going vertical at the fairmont olympic hotel

Thursday, March 28, 2013

One week ago I joined a small group of lucky tasters who convened in the Petit Georgian room to taste through a selection of nicely-aged Washington wines. It was organized and hosted by Master Sommelier Joseph Linder, and showed to great advantage the wines, the room, the service and the talents of the Georgian Room’s kitchen staff.

Mr. Linder had chosen seven wines. The first flight of three wines was a showcase for Ciel du Cheval vineyard designates from the Andrew Will winery. The first, a 2000 Merlot, harked back to a time when the winery made varietal wines from each of several vineyards. It was in magnificent condition – a testament to the vineyard as well as to the ability of Washington Merlots to age and mature far longer and better than the grape’s rather ragged reputation would suggest.

Among the other guests were a pair of Canadian writers, who remarked favorably upon the wine’s “jus de roche” – literally, juice of the rock. That particular characteristic, an underlying minerality, is something I have often noted and identified as very special from Ciel du Cheval.

There were also Bordeaux blends from 2005 (now drying out) and 2008, a supple and complex wine with a spine of iron.

The second flight of four wines came from Cadence, whose owners purchased land on Red Mountain and planted their 10-acre vineyard in 2004. That vineyard, named Bel Canto, provided grapes for the 2006 and 2009 Cadence blends, both extremely well made, though showing the tartness and brightness of very young vines.

Also in the flight were two wines from the neighboring Tapteil vineyard, one of the earliest to be planted on Red Mountain. The 2003 was high-toned and a bit flat in the mouth; a second bottle was opened with no better results. The 2009 was a muscular, powerful wine packed with black fruits and sleek tannins. As with many of the 2009s I’ve recently tasted, it is a wine to age for at least another decade.

The illustration shows the lovely plates of small bites that were designed to accompany the wines. There was fresh salmon – first of the season from the Yukon river – and a host of other tasty tidbits that were just right for the occasion. All too often it is the newest restaurants that get the attention of the press, but in this instance, one of Seattle’s oldest and most traditional rooms showed that it is possible to be elegant without being stodgy, and creative without being silly.

Pick of the Week – the ghost in the machine 2011 Riesling; $7
From the Giant Wine Company, a collaboration between Chris Gorman and Mark Ryan McNeilly, comes this stunning Riesling, perfect for spring. My first reaction was ‘how do you make a Riesling this good and sell it for seven bucks?’ Well, I don’t know the answer, but it’s in the bottle. Juicy and fruity, it’s absolutely loaded with citrus and stone fruit flavors, and offers supporting acidity, good length, and a touch of minerality. Grab all you can.

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