Get the latest word on wine from two expert guides.
MEET THOSE IN THE KNOW
Willows Lodge has the rare good fortune to be located in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country, home to more than 110 wineries and tasting rooms. Our Sommeliers, Cara De Lavallade - Advanced Sommelier & Wine Director and Anthony Berkau - Director of Food & Beverage, serve our guests as knowledgeable guides to the local wine community and to our nationally acclaimed wine lists at the Barking Frog and Fireside Lounge.
Bring on the Somm Slam
Cara De Lavallade was selected to compete in the Somm Slam at the 13th Annual International Chefs Congress in Brooklyn, NY October 21-23.
What is a Somm Slam you may ask? It's a competition that showcases what somms do best: pair food and wine (with some blind tasting and theory thrown in for good measure).
WHO ARE THE COMPETITORS?
Andres Blanco I Caracol Restaurant I Houston, TX
Damon Cohen I Cosme I New York NY
Cara De Lavallade I Willows Lodge I Woodinville, WA
Christy Fuhrman I Aquagrill I New York NY
Arthur Hon I Union Square Cafe I New York, NY
Chris Lara I John Howie Steak I Seattle, WA
Aimee Lasseigne New I Bottlerocket I New York, NY
Catherine Morel I 71 Above I Los Angeles, CA
Nathaniel Munoz I Rose Cafe I Venice, CA
Sean Nelson I VIJ's Restaurant I Vancouver, BC
Sabrina Schatz I Bobby Flay Steak I North Cape May, NJ
Repeat Offenders - Sudden Death Challenge Contestants
Daniel Beedle I Indian Accent I New York NY
Max Kuller I Fat Baby Inc. I Washington DC
Kat Thomas I Hakkasan I Las Vegas, NV
Cindhura Reddy I Spuntino I Denver, CO
Emily Yuen & Maiko Kyogoku I Bessou I New York, NY
Here's what happens:
DAY 1: Corkscrews whetted, Day 1 kicks off with the new "Repeat Offenders" sudden death pairing challenge, featuring somms who have competed in past Slams but fell short of winning the whole she-bang. The winning somm will join 11 other competitors in answering rapid-fire theory questions. After showing off their nerdiest wine knowledge, competitors will split into two groups, where Chef Cindhura Reddy will present a dish designed to flummox the pairing skills of each group. Then the race is on to the wine cellar to select the best pairing before returning to the audience of judges to sell, sell, sell. The six somms who display the most poise and knowledge in defending their pairing move to Day 2.
DAY 2: Getting cut-throat quickly, a blind tasting immediately eliminates one competitor. The remaining five somms are then grilled on esoteric wine trivia, with only the top four moving on, plunging into two more rounds of pairings with dishes from Chef Emily Yuen. The somm with the biggest (wine-soaked) brain, best palate, and that little extra soigne, wins the day, savoing the 9th Annual Somm Slam title.
CARA'S PICKS FOR SUMMER
Avennia L'Egerie Rosé
Columbia Valley, 2017
Named after the French word for "muse", this rosé is meant to inspire creativity and joy! This extremely limited release is made from traditional Provencal varietals, and features fresh, red berry and floral notes, in a salmon pink robe. It's the perfect wine for a summer day, or night, or whenever your spirits could use a lift!
Kivelstadt, Wayward Son, Orange Wine
Mendocino County, 2017
No, it's not made from oranges or infused with orange flavor! Orange wine comes from the skin-fermented white grapes, so the juice extracts the color, flavor and texture from white skins, giving it its orange hue. With flavor characteristics of a white wine - ripe apple, citrus blossom, white peach - and the texture of a red wine, Wayward Son is truly uniqiue! Never had an orange wine before? Here's your chance.
Avennia Cabernet Franc
Champoux Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills 2015
Plush and velvety on the palate, this Cabernet Franc is the product of exceptional fruit and exceptional winemaking. Chris Peterson's approach to wine is "talk less, say more", a reference to his minimalist style in the cellar. In true Peterson fashion, this wine is made with wild yeast and sees only a very little new oak. From one of the top vineyards in the state, this is one of the best expressions of Washington Cab Franc out there - black currant, blueberries, tobacco leaf, and cocoa nib with an incredible freshness that makes it a natural food wine.
Cara DeLavallade, Advanced Sommelier
One of the most common questions I get, "What wine should I serve for a special occasion?" Most importantly, Champagne is the answer to 99% of your questions. Any decent toast deserves a brimming glass of bubbles and sparkling wine pairs beautifully with everything from beluga caviar to potato chips. Of course, nothing compares to the wines of Champagne - the combination of mineral-laden, chalky soils and hundreds of years of family, tradition, and knowledge make the region distinct and the wine singular.
Enjoying a good bottle of Champagne is a celebration and should not be reserved only for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Champagne is appropriate at breakfast, on the beach, after lunch, at the top of a mountain, on a dock, at your cousin's graduation, on Tuesday or at the dog park.