I've decided to start a new column. One that is dedicated to those folks that are paramount in the wine business, the ones that have a say, and possibly a do, in winemaking. The Winemakers!
This big revelation came about as I was headed out to a local wine shop to try some wines. They were fortunate enough to have the winemaker for the winery there as well. As many of you know (well, those of you that read this blog) I feel strongly that wines always taste better when you have something special going on. A visit to the winery, special events or in this case the addition of someone who is intimate with the wines and how they are made.
I started thinking about adding this category a week or so ago when I was at another tasting for my next Monday's "Wine of the Week." That post will still be under "Wine of the Week," but could have just as easily been listed under "Meet the Winemaker" as well. Keep that in mind when you read next Monday's post.
So this particular tasting featured wines from the Northwest, specifically Washington. I love Washington wines and have for some time. Their Cabernets are rich and pure and have a uniqueness all of their own. Then there are the Syrahs. Also big and rich and full of dark fruit flavors and that spiciness you get from Syrah. How could I not attend?
So what winery did it for me this time? Sparkman Cellars! Don't be too surprised if you haven't heard of them before. I knew the name but not much about the wines themselves. The reason is that while they make a considerable number of different wines, they are all produced in extremely small quantities. The man responsible for all these wines, and the person I was so fortunate to meet; their winemaker - Linn Scott.
Winemaker for Sparkman Cellars since 2010, Linn brought with him knowledge acquired during his time attending Universities in France and Germany earning a Master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology and proficiencies since his entry into the wine biz in 2001.
As only my second time focusing on actually interviewing someone for my blog, I know this is an ongoing learning process for me, glad that in all my previous years (and there have been many) (there's my being old joke for the post) I did manage to learn a few things about interviewing.
I was fortunate to have arrived a little early so as to be able to talk with Linn before he got too busy with the other tasters. My pre-interview time spent developing a couple of what I would hope to be interesting questions to ask proved worthwhile.
Not wanting to ask the same questions I get at tastings, the biggest one which is always "what's my favorite wine?" I changed it up a little and asked Linn "Which wine does he enjoy MAKING the most?" I could tell he was thinking about it pretty hard, he even mentioned a couple things about a few wines that he likes. Then it hit me; just like a parent that gets the question about which one of their children do they like best, there can be no specific answer. A parent, like Linn, likes each one, but maybe for different reasons. Another question I asked was if there is a particular time or event during the entire winemaking process he enjoys most. He again started thinking and talking about different times, mentioning his substantial time working in the vineyards. Once again, after some thought, he said he looks forward to each season as each brings its own challenges and contentment. If I can interject my own perception here (and why can't I since it's my blog) (testy aren't I), I feel that Linn is just really happy and enjoys his job. You can tell by the wines (great segway).
We were presented with six wines, each one pleasant in its own way. The first a Dry Riesling (Birdie) that had lovely stone fruit notes and a flavor what I called "nuttiness." Chardonnay (Lumiere) up next. Great body with a nicely balanced palate with a touch of oak accent. First red is their Grenache (Wonderland) from Yakima Valley. Easy on the palate with red fruit and a subtle finish. Their blend (Wilderness) with Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache, Petite Sirah and a couple others for good measure showed added nuances and flavors.
Then we came to the last two. One being Syrah and the other Cabernet. Remember what I said above? What wines! The Syrah (Darkness) lived up to its name. Dark rich with a smokiness or earthiness that you find in Northern Rhone wines. Finishing in a long and nicely spiced finish (this was my fave). Lastly, the Cabernet (Kingpin). Excellent wine. Again, dark fruit with layers of flavor with that long subtle finish.
The wines may be available in the area. If you have difficulty, you can go directly to their order page by clicking here. They have a boatload of wines not sold anywhere but through their website and to wine club members. You can click here to get the tech sheets for their current offerings as well.
I hope to be able to bring you many more "Meet the Winemaker" posts soon. Until then