Sipping Seattle: A Wine List Examination of Seattle Restaurant Groups

Sipping Seattle: A Wine List Examination of Seattle Restaurant Groups

Washington Wine Month has come and gone, ending with a spectacular weekend at Taste of Washington. A lot has happened in the last few years for Washington wine, as wines from Washington continue to win incredible acclaim through national and international wine publications. It is clear that few regions of the world can match the quality for price of Washington wines. Being a sommelier, I have a ton of interest in how restaurants choose wines for their lists. For good reasons, tons of others somms and beverage directors around the United States have chosen Washington wines that over-deliver in the bottle. Locally, in the Seattle area, there are some big players in the restaurant industry that choose Washington wines on their lists. Some of them offer some of the best from Washington at a reasonable price for consumers. I wanted to examine the wine lists at some big restaurant groups in town, including the Heavy Restaurant Group, the Schwartz Brothers Restaurant Group, Chef in the Hat restaurants, Tom Douglas restaurants and Ethan Stowell restaurants, in trying uncover some hidden gems out of Washington.

 The absolutely delightful salmon sanwich at Purple Cafe.

The absolutely delightful salmon sanwich at Purple Cafe.

The Heavy Restaurant group, for instance, has a huge Washington wine following at their restaurant, Purple. At the Bellevue Purple they have some excellent white wine by the glass value selections including the 2014 L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc ($11.50 per glass), the 2014 Sparkman Cellars ‘Birdie’ Riesling (WWB, 91 points, $10.00 per glass), as well as red wine by the glass selections, including the 2013 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot ($15.00 per glass), the 2013 Betz ‘Cuvee Frangin’ (WWB, 90, $20.00 per glass), the 2011 EFESTE ‘Nana’ ($16.00 per glass) and the very classy 2012 Avennia ‘Gravura’ (WWB, 92 points, $17.50 per glass). Excellent values are also found in their strong bottle selection as well, which includes the 2014 Sparkman Cellars ‘Birdie’ Riesling for only $38.00, the gorgeous 2014 Avennia ‘Oliane’ Sauvignon Blanc (WWB, 91, $57.00 a bottle), the 2014 Woodward Canyon Sauvignon Blanc ($65.00 a bottle), the 2014 Abeja Chardonnay ($80.00 a bottle), the 2013 SIXTO ‘Uncovered’ Chardonnay ($70.00 a bottle) and the excellent value 2014 Tamarack Cellars Chardonnay (WWB, 91, $35.00 per bottle). Most of their white wine selections by the bottle aren’t marked up more than 2x their retail price which tends to be a rare thing in fine dining.
Red wine values by the bottle are abundant at Bellevue Purple, with the 2008 Boudreaux Cellars Merlot (WWB, 93, $80.00 per bottle), the 2013 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot ($58.00 per bottle), the 2012 Kerloo ‘Stone Tree Vineyard’ Malbec ($85.00 per bottle), as well as the 2013 Andrew Will Cabernet Franc ($56.00 per bottle), the 2013 Gramercy Cellars ‘Lower East’ Cabernet ($69.00 per bottle), the 2013 Amavi Cabernet ($58.00 per bottle), the 2013 Saviah Cabernet ($56.00 per bottle) or the very impressive 2012 Abeja Cabernet (WWB, 93, $99.00 per bottle). Similar good value wines are found at the Purple locations in Seattle (http://www.purplecafe.com/p…/PurpleSeattle_Menu_WineList.pdf).The Woodinville location has even more of a Woodinville focus (http://www.purplecafe.com/…/PurpleWoodinville_Menu_WineList…). These prices don’t exactly break the bank for some of Washington’s great wineries. At Woodinville Purple, glass pours offer some excellent values with favorites such as the 2014 Alexandria Nicole ‘Crawford Vineyard’ Viognier (WWB, 90, $14.00 per glass, $54.00 per bottle), the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle ‘Indian Wells’ Cabernet ($38.00 per bottle) and the absolutely fantastic 2012 EFESTE ‘Final Final’ Red Wine (WWB, 92, $15.00 per glass). For a splurge try the stunning (but a must decant) 2012 Long Shadows ‘Pedestal’ (WWB, 94, $108.00).
While I absolutely love the food at the Heavy Group’s Capitol Hill Tex-Mex restaurant, ‘Barrio’, there is only one Washington wine selection on the menu. The same is not true at the Heavy group’s excellent Woodinville ‘Commons’ restaurant, which focuses on home-style American meals and boasts a high percentage of Washington wines on their list. Excellent values include the 2014 Lauren Ashton Rose ($14.00 per glass, $48.00 per bottle), the NV Treveri Sparkling Rose Sec ($44.00 per bottle), as well as the 2014 Dusted Valley ‘Boomtown Chardonnay’ ($10.00 per glass, $38.00 per bottle). They also have amazing buy on the 2013 Baer ‘Shard’ Chardonnay (WWB, 91, $40.00 per bottle) which is less than a 2x markup, and offer the 2013 Les Trouves White ($12.00 per glass, $46.00 per bottle), as well as the 2013 Two Vintners Syrah ($44.00 per bottle) and the 2013 JM Cellars ‘Bramble Bump Red’ (WWB, 90, $49.00 per bottle). These are some excellent value selections from the Heavy Group.

 

 The rich and decadent crab cakes at Chandler's Crabhouse

The rich and decadent crab cakes at Chandler's Crabhouse

The Schwartz Brothers restaurant group has a longstanding foothold in the Seattle dining scene. Washington wine has a very strong showing at Chandler’s Crabhouse, located in Seattle on a gorgeous Lake Union backdrop. Their wine list has many great values and is particularly strong with their Washington red wine selections by the bottle. Some of the good Washington values include the NV Chateau St. Michelle ‘Michelle’ Sparkling Wine ($10.00 per glass), the gorgeous 2013 Long Shadows ‘Poets Leap’ Riesling (WWB, 90, $13.00 per glass, $48.00 per bottle), and the 2014 Structure Cellars ‘Blueprint’ White Blend ($13.00 per glass). Their red wine glass pours excel as well with their 2010 Five Star Cellars Cabernet (WWB, 91, $16.00 per glass) and the 2012 L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot (WWB, 91, $14.00 per glass). By the bottle they have many selections including the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle ‘Indian Wells’ Chardonnay ($45.00 per bottle), the 2013 Matthews Winery Sauvignon Blanc ($50.00 per bottle), the 2014 Alexandria Nicole ‘Crawford Vineyard’ Viognier (WWB, 90, $55.00 per bottle) an excellent buy on the 2013 Buty White Wine ($56.00 per bottle), the stunning 2013 Abeja Chardonnay (WWB, 93, $85.00), as well as my #2 wine of 2015, the 2013 DeLille Cellars ‘Chaleur Estate’ Blanc (WWB, 95, $80.00). For Washington red wine lovers, they offer many selections including the venerable 2010 EFESTE ‘Big Papa’ Cabernet ($115.00 per bottle), the gorgeous and elegant 2011 Dunham Cellars Cabernet (WWB, 93, $100.00 per bottle), as well as my number three wine of 2015, the 2012 Woodward Canyon Cabernet ‘Artist Series’ (WWB, 95, $120.00). Their collection of Washington red blends is so expansive that they boast 30 selections, including the stunning 2012 Col Solare (WWB, 94 points, $130.00), the 2008 Cote Bonneville ‘Carriage House’ (WWB, 93, $125.00), the 2012 Quilceda Creek ‘Red Wine’ (WWB, 94, $120.00 per bottle) and the 2013 Long Shadows ‘Saggi’ (WWB, 93, $105.00 per bottle).
Daniel’s Broiler also boasts a fantastic wine list at their Bellevue location. Their Washington wines by the glass selections include the 2013 L’Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay (WWB, 90, $14.00), as well as the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle ‘Indian Wells’ Cabernet ($13.00), as well as the 2013 DeLille Cellars ‘Doyenne AIX’ (WWB, 92, $20.00 per glass) and the 2011 Lauren Ashton ‘Cuvee Estelle’ Red Blend (WWB, 91, $15.00) that expresses the best of a cold vintage in Washington. By the bottle there are great choices with the fantastic 2013 Abeja Chardonnay (WWB, 93, $80.00), the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay (WWB, 90, $40.00), and the exceptional 2013 Dunham Cellars ‘Shirley Mays’ Chardonnay (WWB, 93, $70.00), as well as the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle ‘Eroica’ Riesling (WWB, 93, $50.00) and the 2014 Cote Bonneville ‘DuBrul Vineyard’ Riesling (WWB, 91, $50.00). Their Washington red wine selection is even better, with over 40 Washington Cabernets to choose from! Some values include the 2012 Novelty Hill Cabernet ($75.00), or the 2012 L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Cabernet (WWB, 91, $75.00) For a splurge try the absolutely scintillating 2013 Long Shadows ‘Feather’ (WWB, 96, $150.00). There are some other great selections including the 2009 Corliss Red Wine ($150.00), the 2008 Five Star Cellars ‘Stellar’ (WWB, 93, $110.00) and the 2013 L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Syrah ($65.00), and a great price on the 2013 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Franc (WWB, 91, $60.00).

 

 Luc serves up one of the best burgers in Seattle

Luc serves up one of the best burgers in Seattle

The Chef in the Hat restaurant group includes fantastic French bistros ‘Loulay’ and ‘Luc.’ Both are a must try if you are fan of French food that won’t break the bank. The burger at Loulay and Luc is absolutely outstanding and will pair beautifully with a Washington Cabernet. While the Washington wine selections are more limited than those from the Schwartz Brothers restaurants, there are several good Washington wine selections at Luc. Some strong selections include the 2013 Chateau St. Michelle ‘Mimi’ Chardonnay (WWB, 90, $10.00 per glass, $38.00 per bottle), and the 2013 Tenet ‘The Pundit’ Syrah (WWB, 92, $13.00 per glass, $50.00 per bottle). Other Washington wine values include the 2013 DiStefano Sauvignon Blanc (WWB, 88, $40.00 per bottle), the stunning 2012 Abeja Cabernet (WWB, 93, $100.00 per bottle), the 2012 Waters Syrah (WWB, 90, $60.00 per bottle) and the 2013 Alexandria Nicole ‘Quarry Butte’ Red Wine ($65.00 per bottle). Luc’s sister restaurant, Loulay, has an intriguing showing in Washington wine, having some unusual and harder to find selections. Their burger is also to die for. It will pair beautifully with the gorgeous 2012 EFESTE ‘Nana’ (WWB, 92) by the glass for only $20.00. Good Washington white wine selections include the 2014 Long Shadows ‘Poets Leap’ Riesling (WWB, 93, $45.00 per bottle), the 2014 Orr Wines ‘Old Vine’ Chenin Blanc ($45.00 per bottle) and the completely stunning 2014 DeLille Cellars ‘Chaleur Estate’ Blanc (WWB, 95, $80.00 per bottle). They also serve the fantastic 2013 Maison Bleue ‘Metis Blanc’ (WWB, 91, $50.00), the 2012 Kerloo Cellars ‘Majestic’ Grenache/Mouvedre Blend ($55.00 per bottle) and for a splurge the 2011 Cayuse ‘Impulsivo’ Tempranillo Ex Chamberlin Vineyard ($275.00 per bottle) or the 2013 Reynvaan ‘Foothills Reserve’ Syrah ($160.00 per bottle). Loulay boasts 15 Washington Cabernet selections, ranging from Leonetti, Va Piano, the ethereal 2006 Quilceda Creek Cabernet (WWB, 98, $330.00) and my number 3 wine from 2015, the 2012 Woodward Canyon ‘Artist Series’ Cabernet (WWB, 95, $100.00).

 

 Absolutely delicious crab cakes at Etta's, one of Tom Douglas's signature dishes

Absolutely delicious crab cakes at Etta's, one of Tom Douglas's signature dishes

Tom Douglas has put his stamp on Seattle. His impressive restaurants range from seafood specialties to prime beef. Unfortunately, many of his wine lists do not have a strong focus on Washington wines. One of my favorite Italian food spots in Seattle is Cuoco, which focuses on Northern Italy. Unfortunately that restaurant focuses on Italian wines and doesn’t include Washington selections. Seatown, another Tom Douglas restaurant located near the Pike Place Market, has only few Washington wines in a more limited wine list. But Dalia Lounge, another of my favorites, has several excellent Washington wines including the 2015 Avennia ‘Oliane’ Sauvignon Blanc ($65.00 per bottle), the gorgeous 2014 Woodward Canyon Sauvignon Blanc ($70.00 per bottle), the 2012 EFEESTE ‘Lola’ Chardonnay (WWB, 92, $80.00 per bottle) and the 2013 Nine Hats Chardonnay ($50.00 per bottle). Washington reds are well-represented with the 2013 Syncline ‘Subduction’ Red ($49.00 per bottle), the 2012 Januik Cabernet (WWB, 92, $70.00 per bottle), and include awesome buy on both the 2012 Novelty Hill Merlot, (WWB, 92, $49.00 per bottle) and the 2011 Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot (WWB, 91, $70.00 per bottle). Dalia Lounge has some of the best buys in Washington wine in Seattle dining. If you only fancy a half bottle, check out the 2013 L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Syrah (WWB, 91) for only $30.00. Finally, Tom Douglass’s Greek themed restaurant, ‘Lola’ also has a few good Washington wine selections, none more than the 2013 Long Shadows ‘Poets Leap’ Riesling (Half bottle, WWB, 90, $26.00). By the glass they have the 2013 Mark Ryan ‘The Chief’ ($15.00), in this mostly international glass list and offer good buy on the 2012 Gramercy Cellars Syrah (WWB, 92, $90.00 per bottle).

 

 The buratta at Tavolata is the best in Seattle

The buratta at Tavolata is the best in Seattle

My final highlight, and not least at all, are the Ethan Stowell restaurants, which include Tavolata, Red Cow, How to Cook A Wolf and many others. Many of these restaurants have worldly wine lists but do not feature a wide range of Washington wines. Ethan Stowell’s Tavolata has always been one of my favorite spots for quality Italian food. Located on Second Ave. in Belltown, I think that Tavolata has the best burrata in Seattle, hands down. Their wine list has improved over the years and currently has a few Washington selections including the 2013 Buty ‘Connor Lee Vineyard’ Chardonnay ($43.00 for half bottle), the 2011 J. Bookwalter ‘Foreshadow’ Cabernet (WWB, 91, $43.00 per half bottle). By the bottle they have the intriguing 2014 W.T. Vintners ‘Perasol’ Pinot Noir Rose from the Columbia Gorge ($47.00), the 2013 Mark Ryan Viognier (WWB, 91, $55.00), as well as a good buy on the cold vintage 2011 EFESTE ‘Big Papa’ Cabernet ($105.00), the 2013 Mark Ryan ‘The Chief’ Red Blend ($55.00) and the 2013 Andrew Will ‘Sangue di Giove’ Sangiovese ($80.00). While having a generally Italo-focused wine list, at How to Cook A Wolf, they have a few good Washington selections by the bottle including the 2014 Mark Ryan ‘Adrian’ Viognier ($45.00), the 2014 Balboa ‘Mith’ Rousanne ($70.00) and the 2014 Gilbert ‘Unoaked’ Chardonnay ($44.00). The 2013 Syncline Mouvedre is a great buy at $69.00, as is the 2013 Mark Ryan ‘The Dissident’ Red Blend ($79.00).
Red Cow is their meat focused restaurant located in Capital Hill in Seattle. Look for a few great Washington wine pairings for steak. These include the 2013 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot (WWB, 92, $68.00 a bottle), the 2013 Buty ‘Connor Lee Vineyard’ Red Wine ($99.00) and the 2012 Upchurch Vineyard Cabernet ($145.00). They also offer a good value with the 2013 Betz ‘Cuvee Frangin’ ($67.00 per bottle) which would pair beautifully with a rich ribeye. The 2012 Mark Ryan ‘The Dead Horse’ Red Blend is also a good buy at $125.00 (WWB, and is drinking at its sweet spot right now. Finally, Ethan Stowell’s seafood restaurant, Anchovies and Olives, offers a few good Washington whites, including an excellent price on the 2013 Buty White Wine (WWB, 92, $67.00). They also feature the 2014 Mark Ryan Viognier ($72.00). For red wine look at their 2013 Avennia ‘Justine’ Rhone Style Blend ($84.00 per bottle). Their Italian restaurant that focuses on Roman cuisine, Rione XIII, serves some great pizza but mostly focuses on Italian wines and has only a few Washington wine selections, including a few Mark Ryan red wine selections.