Ann and Lloyd “call me Andy” Anderson are still smiling. Recently their tasting room won our Washington Winery Tasting Room Readers’ Poll. Readers voting for Walter Dacon Wines chose this tasting room for its beautiful setting,comfortable atmosphere, knowledgeable hosts, and unique tasting bar. In this countryside setting, visitors taste highly rated and award-winning wines and attend releases and special events.
First, before discussing the wines, let’s explore the unique tasting bar, one of my favorite parts of the tasting room. Walter Dacon’s tasting bar’s first incarnation was as the circulation desk in the 1930’s at Fremont Public Library, a Carnegie library.
Decades later, Ann found it in a second use store and knew immediately that its second incarnation would be as part of their tasting room. With fingers crossed, she patiently out-waited another interested customer who had first dibs.
Once in her possession, she had it lovingly restored. Standing next to and even leaning on the tasting bar I am immediately reminded of the delightful hours I spent as a youth in my public libarary. The beautiful oak is comforting and familiar. Now, unlike my youth, I stand at the circulation desk and instead of pondering how many books to check out, I am tasting a Rousanne, Viognier, a Sangiovese, four Syrahs, and Vin a Dessert, a port-style Syrah.
The Andersons created Walter Dacon Wines as a team. Forgoing a more relaxed retirement, Andy learned viticulture and winemaking through UC Davis classes and working with Doug McCrea of McCrea Cellars while Ann learned the business of wine. The winery itself is located on part of the four acres they call home on Lynch Road south of Shelton, WA, just a bit more than a mile from Taylor Shellfish Farms. A very convenient location as steamed mussels and clams are frequent treats at winery events.
Walter Dacon’s focus is Rhone and Mediterranean style wines, no over-oaked fruit bombs here. Every year they produce the core set of their wines - three Syrahs – the Belle (co-fermented with Viognier, aged in French oak), the Beaux (100% Syrah, aged in American oak) and the Magnifique (100% Syrah aged in French oak). There is also a fourth Syrah, Appanage, a 100% Syrah from Boushey Vineyard. Until the last few years, the Appanage was only available to club members. Now production has increased and everyone has the opportunity to taste this wine at the winery. The Syrahs have won numerous awards and high ratings. Besides Boushey Vineyards, the Andersons work with Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Ranch at the End of the Road Vineyard, and Outlook Vineyard.
The Andersons also produce a Viognier and a Rousanne. The success of the Viognier was a surprise. The fruit is acquired for co-fermenting with Syrah for the Belle. The extra fruit is vinted on its own and bottled. Based on the success of the Viognier, they created a Rousanne. Unfortunately, the Rousanne has not been as successful and the current release will be the last.
Until this past year, the Andersons’ Mediterranean style was represented by only one wine, a Sangiovese. Last summer they released a Temperanillo. The production was limited and once it was released and tasted, club members purchased every bottle. Saddened by the news as Temperanillo is a favorite of mine, I was comforted to learn there is more in the barrel room, along with Grenache, Mouvedre, Petit Sirah and Zinfandel. Currently, Andy plans to create a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Sangiovese. I am intrigued with this plan because it is what I refer to as “hybrid winemaking” – creating wine in an elegant style reminiscent of the old world but blending in a new world style – no rules! No rule forbidding Sangiovese to reside in the same bottle as Syrah.
Just as Andy, the head winemaker, pushes forward with varietals and blends, Ann forges into the future of the wine business learning social media and trying new marketing ideas. This month Walter Dacon launched a new website, a Facebook Fan page and Twitter. Ann is also a member of the board of the Washington Wine Institute and recently testified in Olympia in favor of legislation to make it easier on wineries to contribute wine to 501(c)(3) charities for fundraising events.
Eventually, the Andersons may retire and step away from the winery and the wine industry, handing it over to family members. But not any time soon. After speaking with them I believe it will skip the next generation and be in the hands of the grandsons not yet in grade school and who belong to a generation that never had the thrill of dropping paper checkout cards in the slot a of library circulation desk.
I enjoy all of Walter Dacon Wines and have for several years. During the remainder of February I will pour the wines for Bean, Ed, and Nancy. Stay tuned for our tasting and pairing notes.