Elsom Cellars: The latest tasting room in the SoDo urban wine trail – That’s South Seattle

I am an organizer for a local wine tasting group and we fan out across the Puget Sound to meet in various tasting rooms from Woodinville to South Seattle. As much as I love the Wine Lover’s destination of Woodinville, about 18 miles north east of Seattle proper, I really love the industrial area south of the downtown city of Seattle. It’s urban, metal, and 15 minutes from where I work.

The newest tasting room for winemaker ; Jody Elsom  off of 1st Ave, South Seattle

The newest tasting room for winemaker ; Jody Elsom off of 1st Ave, South SeattleThe newest tasting room for winemaker ; Jody Elsom off of 1st Ave, South Seattle

However, I wanted to introduce you to Jody Elsom, a woman winemaker that has made her mark in showing the red grapes of Washington state as they have evolved to be.

We had a chance to enjoy a private tasting a couple of Saturdays ago, with red wines and blends that express the Washington state grapes with vibrancy and  finesse. Jody’s ability to receive grapes from some of the best vineyards shows in her cabernet sauvignons, blends and now her newest release of 100 percent malbec.

We noticed that  she has only reds in her wine store, and when asked, she said that she is not working with the whites the reason being she is not finished with her progressive concentration and exploration of the red varietals of our state. And from what we tasted, I say ‘hear hear’! Keep doing what you’re doing Jody.

I can tell you that you won’t even miss the white wines that also show well in our state, when you have such heaven in her reds.  For me I splurged and brought home her


2009 Red Wine

Aged predominnantly new French oak barrels, this blend of 46% Two Blondes and Artz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Two Blondes and Alder Ridge vineyards Malbec and 8% Lewis Vineyard Syrah. This gripping wine is deep purple in color, with aromas of pepper and vanilla. The palate is full of blackberry, oak and spice.  Barrel aged 23 months.

91 Points 2014 Wine Enthusiast


2009 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, this single vineyard, single varietal expression of Cabernet is defined by its rich entry on the nose and lovely balance of oak and berry fruits. Barrel aged 23 months.

88 Points 2014 Wine Enthusiast


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2015 is here and I have made some Wine Blogger Resolves.

First, I have have been reading the Top 100 lists of  2014 in various magazines, the Drunken Cyclist (a fine Word Press wine blogger) just posted his Top 10 and they are doozies! So you would think I could come up with some list of my own from the many tastings of 2014.

Well heck! IF I was an organized wine-taster/writer or even half as consistent as my brother bloggers in this area; I could pop this list right out at ya. But I’m not.

Not to get too personal, but this year was an emotional, sometimes stress filled rollercoaster.  A few family events of loss, a day job that was sucking all my energy, all contributed to draining my avenue to tap into my creativity.  Oh, I was still doing my wine events, volunteering and tasting wines, but I just couldn’t find the time to ” still my mind ” and write about them. That created even more stress.

So 2015 will be the re-launch of my efforts to expose you to what I think is delightful in my Wine Life and hope to get you to try some of the local vintages from Washington state.

I started this Wine writing adventure in an effort to capture moments and wine scenes that I want to keep in my memory for the future. I also want to share the Pacific Northwest and wines that are truly becoming and evolving into notable world class wines that are making their way onto reviewers lists, and even some top 100 lists.

I spoke with a fellow recently who moved to Vashon Island straight from New York City, a Wall Streeter that has lived all over the world. If you are from the Northwest, you know about Vashon Island. It is beautiful place, a small island that is green, tree-filled, and apparently overrun by deer.  Housing is a little more reasonable considering Seattle proper is only a short ferry ride away.

However, those 15 minutes are like traveling through another dimension, a  portal where  life is ‘different’, and city folk are not really appreciated. In the past, they have been known as an arts community, a bit of a pot culture, and felons have been known to tuck in and hide there. This is a citizenry  that relish their ‘remote time’.  The best way to give you a clue is their bumper sticker worn proudly on their bent bumpers – KEEP VASHON WEIRD.


I digress with all of this to point out that there are many interesting and intriguing spaces in the Pacific Northwest. When I asked Mr. Wall Streeter about the major shift in his lifestyle especially moving to Vashon, he said , almost in a whisper -“East Coasters do not know a thing about the Pacific Northwest” . And to paraphrase the rest of his thought, when people from the East speak about the West, it’s California, they know about that. He has found a bit of paradise in our hidden northwest corner of the US map and is happy he found an island home that is still underdeveloped and not gentrified.

So I would like to introduce some of these hidden places, and also, to showcase Washington wineries. Vashon has a couple of them as well, so in the future I will be traveling across the water to that area and give you a peek at the beauty and introduce you to the winemakers that make some pretty spectacular wines.

So my top ten list, don’t have it, but I can say my top wine of the Christmas season that made it onto my table:

 Pepperbridge 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.  $60. A real winner from Walla Walla. The tasting notes talk all about the cloves, the coffee, black cherry and vanilla. And I concur. Got a chance to taste this ON Christmas Eve, one of the few Woodinville Wine warehouse tasting room open that day; and we all agreed it was well worth the trip, and it served well as a counterpoint to my gigantic (over sized really) beef wellington. The finish lingered and and gave and gave and we all just listed  on our sides at the table with half closed eyes in appreciation. Really lovely. pbcabno-vintagecropped-1_w

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Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Tasting – Newberg Art Walk and Wine Notes -Part 2

newberg or

This continues the highlights from  my first pinot noir journey into the northern Willamette Valley.  Located about 25 miles south and west of Portland, you wend your way up the low hills, covered by vineyards, fir trees and white oak.

The previous entry didn’t include the Newberg town art walk that Friday night, with wine tasting  featured in a few shops along main street. Families strolled past the few lady gangs who were making a ‘night of it’. Pursuing both tastes of wine as well as  jewelry, we balanced warm glasses of rose’ while posing with necklaces and earrings.

Okay, we could have tried harder to buy some art but the warm rose’ was unforgivable and we were determined to find something more to our liking.  It wasn’t long before we found the nearest actual tasting room to get wine served the way it is meant to be.

Artisnal Wine Cellars Tasting Room

614 E 1st Street, Newberg, OR 97132

Hours: Thursday-Friday 4 p.m.-7 p.m.   Saturday/Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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This was a happy stop, busy with customers and such a deal, $5 tasting fee for the Art Walk Event. We enjoyed tasting through the chilled whites – the Dovetail White, Viognier, and their Pinot Blanc, so nice after a 90 degree day out. But here I found my first really triumphant taste of what pinot noir I feel I could enjoy, and that would be their 2010 Dukes Family Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills.  I don’t claim to know nothin’ ’bout pinot noir,  but I know what I like and I staked a claim in this 2010 vintage. Velvety, balanced, lingering finish, just the perfect weight for enjoying in this end of summer evening. This seems to be a promising start for what we might be enjoying in the next day’s tastings.

While I and my friend traded the merits of what was in our glass, a friendly fellow perched to our left engaged us in conversation and we soon found he was actually Sajanee, the owner of Archer Vineyards. He happened to be tasting these wines while his were being poured around the corner in an actual Art Shop. Before we knew it, we were popping down the street on his insistence to ‘come, taste my wines’. Don’t tell me twice.

An hour later, sipping on some beer, always a good finish to a day of wine tasting, we heard Sajanee’s very interesting life story. How as an East Indian boy, growing up in Mombasa, he still claims his native language is Swahili.  He earned a free pass for an educational scholarship to attend college in London studying architecture. How he became a vineyard owner and winemaker in Oregon deserves it’s own blog post which I will have to plan for the future. For now, I can say he is a generous spirit, engaged in offering educational opportunities to children of lesser means, and we enjoyed his liberal views in his politics as much as we enjoyed his liberal wine pours.  With a  promise to end the next day in his tasting room if we could, we headed off to dinner calling  it a very satisfying night indeed.   (Note: Sad but we did not make it to his winery but don’t worry Saj, I shall get there yet!)


Archer Vineyard
32230 NE Old Parrett Mtn Rd
Newberg, OR 97132

Well it looks like this is going into part 3, the really Exciting part and I hope you’ll join me as we pick up our Wine Bar owner (previously noted as “Mr  X ” in an earlier post) who joined us by train from Seattle on Saturday morning. It is through him that the pinot noir bells went off in my head and I am glad to say I am enchanted.  Stay tuned!

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North Willamette Valley, Oregon – My Pinot Noir Weekend – Part 1

Pinot noir is a the signature wine of the state of Oregon, whose devotees of this tiny grape are passionate and, I think sometimes, just a bit snooty about it.

There is an exclusive club for people that love pinot noirs , and up until recently, I wasn’t one of them. Until this year, I  couldn’t understand  what all the fuss was about. I am a late comer to the party having moved to the Northwest in 1989, and started my wine education with the bigger bolder flavors of the zins and syrahs of Washington state.

Pinot noirs is a wine style that I had not immediately embraced. I don’t think that my wine palate was ready for it until this year when I first tasted the pinots of Sonoma Valley in California. I found that the medium weight of those wines allowed me to appreciate the grape better, or to express it another way, allowed me to experience the Oregon pinots all the better.

That’s why, when I had a chance for a quick 3 day trip to the North Willamette Valley, just south and west of Portland, I was going to make a point with  an open mind, to immerse myself in some pinot noir.

I made the 4 hour trip from Seattle to Newburg, Oregon which is the gateway to the Chehallem AVA -Region 4. As we drove south, signs of Fall were emerging in the landscape, slight golden edges to the leaves along the highway, and the air temp was super warm, just like the last final hurrah of summer should be. 95 degrees and no air conditioning in my car, means my hair was a tangled mess by the time we hit our first tasting room.

I didn’t know where to go, so we just meandered into the first road up into the vine covered hills and counted on serendipity. First stop,  Ponzi Vineyards – Wow!  What a monolith of a place; an architectural concrete modern tasting room, sitting on top of a rise over the valley. The floor to ceiling windows offer almost 360 degree views of the valleys below. There is a bocci ball court, and outdoor seating that takes advantage of the views photo (12)

and beauty of that region. Breathtaking. The wines were nice, and although we got to taste through a few pinots of coursethe standout was the 2013 Pinot Blanc. A bright, crisp with apple notes wine, with just enough minerality for your tongue to linger over.  They also shared their Arneis white wine, a grape traditionally from the Piedmont region of Italy. They are one of the handful of growers in the U.S. and I would love to taste this again in a few years. The tasting room crew were great, knowledgeable and I have to say, their t-shirts rocked. Since it was my first stop, I just tasted their pinots using them as a base line for pinots down the road. I will say that one Pinot Noir 2011 -Willamette Valley stood out and was a begging me to buy a glass and stop to take the views in. But no, we have more to discover. More in Part 2 to be shared. 

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Game of Thrones still - Purple Wedding Death Scene

Why King Joffrey, whatevah is the matter? Was it something you drank, perchance?

If you are fan of the books or the show, a portion of that admiration for me, is due to the excesses of it. The pageantry, the subterfuge, the devious twists and turns of human nature, it’s  addicting.

But for me, the fact that every character seems to participate in the profuse quaffing of wine is awesome. Flagons and flagons of wine.  From hedonist but just Lord Tyrion to his evil sister Cerce, there is a lot of juice flowing.

Don’t they ever drink water?

The whole point of this is that in the final wedding scene, young, cruel King Joffrey is glugging down wine that he professes he likes very much, maybe even more then his new bride.   Suddenly he starts to hiccough and choke. Needless to say, the poison’s in the chalice and dies an agonizing, blue-faced death. Fare thee well, horrible boy-king.

Had he paid any attention to the signs of impending doom, he could have avoided his gurgling demise. See, I know the wine they served at the reception. Yup, I’ve got a bottle right here. The  label would have warned  him of the potential danger within.

Me thinks there is something suspicious about this wine, sire..

Me thinks there is something suspicious about this wine, sire..

However, this Oregon winemaker is far from the evil doer in this episode. Owen Roe is a co-owned winery between the Wolfe’s and the O’Reillys. Sinister Hand is one of their signature red rhone blends, primarily grenache ,syrah and some mouvedre.  I tasted this probably sometime in 2012, had David O’Reilly sign it and put it away and forgot about it. I know I liked it very much then, but since then I know that I need to crack this open immediately as some reviews I’ve read lead me to believe it’s probably losing it’s acidity but still a great drinker. I’m sure it’s very yummy in spite of it’s dripping label.  You should read the full story about how this wine got it’s name. It is so very Game of Thrones, but in an old Irish lore sort of way.






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Mr. X’s – Open That Bottle Night

MWWC Badge

I consider myself an unpretentious wine appreciator, but I find that as my palate is becoming more honed, I am hampered by the budget of a single working lady. With few exceptions I buy within my own wallet limitations. Fortunately, there are many great wines $30 and under that exist for my rack space.

So you won’t be seeing the Châteauneuf-du-Papes, the Pomerols, or Saint-Juliens in my wine collection. But I am fortunate to have friends who do run with the big dogs.pups in wine boxes


Sometimes they invite this puppy to lap from their bowls. Er, enough of the dog analogies.


Recently I was invited to Mr X’s ‘Open That Bottle’ (commonly referred to as OTB) party on a lovely warm-for-Seattle April night. The loft apartment was cute, the lights low and candles lit, the inviting ambiance was perfect for an evening of wine tasting and conversation

‘Open That Bottle’ is a social event specific to like minded wine socialistos, which asks  you to bring that special bottle you’ve been saving for just the right occasion and audience. It’s that bottle that you’ve been picking up, then putting back on the rack as it may be wrong for the food or would not properly be appreciated by the beer drinking group you are taking it to.

I know, this sounds a bit snooty, but for a person like me who is still in the midst of my personal wine education, I kinda want the ‘experts’ to help me taste this wine to see if it IS all that!  OTB’s are useful for people who are cellaring a case of a particular vintage and they try to taste them every couple of years to see how that wine is evolving.

Not all wines are built for ageing. There are many ‘drink-me-now’ wines out there, that may be showing well up to 5 years from release but more likely you should enjoy sooner than that. Except for a few  bottles, that’s where I’m at.  But working on it.

That being said, my fear is that I’ve got a bunch of wines that should have been drunk last Easter, or the Easter before. But when taken to some OTB events, they were still showing very well. Their  wine-bones I guess, bore enough tannin or acidity for cellaring. They become softly mellow and drinkable in a different way. There can be nice surprises and but there can also be horrible surprises.

Dangers of losing a wine bottle in your racks or holding on too long to one can mean that that  wine is harboring an embarrassment for you at a  future OTB party. My fear is that I bring a bottle that has peaked or that it’s corked.  Puppy mistake.  I mean rookie mistake.

I have found some instructive and interesting information on this very thing and I give credit to Jim Gordon at Wine.com.  His article “Know When a Wine is Peaking” is  broadening my knowledge and should ultimately make me be a smarter shopper.

But back to the party.

We started with eight bottles and my offering was a South African Syrah ‘08 Boekenhoutskloof. A nice Danish name bearing the signature of the winemaker. I brought it because I at least knew no one else would bringing a like bottle, and if you can’t bring very expensive wines, then bring a good to great unusual one. I bought it maybe 3 years ago after sitting through a tasting with the winemaker.  I loved the story about the perils of wine harvesting in Africa as it is not uncommon to see cheetahs dashing through vineyards as well as  poisonous snakes amongst the vines. Thank goodness it was liked well enough, even when joined by other local notable syrahs from Washington state. Whew!

Here are the wines that we had that night and I am very fortunate to get the chance to taste them; I love the generosity of my ‘big dog’ friends.OTB Christopher 3 OTB Christopher 4OTB wines Christopher2

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Taste Washington – The largest national single-region Wine Event was awesome!

April 29th was a typical Seattle Spring Saturday that started out with windy conditions and rain. That was quickly forgotten once you entered the halls of  the Century Link Event Center.

The air is fragrant with wisps of sweet and savory offerings that linger down the aisles. There is a buzz of anticipation as countdown starts before the first patrons are to enter. Corks are being pulled, amuse bouches are prepared and ordered perfectly onto decorative trays.

My friend and I stood for a moment to survey the scene and wondered where to start first? We were slightly  giddy and just plain overwhelmed  by the choices spread out before us. But being VIP ticket holders, we had the advantage over the general public of being allowed in one slim hour ahead to get to all the good items we’d missed out on in the previous year’s event.

But we had a plan! Oysters, great wines, best wines, new wineries and lots of spitting.

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photo (4)Starting with the Taylor Shellfish Fresh bar; it’s a 40 foot long ice table with oyster shuckers shuckering those tiny, tasty cold water creatures. They featured the sweet little Kumamotos, then the Olympia and Shigokus. Served classically with lemon quarters and mignonette sauces to compliment, it was a delicate start to the day.

How fortunate for us that the organizers placed the chilled wine bar right next to the shellfish.  A wonderland of Sauvignon Blancs, Semillions, Aligotes, Chenin Blancs, Rieslings – we were very happy.

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The aisles are listed A to Z so even though we had our winery playbooks out, we still had a hard time finding wineries. You would get pulled this way and that by beckoning smiling pourers waving their bottles at us, or being waylaid by friends from wine school or other wine industry related associations.

Before we knew it, The VIP hour flew by and to our dismay, we’d only made it to the ‘B’s by the time the hordes descended.  We did our best to finish up the whites but did some zig zagging and finally gave up any ordered tasting march and just enjoyed it.

I came prepared to dump my tastes or spit into my little paper cup which I finally mastered by the end of the event.   This avoids the danger of just glugging down every taste you get, which after 4 hours could be detrimental to  your equilibrium, and is just not very professional or pretty. I am happy to report that we both came away with sound mind and with the help of the many water stations set up throughout the  venue,  the ability  to drive ourselves home.

If I had the space I could regale you with every wine we tasted. Suffice it to say, we tasted as many cab francs, syrahs, merlots that we could find. If it was from Walla Walla, yes give me some. From Red Mountain, bring it on. Tasty cab sauvs were from Betz. So many tasty offerings it was hard to choose or single them out.   You’ll just have go next year.

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