As I was saying yesterday...
My wine and I found each other quite serendipitously. Last month, on my way home from work driving north on 99 I decided to avoid the viaduct altogether and take the road less traveled, a quick right turn onto 4th Avenue South.
Since I was already in the neighborhood and in no rush to do anything I stopped at Esquin to browse around and pick up a bottle of Sauternes and a Pineau de Charentes to chill and sip later on.
While perusing the aisles I quickly became distracted by the Rosé display (from all countries, shades of pink and varietals imaginable) and by the time I had scanned bottle by bottle the dessert wine and Port selections I remember about Lenn’s WBW#12. I was going to spend the rest of the time shopping for my wine.
But what to get was the question? Washington is America’s second most important wine state and nowadays, with so much great wine being produced it would have been easy for me to go to the cellar, grab a favorite bottle of Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, Woodward Canyon or McCrea and wax poetic.
Even simpler would have been to go fetch a dessert wine from Kiona, Hyatt, Hogue or Gordon Brothers. But I was already here and the store was full of great options to consider.
The fun thing about this particular installment of WBW was that it triggered a real challenge: an opportunity to do a little digging, a little research, while furthering our wine education in the process, which is what these Wine Blogging Wednesdays are, in essence, all about. Going local forced us to look within our area. Lucky for us in Washington, we did not have to look too hard or too long.
However, I felt I needed to look a little closer to home, to a lesser known winery with smaller releases and less marketing power behind them.
But, how local was local? How close could I get my local wine? Walking distance, a bike or cab ride away? A few miles, perhaps? How about a quick ferry ride? Could I take a back road or will I have to get on I-5 or I-90 to find it.
That’s when I approached one of the friendly wine guys and got the ball rolling. I explained about this virtual tasting with a local theme. I was then given a walk-through of Washington wines around the store and eventually we stopped in front of a case of Cadence Bel Canto and Coda.
Where do you live?, he asked. "Downtown, by Pacific Place”. “Did you know Cadence is a couple blocks from here, on 6th Avenue?
You mean to tell me there is a winery in this industrial area behind you guys, in the middle of SoDo?, I asked in return.
Yes, and the wine is really good. You should take a bottle home. I don't think you'll find a closer winery than Cadence. In fact, I’ll give you this book (out comes a Guide to Washington Wines). The winery address, phone number and website is there. I’m sure if you call him he’ll explain more about his wines.
I paid for the bottle and called from the car. Ben Smith answers the phone. Greetings and salutations follow. I know your winery is by appointment only so I’d like to schedule a visit if I may. "Where are you?, Mr. Smith asks. In front of Esquin, I answered. "You are not far from here. Just come on down. It really is no problem."
So, I went. Over the train tracks, past the yeasty aromas of Gai’s bread baking plant. He greeted me at the door, invited me inside the winery, to the chilled room where all the magic happens: the blending, bottling, aging, labeling, packaging and marketing of Cadence wines.
We sat at the table that had just been vacated by a very well known wine writer who had traveled to Seattle from New York City earlier in the day to do a massive tasting of Washington wine from dozens of local wineries, all over the state.
The gorgeous handmade ceramic spittoons (a friend of Ben’s made them out of lovely lapiz lazuli blue and copper glazed pottery were still on the table. There were what seemed like 100 bottles opened, at least, wine stains of every shade of red imaginable, everywhere. It was quite the sight!
I proceeded to explain how I had come to know about his winery and told him I had just purchased a bottle of Coda and wished to ask him a few questions about the wine. He went for a bottle to open and try. Unfortunately, I can’t drink any wine today. I’m driving. But thank you.
On to the questions: He told me about his home state, Ohio, of how he ended up in our city (he loves Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in general) and explained how he had made beer in the 80’s (“everyone was doing it”), about coming to Seattle to work as a Boeing engineer, about getting hooked on wine making through the Boeing Wine Club and how he eventually realized a career at Boeing ended up being “just a job” but wine was his real passion.
He had started making wine with grapes from a friend’s vineyard (Boushey Vineyards) located in the Yakima Valley . After getting married, Ben and his wife Gale started the winery in 1998 in a building (1,700 sq feet) near REI in the Cascade neighborhood.
Since then they have purchased sandy, loamy, full of wonderful gravel (see picture above), cobblestone and clay land in the Tri-Cities region, even planted their own vineyards. Different varietals are planted in designated plots of land. For Smith, terroir is key and king. About every two weeks Ben goes out there to check on the vines and the fruit.
In September, there is the calling for volunteers (email Cadence for more info) that will help with the harvest and the bottling (rewards: a bottle of the lovely juice) and Cadence becomes a beehive of activity.
Needless to say, I was impressed. This one man operation, out of this 3,500 sq feet warehouse, is proof positive that great wine (award wining, in fact) is being made west of the Cascades, in the city no less.
This was indeed a find and I have the kind wine guy at Esquin to thank for the education. I’ll have to go back there this week.
2003 Cadence Coda: Behind the name
Cadence: A marathoner wife. A cyclist and a musician (violin) husband. Both singers.
Cadence: “Pedal strokes”, says Smith. “A progression of chords moving to a harmonic close, point of rest, or sense of resolution.”, adds Webster’s.
Coda: The concluding passage of a movement or composition. "End of a piece of music". Of long hard hours of tending and blending and tasting. Entry level, second label at Cadence. (Bel Canto is the Reserve)
Tasting: This is a food wine for sure. We tasted the Coda, as per the winemaker’s suggestion, over dinner. He suggested a marbled pepper steak or a roasted duck with sour cherry sauce. The wine it is juicy enough, he said.
Our pairing: A grilled (medium rare), tender and flavorful flank steak that had been marinated Korean style.
It was served with grilled zucchini (yellow and green), steamed purple, yellow and spotted string beans and a delicious salad made with produce from the Columbia Farmers Market: Nectarines, Lemon Basil, Russian Heirloom (dark plum) tomatoes, small fire orange Jaune Flamée and tri-color heirloom cherry tomatoes, all from Rockridge Farms.
The salad was dressed in a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, garlic, herbs, honey, golden raisins, walnuts and coarsely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.
- A: “Buy a case of it and serve it at a dinner party. Reminds me of a bottle of Opus One I once had”
- K: “A little tart. Strong. Short finish”
- Mr.C: “Goes down hard, catches your breath. Strong.”
- Me: Brambly. Very young. Cabernet Franc shows who’s boss. Medium bodied. Astringent. Beautiful deep ruby red color. Peppery. Black cherry. Given time to age will be much better, tannins will be subdued."
Winemaker’s Notes: 2003 Cadence Coda (Columbia Valley) $22
The nose begins with dusty raspberry, espresso and spicy notes. The palate is dense, plush and complex, showing more dark berry and spice with wonderful mid palate texture. The mouthwatering finish ends with a pleasing balancing acidity and softly tannic structure. 70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.
For information on how to get on the winery's mailing list, become a volunteer and to order wine and arrange for pick-up at the winery, best to email firstname.lastname@example.org. In Seattle, Cadence wines are poured at Barking Frog and sold at Pike & Western and McCarthy & Schiering and through Cadence's website.
2920 6th Ave South
Seattle WA, 98134
(206) 860-9906 (fax)
Open by private appointment