"Need land, row lake, race kinsfolk for it, falling behind, need land, row harder, need to touch land first, falling behind, row harder, not going to make it, grab my sword, throw ashore, touched land first."
The minute I read that wacky name wines would be the theme for the January’s WBW, hosted by Pim of Chez Pim, I knew it would be a fun one.
After a little scouring and sifting I wrote down a couple dozen names on my dear Moleskine. I could not wait to go shopping!
Since later that day I was going to be working in the West Seattle area for the afternoon I would stop on my way home at Metropolitan Market, just to browse around and see if I got lucky.
It was there, while perusing the shelves of the wine department that I finally came upon the two wines I wanted to use for today's tasting, well, at least one of them anyway. But more on that later.
Metropolitan Market in West Seattle is one of five Seattle locally own upscale supermarkets. The West Seattle location happens to be their flagship store.
The store is gorgeous, thanks to its attractive and user-friendly merchandising, focus on small company, artisanal and locally produced specialty items--their cheese section is one of the best in town--with a lovely selection of fruit and vegetables, meats, beautiful deli offerings and some of the best sushi you can buy at a supermarket, anywhere.
Their wine offerings are no different. Such a lineup, scores of inspiring choices! Many of the labels sold here are well kept secret gems from Puget Sound and Eastern Washington wineries, big and small. From winemakers producing very interesting and increasingly popular juice, some of them in very in limited releases.
The selection, with generous dashes of Oregonian, French, Californian, Australian, Italian and Spanish wines is fantastic. And after a little detective work I've come to think that the quality of the wine available at this particular store has everything to do with Kate--the great--the store's wine manager.
A woman wine manager! How refreshing! And she is so nice too! Full of ideas, knowledge, helpful as can be and with one of those great smiles that could light up the darkest cellar.
When I approached her with my little notebook, asking for her favorite wacky labeled wines in stock, she went around the aisles with me pointing at over a dozen options.
Smoking Loon, Jezebel, Big Moose Red, The Stump Jump, Porcupine Ridge, Hill of Content, Jest Red, Domaine des Blagueurs, Heart of Darkness, Lone Canary, Jigsaw, "Pets" Petit Syrah, Oregon Pinot Express and at least a handful more.
I added them to my list of possibilities, scribbling furiously so as not to miss any precious and wacky morsel, each bottle more promising than the next.
And then, all of a sudden, as in a flash of divine inspiration, Kate mentioned another wine that she thought would be a great choice for today. However she warned me that they were sold out of it, perhaps without hopes of re-stocking.
Oh well, I was not in a hurry to choose that instant and besides, with the abundance of excellent wine around me, not only there but also at so many other merchants in the city, I was sure I would eventually found something wacky enough for Pim.
I took a peek at the spot she was pointing to and did a double take. Frankly, as soon as I saw the name on the tiny wine price tag, sitting so lonely on the empty shelf space I shuddered.
This was not so a wacky named wine as it was a blood-curdling and spine chilling one, like a horror film's title on a Netflix recommended listing, the kind I tend to take my eyes off it right away and press on the not interested button.
For a moment I was relieved it was sold-out. Then, walking by the corner end cap what do I spot but another unusually named wine with the most heartwarming and funny name, cute photo on the front label and an ever so tender story on the back that was so sweet I could not pass it up. Just in case, I took it home with me.
Still, I was curious about Kate’s wine suggestion. That wine's name—redolent of Edgar Allan Poe's narrative voice--even when I had not seen the label yet, was definitely gory and anathema to my life's MO.
Until then it never ocurred to me that someone would give a great wine--Kate raved about it--- such a name. One that, unless otherwise indentured, I would probably had never chosen to take home and serve to friends or family.
Little did I know at the time that I was bound to get that same old feeling again, a few weeks later while browsing the wine offerings at the Tukwila Larry's Market, when Paul-- one of my favorite wine guys in the city-- proposed the very same wine for today's WBW.
The minute he showed me the bottle I knew I had found my wacky--albeit creepy--named wine. Kismet? Coincidence? Who knew? I thought it was surprisingly appealing yet so paradoxical. But here it was again and I was not longer faint-hearted. This would be it.
After a little wine chat with Paul, I placed the bottle in my cart. As soon as I got home, still in its bag, I stored the bottle flat on the cellar floor, as far away from my previously purchased sweet-looking and cute as can be wine. Just in case the black-hearted manus had any gruesome ideas in mind on how to dispose of its well manered and good-natured contender. :-D
Wine Name: Sinister Hand
Winery: Owen Roe
Country: United States
Region: Columbia Valley
Grape: 60% Syrah, 16% Grenache, 13% Counoise, 11% Mourvedre (Rhone-style blend)
Price:$20.99 ($54 at auction)
Aroma: Black Pepper, Maniguette, Bing Cherry, Italian Plum, Black Currant, Clay.
Taste: Medium-bodied and not terribly meaty as some other Rhones I've had in the past. Warm finish. This wine is very young, with tannins that are still a bit tight but not hard at all. It will benefit from a few years of cellaring. I can only imagine what it will taste like in 3 years or so.
Pairing: Flank Steak Roulade with Garlic and Maytag Blue, Waldorf Salad and Marinated Grilled Eggplant. It would be great with a black and blue grilled New York Strip, rack of lamb and I plan to have it again tomorrow with an Ostrich steak. I'll update this entry once I do. Perfect with aged, blue cheeses. Want to try it with a chunk of Point Reyes.
Overall Opinion: Even though I did not decant the wine--it was dinner for one tonight--I poured myself a glass and took a sip and wrote down some preliminary impressions. Then, I left the glass on the table to settle down a bit while the roulade was in the oven--about 30 minutes. I was initially concerned about this wine being a ball of fire but it was not as red hot as I expected it a 14.8% alcohol wine to be. What a nice surprise! All this fruit and spice at such a bargain price. Come September I'm hoping to order a case of this baby.
The Sinister Hand is a blend of 60% Syrah, 16% Grenache, 13% Counoise, 11% Mourvedre. The majority of the fruit is from Steve Elerding’s Vineyard in Alderdale in the Mid-Columbia Valley where the Rhone varieties seem to have found a home.
The area is just off the Columbia River, so both the summer heat and winter cold are moderated, resulting in a long growing season that highlights the edgy personalities of each of the Rhone varietals.
This Rhone-styled wine is very dark with enormous fruit flavors and pepper, and with excellent texture – it will work well with a variety of foods, especially spicy fare and dark meats.
The label is a depiction of a severed left hand, which tells the story of a rowing competition among the O’Neills and O’Reillys (Owen Roe was an O’Neill). Whoever touched land first after rowing across the lake was rewarded with the land he touched. Lagging behind, one of the kinsfolk grabbed his sword and cleaved his hand, pitching it ashore to touch land first. He won the land and eventually ruled over it as king.
Additional Recommended Owen Roe wines:
Owen Roe Voce Populi: A Grenache based, fortified dessert wine (375 ml, around $25.99) in the style of the great Banyuls, and just as perfect with chocolate desserts or confections, even Foie gras and cheese. Hard to come by (extremely limited release) but worth seeking out.
For more information on Owen Roe, Jerry Owen and David O’Reilly please read Owen Roe: A Winemaker's Dream, Living the Life of O'Reilly" by Christina Kelly Avalon Editor/Writer.
*This is the second year Sinister Hand makes its frightful apparition at wine shops all over the country. For the 02 the winery released 550 cases, 1,500 for the 03. Much better, but still a very limited output. In fact, in early morning phone conversation with Donna at Owen Roe, she told me that “the winery had already sold out of the wine by November”.
**Dieter Klippstein, owner of the Seattle distribution company that has the exclusive rights to Owen Roe wines for Washington State told me this morning that the wine sells itself and goes so fast they can’t even keep the Magnums ($45) in stock.
***I spoke to Paul from Larry's Markets late this afternoon and he said that although they are also sold-out of Sinister Hand--he sold me one of the last two bottles, he recently heard, from a customer of his--another Owen Roe fan--there has been a sighting of it at Leschi Market (103 Lakeside Avenue, Seattle 206.322.0700) Updated 1/27/2005 at 5:07 pm: Ed Raftis from Leschi Market told me they are fresh out of sinister hands as of five days ago. Sorry peeps!
****Kate is available for all your wine needs Tuesday-Saturday from 10-7 or 10:30-7:30 at the Admiral Metropolitan Market (206.937.0551)
31590 NE Schaad Road
Newberg, OR 97132