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Cork Dork: Russell’s Rustles Wine Business

This week's Woodinville wine news includes winemaker dinners and the wine pick of the week.

When Russell’s Dining & Bar General Manager Rob Williamson came to work at the Bothell restaurant nearly four years ago, one of the first orders of business was to extend an olive branch to the neighboring Woodinville wineries. Williamson started hosting winemaker dinners once or twice a month, offered to waive the corkage fee on Woodinville wines and scheduled a quarterly winemaker’s table (private dinners strictly to feed local winemakers).

“It is a natural pairing, wine and food,” said Williamson, who has worked at some of the area’s most storied restaurants, including Ray’s Boathouse, Tulio, Crush and Szmania’s. “For me that is the most important thing in the culinary arts. It was important to me to build relationships with the wineries. The relationships we have built with the smaller wineries has been a good measure of our success. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship."

Woodinville winemakers responded in droves making Russell’s a dining and wine destination in the unlikely location of a business park just east of I-405 in Bothell.

The next winemaker dinner at Russell’s is on Thursday, Sept. 29 with winemaker Brennon Leighton. (Thursday, October 6), (Wednesday, October 12) and (Thursday, October 27) will among the other wineries with a local presence to host dinners at Russell’s.

The three “Rs,” (Rob, chef/owner Russell Lowell and Chef de Cuisine Benjamin Riggs) team up to create the menu and wine pairings. Williamson prices the winemaker dinners competitively, between $65-$90 for a five-course dinner with wine, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Williamson said margins on winemaker dinners are much thinner than the regular menu. This means screaming deals for winemaker dinner guests. Capacity is generally 60 guests but dinners have swelled to as high as 110 guests like last month’s dinner featuring Walla Walla producer L’Ecole No. 41.

“We’d like to make money in all of them,” Williamson said. “There have been some that haven’t been big money makers but they have been introductions to the restaurant for new guests which pays off in the long run.”

For a complete schedule of winemaker dinners, click here.

Schwartz Brother’s Segelbaum promoted to corporate wine director

Erik Segelbaum has been promoted to corporate wine director for Bellevue-based Schwartz Brother’s Restaurants. In his new position Segelbaum will oversee the wine programs for all three of the Daniel’s Broiler locations, Spazzo in Redmond, Chandler’s Crabhouse on Lake Union and Daniel’s Catering.

In his new position, Segelbaum will oversee Schwartz Brother’s Restaurants wine operations. Each restaurant will maintain a wine director at each location.

Previously, Segelbaum was wine director of all three Daniel’s Broiler locations, Bellevue, Lake Union and Leschi. Before joining Schwartz Brother’s Restaurants, Segelbaum was the Wine Director at Johnny Vinczencz in Miami. He was also the wine director at the Hyatt’s Hotel Victor in Miami and the head sommelier at David Bouley’s Evolution at the Ritz Carlton Miami. Segelbaul is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommelier.

Tenor Classic Strikes a Chord

will be hosting the Tenor Classic on Saturday, October 8 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm at . Winemaker Aryn Morell will be featuring its current releases, 08 Tenor Cabernet Sauvignon, 08 Tenor Merlot, 08 Tenor Syrah and 07 1:1 (a red blend). Wines will be paired with hors d'oeuvres prepared by Monsoon East in Bellevue. Black attire is required for entry to the event.

Tickets are $40 and available at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2112625921.

Wine Pick of the Week: 2010 Sparkman Cellars Pearl Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley

founder and now full-time winemaker Christian Sparkman has worked for Mackay Restaurants for about 10 years. He reduced his time at Mackay Restaurants to part-time wine syndicate director last year to dedicate more time to his winery. Sparkman’s wife Kelly is also in the family business of making wine, specifically making the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc, dubbed Pearl.

The fruit for the 2010 Sparkman Cellars Pearl Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from Evergreen Vineyards (56 percent) and Klipsun (44 percent). The wine expresses aromas of citrus and tropical fruit such as grapefruit, lime, Meyer lemon and guava. A hint of grass is reminiscent of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but make no mistake about it, this Sauvignon Blanc is more Sancerre in style. The minerality, redolent of chalk and crushed oyster shells, is another nod to Sancerre.

This Pearl and oysters is a snug fit. Baywater Sweets from North Hood Canal, Totten Inlet Virginicas or Kumomotos from Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, available at Mackay Restaurant’s Waterfront Restaurant on Pier 70 in Seattle (where Sparkman used to be the general manager) pair nicely with this crisp white wine. Shucked and served on the half shell, shuck the accompanying red wine vinegar mignonette and enjoy it simply with the wine.

“We are coming into oyster season,” Waterfront Head Chef Peter Levine said. “The water is getting colder right now. We are going with quality oysters from reliable companies.”

The hearty Totten Inlet Virginicas and Kumomotos are also available at the new Taylor Shellfish retail outlet at the Melrose Market in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Sparkman Cellars Pearl is available at their Hollywood Schoolhouse neighborhood tasting room opened Wednesday through Sunday from 1-6 p.m. and their Warehouse District winery and tasting room Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

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