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WALLY'S WORLD: To truly know wine, ask an expert
During the past 30 years, I can’t remember having dinner without a glass of wine. It’s healthy, you know. Good for the heart.
In that length of time I’ve sampled many types of vino and fine-tuned my tastes. Still, I’m no connoisseur by any stretch, which is why I like to discuss the subject with someone who is.
Scott Kral is such a person. As the old saying goes, he’s forgotten more about wine than I’ll ever know.
For the past five years, Scott has owned and operated the Sip City “wine cellar” on Cole Street. I say wine cellar because it reminds me of a lovely and exclusive cellar in a lovely and exclusive restaurant that I was privileged to visit in New Orleans. If you’ve never been in Sip City, I’d suggest you walk into the place just to absorb and ambience: the small tables covered with red table-clothes, the colorful flowers, the classical music playing softly in the background, the display of wines and the fine, indirect lighting, all blend together to produce a warm, seductive kind of atmosphere. I’d further suggest you visit the place during one of the wine tasting events on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday between 4 and 9 p.m. In the course of such an evening, perhaps 60 or 70 people show up, but the room is rarely crowded because the visitors come and go all night long.
Roughly 70 percent of Sip City wines are produced in Washington state. These are not the mass produced wines you find in grocery stores. These are select, high quality vinos that you might want for special occasions.
And speaking of special occasions, Scott periodically hires local chef Scott Megargle – who has quite a reputation and following in this area – to set up his portable kitchen in the rear room and produce some really exquisite dining ex-periences. Last Valentine’s Day, Scott offered a five-course dinner, complete with four hors d’oeuvres and six different wines, for $75. A few weeks ago, local jeweler Tom Poe had a special dinner there for every-one involved in his daughter’s wedding. On the third Sunday of each month, Scott rotates dinners with T-Bonz restaurant; that is, one month the dinner is in the restaurant, with Scott providing the wine, and the next month it’s in Sip City. In either case, reservations are required.
Scott sponsors bus tours to wineries throughout the state, from Walla Walla to Woodinville. This is an excellent way to visit various vineyards, stroll through the operations and talk with people who know a lot about vino. Scott also organizes trip to Europe to explore wineries over there. He’s currently putting together a trip to Italy to enjoy the culinary arts and vineyards around Rome and Tuscany from Sept. 7 to Sept. 14. A $1,200 dollar deposit will reserve your space.
I asked Scott why the taste of the same wine can sometimes vary from bottle to bottle. He said this was a consequence of mass-produced wines; when a winery doesn’t have a sufficient supply of a specific kind of grape in its vineyard, it will buy grapes from other vineyards and blend them together. Since the same type of grape grown in different soils will taste different, it effects the wine.
I asked him about Coppola reserve Merlot, perhaps my favorite wine. Scott said I have good taste. Coppola, the Hollywood director, had enough money to buy a large estate and, thereby, doesn’t need to buy grapes from anywhere else. When a label refers to an “estate” wine or a “reserve” wine, it means the product never varies because it all comes from grapes grown in the same soil.
And what about the old maxim, white wine with seafood and red wine with meat? Well, apparently most connoisseurs and run-of-the-mill wine drinkers discarded this truism long ago. Whatever works for you is good enough.