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Canlis Restaurant in Seattle

While in Seattle a couple of weeks ago for the Society of Wine Educators annual conference, some friends and I hit some “must dine” restaurants before leaving town.  They all proved to have great food, wonderful service and fabulous wine lists.  That, of course, was our main focus:  WINE!

Today I’m going to tell you about Canlis, a Seattle landmark designed in 1950 by the well-know architect Roland Terry.  I love the design, which reminds me a lot of a Frank Lloyd Wright style building.  There are huge windows all across the back of the restaurant that looks out at Lake Union, as well as a special events room and some private dining areas above with breathtaking views.

My friends and I started in the bar with a bottle of Fergettina Franciacorta.  This sparkling wine, from the Lombardy region, is Italy’s answer to Champagne.  The Fergettina has a lot of character, with good brioche aromas on the nose.  The palate is very alive, with lots of elegant fruit and a nutty quality.  This non-vintage bubbly is well worth the list price of $65.

Once we were seated at our table we were introduced to their head sommelier and wine director Nelson Daquip.  What a great guide to help walk us through their list.  He is not only exceptionally intelligent about all things wine; he is also a really cool guy.

Canlis has one of the finest wine cellars in the world, and is the recipient of the Wine Spectator Magazine Grand Award for the past 17 years in a row.  With 18,000 bottles and 2,500 selections we definitely welcomed some advice from Nelson!  We knew we wanted a local wine, and we knew we wanted something good.  Together with Nelson we picked out some gems, the 2005 Cayuse and the 2009 God Only Knows, both out of Walla Walla, Washington.  I was very excited.  I’ve been on the waiting list for Cayuse’s mailing list for a few years now.  It may be the longest winery waiting list in North America!

We were served the wines together, so that we could try them side-by-side

Christophe Baron, who is originally from the Champagne region in France, makes both of these wines.  His family owns the Champagne house Baron Albert and has worked the land there since 1677.  He fell in love with the wines of Burgundy and had plans of opening a winery in Oregon to focus on the Burgundian varietals.  After doing an internship in Walla Walla Washington, however, he discovered a vineyard that reminded him of the Rhone Valley in his home country of France.  Being unable to resist this unique terroir of softball sized stones, reminiscent of the Southern Rhone, Monsieur Baron set up shop in Washington State!

The wines certainly didn’t disappoint.  The ’05 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah is a dark ruby in color with aromas of ripe blackberry and black cherry, anise and smoky meat.  The palate has the lush sweet dark fruits along with cassis and olive brine.

The 2009 God Only Knows Grenache is another wine from Cayuse Vineyards.  The name comes from the fact that no one knows the true blend in the bottle (except for the 75% Grenache required if it is labeled a Grenache, which this is), or so they say.  Baron claims that this particular vintage is made with roughly 90% Grenache and the rest “God only knows!”

This wine has some fabulous old world funk on the nose, along with sweet strawberry and black tea.  On the palate are ripe red fruits along with meatiness and a hint of the black tea.  This is a well-balanced wine with a lovely finish!

After dinner we were fortunate enough to get a tour of their lovely restaurant.  As I mentioned earlier, the building is beautiful.  My favorite part of the tour (OF COURSE) was their wine cellar!  Their selection is almost overwhelming.  I could have spent hours there looking at their vast bottles from every region in the world.

The food was great as well, but again, I was really there for the wine list.  My final conclusion of the wines?  I sure am looking forward to my name leaving the Cayuse waiting list and showing up on the mailing list!

My final conclusion of the evening???  I highly recommend a visit to Canlis the next time you’re in Seattle.

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