Seattle Magazine's Eighth Annual Washington Wine Awards
Seattle magazine's 2013 Award-Winning People in the Wine Industry
Pictured from left: Grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow, Vineyard of the Year; Thomas Price of Metropolitan Grill, Sommelier of the Year; Ryan Crane of Kerloo Cellars, the year’s best Emerging Winery; and Avennia’s Chris Peterson, Winemaker to Watch. Photographed May 12, 2013 at Gilbert Cellars in Yakima Valley
Vineyard of the Year
As the Yakima Valley AVA celebrates its 30th anniversary, one of the first vineyards to put Yakima on the map turns 40. In 1973, Red Willow’s Mike Sauer shifted from Concord grapes to wine grapes and—with the guidance of Washington State University viticulturist Walter Clore—planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah—and later, working with David Lake, some lesser known varieties such as Tempranillo and Nebbiolo; it's one of the first sites to explore which grapes would grow best in Washington. Sauer and winemakers who use his grapes have discovered the unique characteristics of this vineyard. Columbia has made a Red Willow Syrah since 1980 that gets better and better, and Cavatappi’s Red Willow Nebbiolo proves that this site can grow this persnickety Italian variety and make a beautiful wine.
Winemaker to Watch
Chris Peterson, Avennia
Chris Peterson made stellar wines under the radar with Chris Upchurch of DeLille for seven years, but moved into a new venture with partner and businessman Marty Taucher. Woodinville-based Avennia sources the highest-quality fruit from winegrowers he’s built relationships with—such as Dick Boushey in Yakima Valley—to create intense, balanced red wines designed to highlight the place they were grown (including this year’s Best Red; see page 87). Peterson often lets the natural yeasts in the grape and in the air work on the wine, and also doesn’t filter the wines, retaining all the complexity and ageability the fruit holds. Its moniker inspired by the Roman name for Avignon, the French center of Old World winemaking, Avennia hopes to make Old World–style wines with a New World energy and sense of place.
Sommelier of the Year
Thomas Price at The Metropolitan Grill
Pouring wine for a living—how hard can that be? Well, people like Thomas Price, our Sommelier of the Year, and head sommelier at The Metropolitan Grill, make it look easy. But managing a wine list with 1,800 selections and a cellar of 14,000 bottles is quite a job. Pairing wines with the Met’s super-premium steak menu, Price gathers a range of whites and reds from all over the world, with local options that include 30 Washington Merlots from stellar wineries such as L’Ecole N° 41 and Woodward Canyon. But what sets him apart was his extraordinary effort in 2012 to finish his master sommelier degree from The Court of Master Sommeliers. The advanced degree consists of passing three levels of testing (which took nine years), plus a blind tasting and service exam. He regularly “trained” with other students to hone his tasting skills and detailed knowledge of wine regions, famous vineyards, winemakers and wineries.