Monday, February 1, 2010

UW 100th

The big do that I was heading to Seattle for was a banquet celebrating the 100th anniversary of the University of Washington Chapter of my fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. There isn't actually an active Chapter of Deke at the UW currently, but there are efforts afoot to re-activate the Chapter within the next couple of years and it was felt that this was too big of an event to let it pass by.

Having spent more than a couple of weekends enjoying road trips to UW in years long past, I thought it would be a grand gesture to join in with a handful of UBC Dekes that were making the trek down the I-5. Granted, there wouldn't have been much, if any, wine involved in those old Seattle sojourns. Our social lives revolved around beer in those days. I was happy, however, to get the chance to taste some more US wines this time around.

After a bit of a scare as to whether I was even going to still fit my tux (it's been awhile you know), I managed to join in with a cocktail party in the Presidential Suite of the newly redecorated Deca Hotel, just off the UW campus. Due to a light sprinkle happening outside, we didn't get to take full advantage of the 280 degree balcony and the Seattle skyline, but it was a marvelous start to the evening.

338. 2008 Coppola Sophia Blanc de Blancs (Monterey County - California)

Being such an auspicious anniversary, I figured that a little bubble sounded in order. I've seen and tried Coppola wines at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival in the past, but I don't remember ever having tried any of their sparkling wines.

Being primarily Pinot Blanc with 10% Riesling and 7% Muscat, this sparkler was closer to a Prosecco than a classic Champagne - with plenty of fruit rather than biscuit. I don't know that I'd grab another bottle any time soon, but, hey, the idea of this blog is to try all sorts of wine.

339. 2006 Waterbrook Reserve Syrah (Columbia Valley - Washington)

I must have been pre-occupied with something at the cocktail party because I didn't even take a picture of the second bottle that I'd brought along. And, wouldn't you know it, it was my favourite of the night. As is often the case with American wines, I knew nothing about the winery when I picked up the bottle. It turns out that, back in 1984, Waterbrook was the fourth winery to start up in the Walla Walla area. I can only imagine how many there are now.

The winery was acquired by Precept Wine Brands (which I hadn't heard of either) in 2006 as its flagship winery. Precept is apparently the third largest producer in Washington state and the 21st largest in the US, handling 25 "brands," including Pendulum, Shimmer and Magnificent Wine Co., and they produce up to a quarter million bottles a year.

Volume like that doesn't usually make me immediately think quality, but that quarter million bottles certainly aren't all under the Waterbrook label and that label, itself, seems to have a pretty good reputation among some influential wine scribes as a high value producer. This Syrah (with a 4% touch of Mourvedre) certainly didn't come across as bulk wine to me and I'd have no problem looking for it again.

We worked our way over to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Neat place for a dinner and it was funny how many of the UW alums said that they'd never actually been in the building despite having walked by its doors for years. Despite the mix of art and artifacts in the museum, the only real variety among the wines that night came from the cocktail party. There was only one white and one red being served at the actual banquet. But that's likely a good thing since I had a long drive home ahead of me the next day and I didn't need to be trying a big selection of wines.

340. 2005 Trinity Oaks Merlot (California)

I stuck with the red wine that was offered and it was serviceable as a banquet wine - drinkable, but not one that I'll look to buy again. When I took a look at Trinity Oaks' website, it was interesting that they spent almost as much web-space on the winery's environmental charity as it seemed to on its wines. That rather tells you something in itself.

I certainly don't mind their marketing objective of planting a tree for every bottle of wine that they sell. All the same, I can only imagine the sourcing and quality of their grapes when they've planted over two and half million trees since July 2008. That's a lot of bottles of wine in just over a year and a half. For under $10 (US) though, I'm not going to complain.

It was definitely a fun evening though and I'll look forward to more opportunities to dive into American wines at American prices.

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