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New to Washington Wine? Check out Sleight of Hand, Gramercy & Force Majeure

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Every once in a while someone wanting to expand their wine hobby asks me: What Washington wineries should I check out?

My first inclination is long-time favorites like Cayuse, Quilceda Creek or Leonetti, but the reality is your not-yet-born child is more likely to land a spot on the Cayuse mailing list than you are. Quilceda Creek and Leonetti also have full mailing lists. Even wineries newer to the scene like Betz and Reynvaan have full mailing lists.

So what’s a wine lover to do – move on to Oregon Pinot Noir or Idaho Riesling? Don’t give up! There’s a world of amazing Washington wine still available to consumers.

Here are some of my favorites (join their lists before a high score from the Wine Advocate maxes them out):

Force Majeure Vineyards

Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The first Collaboration Series bottling, a Bordeaux style blend, was the 2004 Collaboration I made by Ben Smith of Cadence.

Some of the other wines in the series include:

  • Collaboration II – a Northern Rhone style blend by Ross Mickel of Andrew Ross
  • Collaboration V – a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made by Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery
  • Collaboration VI – a Southern Rhone style blend made by James Mantone of Syncline.

Located in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Force Majeure is open twice a year for mailing list member release parties.

Gramercy Cellars

Gramercy Cellars was founded in 2005 by Master Sommelier Greg Harrington. These are old world style wines that see little influence from oak and have high acidity making them a delight to pair with some of your favorite meals. To quote a recent Gramercy newsletter, “Stems and slopes rule.” This gives you an idea of how Greg leans in his wine making style. Look for the Lagniappe Syrah and Tempranillo Inigo Montoya.

Gramercy has a public tasting room in downtown Walla Walla.

Sleight of Hand Cellars

Sleight of Hand was founded in 2007 by Jerry and Sandy Solomon, and Trey Busch. The formula at Sleight of Hand is high quality wines from Washington’s most exceptional vineyards. Look for the Enchantress Chardonnay from French Creek Vineyard and the Funkadelic Syrah from the (aptly named) Funk Vineyard.

Sleight of Hand has a tasting room outside of downtown Walla Walla and is open to the public. Tasting room tip: Trey is a huge Pearl Jam fan. Request one of their songs to be played and they’ll waive your tasting fee!

I realize I’m just scratching the surface with these wineries. What would you recommend to a Washington wine newcomer?

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hey Tom, I would add Andrew Will and K Vintners to the Washington wine to-drink list — both top names with reasonably priced and available bottlings. I’ve had some rough experiences with the intro-level Sleight of Hand wines, so it’s good to hear their higher-end stuff is worthwhile.

    August 9, 2012
    • I agree with your choices Peter. Regarding Sleight of Hand…try to obtain one of the bottles I referenced. Super wines.

      August 9, 2012
  2. Scott #

    I’d add aMaurice, Beresan, Kerloo, Maison Bleue, Rasa, Reynvaan, Rulo, Tranche and Waters.

    Reynvaan has gone to allocation to list members (and as you note the list is closed). Thus, while these have been readily available over the past few years, I would expect these will be harder to obtain beginning with the 2010 vintage (unless you are on the list). I believe all the others are readily available direct through the winery or at retail (at least in the Seattle area).

    August 9, 2012
    • I had a great time tasting at Reynvaan on Cayuse Release Weekend. Just exceptional wines across the board.

      August 9, 2012
  3. Matt #

    Loved Guardian on my last trip up, which was Woodinville-centered. Fantastic wines, and it randomly became a “visit the winery and chat with the owner” experience, which was wonderful. I’d also add Elevation Cellars, Sparkman, Brian Carter, Januik/Novelty Hill, and Mark Ryan.

    August 9, 2012
    • You hit on some favorites for me. I have not tried Elevation Cellars though. Will check them out.

      August 9, 2012
  4. Hey Tom Lee

    You missed one of the best winery in walla walla. Forgeron is on the top of my list for great wine.

    August 9, 2012
  5. Yes, Forgeron has a great lineup of wines!

    August 10, 2012
  6. Some really great wineries mentioned–I’ll throw Rotie Cellars and Buty into the mix.

    August 23, 2012
    • Thanks! I’ve yet to visit Rotie and plan to rectify that when I head out to Spring release weekend early next year.

      August 23, 2012

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