Showing posts with label Amber Lebeau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amber Lebeau. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Au Revoir, Amber!

"What Bordeaux tasting? Can I go?"

My friend, Siti, had flown into Seattle last minute to attend a private tasting, and I practically begged her to take me with her.

First Cellar Party

That was how I met Amber LeBeau and her lovely wife, Beth, the gracious unassuming hostesses of the tasting. It was the summer of 2016. Despite the gorgeous weather, dozens of people were crowding inside a wine storage facility in Bellevue, chatting and sipping wine. Numbering more than humans were bottles of Bordeaux, arranged by regions with maps and printouts describing the respective terroirs. Amber and Beth were cleaning out their cellar to make room for a new shipment of Bordeaux. Like everyone else, I was happy to help.

Tasting Bordeaux Classified Growths

Amber and the SpitBucket

Amber was working at Total Wine at that time. Her impressive list of credentials in the wine business includes a CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine), a degree in Wine Marketing and Sales/Wine Production at the Northwest Wine Academy, and Level 3 of the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) with distinction. What truly impresses me about Amber though is her curious mind and her open palate. She reads about and tastes through a myriad of wines. Her spirit on inquiry is almost infectious although I did pass on her blind tasting of coffee-infused wine.

A few months after the cellar clean-out party, Amber started where she blogged occasionally about her thoughts on wine and the industry. When a health condition took her out of the retail wine business last year, she began to spend more time blogging while preparing for her last level of WSET.

As a fellow albeit more casual blogger, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from Amber's posts. One of my favorite posts of hers is about Jancis Robinson, the Beyoncé of Wine. It is a tribute to the celebrated British wine critic, published on International Women's Day last year. And guess what? Jancis noticed and tweeted about it!

And More Cellar Parties

A few weeks ago, we got the news. Beth has accepted an exciting job offer in Paris, and they will be moving very soon. And just like that, Amber and Beth need help cleaning out their cellar again. Wines that need to be drunk in the next three to five years must go.

"Nothing off limits!" She posted to a private Facebook group page.

A private tasting and dinner with Amber and friends
Also, just like that, Siti flew into town last minute again. This time, we hosted a small intimate private tasting and dinner, before Amber kicked off her cellar clean-out parties. The line-up that night was incredible. A few of us carefully selected a couple of bottles from our cellar, while Amber brought the equivalent of half a case. Nonetheless, it was a good human-to-bottle ratio in my opinion. And below are some notable mentions:

1998 Paul Jaboulet Aine Chevalier de Sterimberg Hermitage Blanc
2013 Ashan Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay

2008 Domaine Taupenot-Merme Corton Rognet Grand Cru
2016 Domain de La Côte Bloom's Field

2004 Betz La Côte Rousse Red Mountain Syrah
2012 Cayuse Vineyards Walla Walla Syrah
2004 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape

2005 Sandrone La Vigne Barolo
1992 Delille Cellars Chaleur Estate Bordeaux Blend

Wine line-up from the private tasting
It is a month and two cellar parties away before Amber starts her new adventure with Beth in Paris. Even though we will continue to geek out over wine on social media, I will miss tasting with and learning from her in person. That said, I expect that we will meet on the other side of the Atlantic, tasting through different French vineyards.

So au revoir, Amber! Till we meet again!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Drink Washington Wine, Rulo!

March is Washington Wine month.

For Seattleites, this means thirty-one glorious days of discounts on Washington wine at participating grocery chains, wine shops, and restaurants. The annual celebration of Washington wine culminates in a four-day food and wine festivity known as Taste Washington. The 2018 Taste Washington program brought together thousands of food-and-wine enthusiasts to enjoy a spread of over 200 wineries and 60 restaurants. There were numerous tasting events and seminars to boot.

For this month's post, I'd like to highlight a Washington winery that is a bit of a hidden gem, Rulo Winery.

Rulo Winery
We discovered Rulo through a friend's recommendation and had a chance to try it with dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford, a dining establishment in Walla Walla. Its Rhone-style red did not disappoint.

Rulo is solely owned and run by winemaker Dr. Kurt Schlicker and his wife, Vickie. They do everything themselves, from vineyard checks, winemaking, equipment cleaning, and tasting room management. Their low-key approach also means that their wine distribution can be quite limited, even within the state. However, if you have tasted Rulo, you will understand why it is well sought after.

Although located among Walla Walla's gorgeous Southside wineries and close to famous neighbors such as Northstar and Amavi, Rulo opens its modestly-decorated tasting room to the public only by appointment. However, once you have that appointment set up, your visit is very much rewarded with a delicious flight and fascinating conversations with Kurt or Vickie.

Rulo is 100% screwcaps
An MD from the University of Washington with a BS in Medical Microbiology from Stanford University, Kurt happily geeks out about wine yeasts and the fermentation process. He is chock full of knowledge and loves the process of coaxing yeasts and bacteria to consume sugar, amino acids, and other compounds to produce a delectable elixir from the grapes.

Kurt makes primarily Rhone-style wines and Chardonnay although he has successfully ventured into varietals that are unusual for Washington, such as Petite Sirah and Grenache Blanc. The other thing that sets Rulo apart from many high-quality Washington wines is the 100% use of screwcaps to counter any problem with cork taint. And if price point has kept you from enjoying high quality wine, you'll love how friendly Rulo wines are to your wallet as they range from $20 to $40 a bottle.

Recently, I opened the 2014 Petite Sirah, and here are my tasting notes:

2014 Rulo Petite Sirah

2014 Rulo Petite Sirah Heart of The Hill Vineyard
Price: $35

When I think of Petite Sirah, Washington is not the first region to come to mind. While originally discovered in France in the 1800s, most of today's Petite Sirah is grown in California. 2014 is Rulo Winery's second vintage of Petite Sirah, and the grapes hail from Red Mountain's Heart of the Hill Vineyard.

On the nose, there is plum and berry. On the palate, the dark fruit carries through with a good balance of wood and a hint of chocolate. It is full-bodied with medium acidity and smooth tannins. The finish is long-lasting.

We paired the wine with lamb burger topped with creamy dill ranch on avocado and onion slices. The full body, tannins, and bold flavors of the wine match well with the gaminess and fattiness of the lamb burger and the savory dressing.

My Verdict: The Petite Sirah is a winner.

But whether it is Petite Sirah, Rhone-style (both red and white), or Chardonnay, Rulo wines are definitely worth trying. I would recommend adding Rulo to your itinerary the next time you visit Walla Walla. If you can't make it out there, check this link out on where you can find their wines.