Say ‘hello’ to August and the Auction of Washington wines. August 2011, I distinctly remember standing on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery,reciting the alphabet.  You would think that as a trained librarian, I could do that in my sleep but before the evening was out, I was having a bit of trouble.  You see, Bean had given me the enormous task of sampling all the wines offered up for bidding at the Picnic & Barrel Auction, the epitome of summer wine events and part of the Auction of Washington Wines.  While she was hob-nobbing with the winemakers  to get the latest information on the upcoming harvest. I was to hob-nob with the barrels with my glass in hand.

Barrel auction

Auction of Washington Wines 2011

I surveyed the scene of 20+ barrel offerings up for auction to benefit Uncompensated Care at Childrens’ Hospital, and being the systematic person that I am, decided to tackle the barrel samples in alphabetical order by winery name.  Luckily, that was also how the wineries were arranged.

Logo for the Picnic & Barrel Auction, part of Auction of Washington WinesThe Barrel Auction and Picnic turned  out to be one of my favorite wine events of 2011.   What a fantastic opportunity to sample outstanding wines in process, usually just short of being bottled.  Swirling the glass and sipping I could imagine the final product.  Many of these wines were destined to be offered to wine club members only, or be in such small quantities that this may be my only opportunity to taste.  And taste I did starting with ‘A’ and ending with “Woodward Canyon’.

This week I found my notes.   Here are a few:

Brian Carter Cellars dared to show off its 2009 Solesce, a bourdeaux style blend, that would not be bottled until April 2012 and then not released until 18 months later.  I tasted this wine two years before release and it was already incredibly balanced and lip-smacking.

Buty offered a 100% Syrah from Rock Garden estate that was aged in a 5 year old oak barrel.  This offering confirmed for me that I prefer Syrahs aged in older barrels rather than in new.  This Syrah was destined to be bottled this past February after being blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vineyard.

Cadaretta shared their 2010 Stone Tree Syrah from Wahluke Slope.  Fabulous from tip to tail.  This wine had everything I expect in a Syrah to pair or sip.

Columbia Winery proffered its 2009 Peninsula scheduled to be bottled the next month and released September 2012.  This wine was very good, well balanced from start to finish.  I put it on my list to watch for when it releases.

Hestia Cellars held out one of my favorites of the event – 2009 Tempranillo.  This Spanish variety was aged in both American and French oak barrels.   Hestia’s wine club members would be the lucky recipients of this absolutely delicious wine.  That was my only taste of that beautiful wine.

Maison Bleue poured a Grenache that was aged in 5 year old french oak that was in perfect balance.  I dreamed of the food to pair.

Too many notes . . . . Andrew Will, Bergevin Lane, Dunham Cellars, Dusted Valley, J. Bookwalter, L’Ecole, Obelisco,  Robert Karl, Reasons, Reynvaan Family Vineyards, Sparkman Cellars,  Spring Valley Vineyard, Va Piano,Woodward Canyon and more.


Tulalip Resort staff serving at the Auction of Washington Wine

The spectacular food was created and served by Tulalip Resort Casino.  The food was as impressive as the wines and played an integral part in keeping me moving through the alphabet.  Every few wineries I would sample some food and drink water.   Refreshed I would head back to the barrels picking up at the next letter.  Was it “J” or “K”?

barrel auction

Shayn Bjornholm – Barrel Auction 2011

After a lot of swirling, sipping and spitting I finally reached “Woodward Canyon“.  After a taste and a chat with winemaker, Rick Small, it was “Mission accomplished!”  I lingered to peruse the dessert tent – yes, I said ‘tent’ – and to see the bidding.  Before the event I assumed that bidding on a “barrel” offering was out of reach for me.  Watching the action I saw that it might be within grasp.  Not because the wine was cheap in any sense of the word, after all this is a fundrasier for Seattle Children’s Hospital and WSU Viticulture and Enology program.  But because some barrels were bid on not by individuals, but by groups of friends desiring a good wine that supports a good cause.   I also noticed that my favorites covered the range of winning bids from the highest to the lowest.

The list of participating wineries for this year’s Auction of Washington Wine Picnic and Barrel Auction is impressive . . . . and long.  I need to get out my flash cards to start practicing the alphabet and round up a group of wine-loving friends.