As the American palate continues to sharpen to the tune of cult wine regions and experimental styles, industry types are flocking to the crush pads and cellars where their trade is born. Sommeliers, known for logging impressive hours stocking, buying and selling the stuff, are increasingly trying their hand at vinification. Whether it be a much-needed departure from the long nights of the restaurant realm, a powerful experiential element to their overall wine education or utter curiosity, winemaking’s glow is attracting even its most trained and certified servants. Here are six bottles to try made by Northwest somms.
W.T. Vintners 2015 Boushey Rhône Blend | Yakima Valley | RN74 Seattle wine director and sommelier Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen blends a pretty even split of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah from the time-honored Boushey Vineyard. Dark stone fruit and brambly red berries mingle with botanicals and salivating tannins. | $40
JoieFarm Winery 2016 A Noble Blend | Okanagan Valley | Heidi Noble is a culinary school grad and educator, certified sommelier and self-taught winemaker with a penchant for farming. This blend of Gewürtztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois and Muscat is fresh, minerally and lush in tropical fruit. | $24 CAD
The Orcas Project 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé | Willamette Valley | From repping a Spanish wine portfolio to somming at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Cole Sisson — now of the Orcas Island, Washington, wine shop Doe Bay Wine Co. — also bottles wine. This pink sipper sings with lively strawberry, earth and crab apple acidity. | $23
Clay Pigeon Winery 2015 Cabernet Franc | Rogue Valley | Bicoastal sommelier-turned-Oregon winemaker Michael Claypool ferments exclusively free-run juice in this wine, a powerful expression of freshly plucked pomegranates, anise, savory herbs and white pepper that still drinks easy. | $25
Kitsch Wines 2016 Chardonnay | Okanagan Valley | Joining a multigenerational Okanagan Valley family, winemaker Grant Biggs applies his somming experience in the cellar, maybe best witnessed in this well-structured, zesty Chardonnay that sees just enough time in oak. | $28 CAD
Eternal Wines 2016 Gratitude Merlot | Columbia Valley | Brad Binko is a former East Coast sommelier who turned to winemaking through Walla Walla Community College and now produces proud Washington wine, like this archetypal Merlot. Plush, ripe in cherry and velvety with herb edging. | $50
This article originally ran in the Spring 2018 issue of Sip Northwest. For the full story and more like it, click here.