers will be able to purchase some of the best wines from the state.