Remarkable Wine Cellars of the Northwest
Primed with precision and stocked with bottles from the region’s best wineries, these cellars are some of the finest the Northwest has to offer: In aesthetics, historical context, the collection itself and more.
The Herbfarm Restaurant, Woodinville, Washington
Lead Sommelier: Lisa Rongren
What’s Remarkable: Imagine a wine room in an old world chateau—the décor a mix of vintage chandeliers, still life paintings, art books, and marble statues. A stack of wine bottles perched artfully beneath deer antlers dates back decades. At this leading destination restaurant in Washington state, the working cellar holds 26,000 bottles and 4,500 selections—and boasts one of the largest collections of Pacific Northwest wines in the region. On the wine list you’ll find more than 190 Champagnes and sparkling wines, upwards of 1,000 pinot noirs, and 345 dessert wine choices, including a storied 1795 Madeira.
The Tradition: Before the nine-course thematic dinner begins, guests roam the cellar and the garden and learn about the history of the restaurant. Throughout the candlelit feast, the sommelier and chef share producer stories about each course and wine pairing.
The Focus: “We celebrate the foods and wines of the Pacific Northwest,” Lisa Rongren says. “And we are always seeking out new excellent producers from the Northwest. Wines from Washington and Oregon tend to be our largest selections, but we also have wines from British Columbia, and we just went on a staff trip to Idaho’s Snake River Valley to explore wines there.
Cellar Gems: A 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir from the McMinnville, Oregon winery, signed by founder and legendary wine pioneer David Lett. This is the wine that traveled to Paris and took 10th in a blind tasting of pinot noir at the historic Wine Olympics in 1979.
Canlis, Seattle, Washington
Wine Director: Nelson Daquip
What’s Remarkable: A few years ago, Canlis embarked a significant cellar remodel. “It was all centered around a barrel of whisky,” says Nelson Daquip. Yes, that’s right: whisky. The three Canlis brothers venture on yearly whisky-tasting adventures in Scotland —and their fabled quest of “the impossible dram” led to an illustrious whisky barrel as the star of their restaurant wine cellar. Another statement piece: a glass Champagne cellar. The wood for the handle on the Champagne cellar door was sourced from historic church pews, and resembles the restaurant door handle—a sculpture by late artist George Tsutakawa. A custom-made chandelier and sconces salvaged from a yacht in Glasgow, Scotland, set the mood lighting. In a whimsical salute, the cellar architect designed secret hiding spots in the cellar for bottles of whiskey and wine.
The Tradition: “Whenever you sip from the barrel of cellared whisky, you must share a heartfelt story, often related to how you plan to be a better person in the coming year,” Daquip says.
The Focus: “Five sommeliers manage the extensive wine cellar that hovers near 20,000 bottles and comprises 2,500 selections,” he adds. “We buy based on historical record—collecting from traditional growing regions, blue-chip wines, as well as up-and-coming producers of Washington and Oregon. We want to be the restaurant that has the first vintages of Leonetti Cellar, along with first growth Bordeaux.”
Cellar Gems: A 2003 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Asteroide. “Owner Brian Canlis and I traveled to France and met with him, so this bottle is very special and sentimental,” says Daquip. “We brought two bottles back, and we have one bottle left in restaurant and it’s on the list.
Purple Café & Wine Bar, Seattle, Washington
Wine Director: Chris Horn
What’s Remarkable: Every dish on the menu has been paired through a daily collaboration between the team of chefs and sommeliers at each restaurant (locations also include Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle, Woodinville). “We’ve been doing this for over nine years,” says Chris Horn. Wine geeks and academics will relish in the vast selection of glass pours and flights, many of which are on display in the two-story, spiral wine staircase at the restaurant’s epicenter. Here you can get a taste from Greece, Slovenia, Argentina, as well as home-grown favorites. Informative and playful, a tagline for a recent pinot noir flight reads: “Still the most popular guy in the room.”
The Philosophy: “We are about exploration,” Horn says. “I have a hard time drinking the same thing twice, and don’t want to make you do it either.”
Wine Focus: “Part of our concept is for guests to learn about wine and for myself and the sommelier teams, that means keeping things fresh and new,” he adds.
Cellar Gems: “We do have a little bit of a scroll stash, bottles that may or may not have been expensive or cult-y, but more so bottles we really enjoyed having on the list. Or bottles with sentimental value—made by friends or former co-workers,” Horn says. He notes that he holds on to the wines of Andrew Will and Betz family winery because he thinks the wines age beautifully.
Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, Vancouver, BC
Chef/Founder/Proprietor: Pino Posteraro
What’s remarkable: At Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca, bottles of wine are stacked from floor to ceiling like books in a college library. The Italian-born chef and owner affably describes his legendary wine menu as “eclectic.” The encyclopedic list hovers near 45,000 bottles of wine (with many cult-classics) and the selection criss-crosses from Italy to Australia, and from Canada to Chile. “My cellar is distinct because it has been conceived to perfectly complement our cuisine that is intimately tied to my Italian culture and roots, but evolved to be in perfect harmony with my heritage of “new Canadian,” says chef Pino Posteraro. The chef is drawn to wines that he finds authentic, and producers who pay attention to nature, both ideals also found in his signature Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
The Philosophy: “To us, wines are not trophies, nor collector items, and were not bought with the intention to make an investment, even if they become an important one,” he says.
The Focus: “We are not necessarily focused just on the Old World, but on all the countries that strive to make ethically sounds wines—from the smallest obscure little wines to the renowned ‘big guns’ (all) to guarantee our oenophiles patrons the perfect experience,” says Posteraro.
Cellar Gems: 1985 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, 2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, 2000 Petrus, 1997 Dalla Valle Maya, 1993 Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 1990 Leonetti “Seven Hills” Reserve Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hawksworth Restaurant, Vancouver, BC
Wine Director: Bryant Mao
What’s Remarkable: In many ways, the robust “wine room” at Hawksworth Restaurant evokes a piece of large-scale modern art. More than 2,500 perfectly placed bottles gleam in immaculate rows from behind glass walls. The eye-catching yet functional wine room serves as the focal point for the main dining area. The corresponding wine list is organized by grape varieties and then sectioned into country or wine region. Hawksworth employs nine sommeliers so an expert is always at-hand to marry the latest wine find with the ingredient-driven Canadian cuisine. Much of the wine you can see from the dining room is not on the list yet, but is held back for mid-term or long-term cellaring.
The Philosophy: “We only put wine on the list when it’s ready to be drunk,” say Bryant Mao.
The Focus: “We simply want to showcase the best representatives from the best producers from the best regions of the wine world,” he adds.
Cellar Gems: 1997 Salon Le Mesnil Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne. “It’s rare, small-production, and only produced in the very best vintages,” says Mao.
The Joel Palmer House, Dayton, Oregon
Chef/Owner: Christopher Czarnecki
What’s Remarkable: Back in 2007, when chef-owner Christopher Czarnecki revamped the restaurant wine cellar, he got creative with the décor. The historic property dates back to 1859, and the stairways are steep and narrow. “I thought it would be cool to embellish the two bare walls leading down to the cellar with something like murals,” he says. That week, he had a label slide off a wine bottle in an ice-bucket. An idea sparked, and he slapped the first label onto the wall. For the next few months, at the end of every night, he and his colleagues would steam labels off wine bottles and paper the wall. The second wall is a collection of autographs. “In order to sign this wall, you have to be an Oregon winemaker,” says Czarnecki. Despite visiting celebrities (like Natalie Portman and the cast of Grimm) he’s held fast to the rule. Well, except for once. Chef Vitaly Paley signed the wall last autumn after an eventful truffle hunt.
The Philosophy: “Mushrooms and pinot noir are a match made in heaven,” he says.
The Focus: The cellar of roughly 2,500 bottles is exclusively Oregon.
Cellar Gems: 1996 Rex Hill, 1998 Amity Vineyards, 1992 Beaux Frères, 1992 Cooper Mountain Vineyards, 1991 Panther Creek Cellars, Beaux Freres Vineyard.
JORY Restaurant at The Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, Oregon
Wine Director: Ken Bolick
What’s Remarkable: In the six years he’s worked at JORY, Ken Bolick has scoured the Willamette Valley seeking older vintages of Oregon pinot noir. Most of the bottles head straight to the cellar to collect more dust. “We are doing a lot of in-house aging now with producers like Cristom, Brickhouse and Eyrie,” he says. The intent is to showcase Oregon wines with a little bit of bottle age and offer guests matured wines that are drinking at their peak. The current list spans 850 labels, which amounts to about 8,000 separate bottles. A rotating Oregon pinot noir flight offers guests a chance to taste pinot from different AVA’s side-by-side.
The Philosophy: “To offer wines that pair really well with food so the dining experience is as good as it possibly can be,” he says. There’s not a lot that beats pinot noir and chardonnay worldwide. There’s a reason that they are considered the most versatile wines on the planet.”
The Focus: “Local pinot noir and chardonnay, and accented with a selection from the premiere winegrowing regions around the world,” Bolick adds.
Cellar Gems: A 1983 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve sits on the list with several highly acclaimed verticals, including Shea Wine Cellars, Ken Wright Cellars and Beaux Frères.
Andina, Portland, Oregon
Sommelier: Drew Duggan
What’s Remarkable: Over the past nine months, Drew Duggan has been transitioning the cellar at Andina, moving from a vast and varied wine list, to a tighter selection that best complements the Peruvian cuisine. “I have found Spanish wine, particularly from the coastal regions along the Atlantic and Mediterranean to be a natural complement to Novoandinos and traditional Peruvian dishes,” says Duggan. All the while he’s been adding wines to the book—specifically enhancing the selection of white wines from Spain, South America, and the Pacific Northwest.
The Philosophy: The list is in the process of moving to a sustainable wine focus, following the restaurant’s overall commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
The Focus: “Most of the new wines we’ve added are certified sustainable wines–ranging from organic to Demeter certified,” Duggan days.
Cellar Gems: “We have an amazing selection of old Rioja—the 2001 was a particularly good vintage and we are sitting on quite a few bottles,” he says. “When it comes to the octopus or scallops on our menu, Do Ferreiro Albariño is a very natural pairing. It’s known as one of the best albariños in the world.”
Sip Northwest | Winter 2016