Exotic Wines Festival: A New Approach to Wine Events
February 26, 2011 by Doug Haugen
In Shel Silverstein’s timeless 1963 book Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back, our protagonist is a lion who in retaliation against mean-spirited hunters learns to shoot a gun, and then goes on to fame and fortune as a trick-shooting performer around the globe with all the accompanying riches and rewards. However, there comes a point where he’s just plain bored with all the baubles and bromides that accompany the lifestyle of the rich and famous. So bored that he began to cry.
‘Everything isn’t everything,” said Lafcadio the Great, dripping big tears down on the golden rug. I’m tired of my money and my fancy clothes. I’m tired of eating Rock Cornish hen stuffed with rice. I’m tired of going to parties and dancing the cha-cha and drinking buttermilk. And I’m tired of smoking five-dollar cigars and playing tennis and I’m tired of signing autographs and I’m tired of everything! I want to do something new!’
‘Something new?’ I asked.
‘Something new!’ he said. ‘But there isn’t anything new to do!’
And he started to cry again.
Maybe this is a bit melodramatic; after all, what did the big crybaby have to be so upset about, what with five-dollar cigars and all? But, in a way, for the wino attending all kinds of wine events, this feeling is not altogether unfamiliar. Tasting great wines, meeting talented and passionate winemakers, munching on savory bites from famed chefs, it can get soooooo humdrum.
Stepping into Teatro ZinZanni is like stepping onto the set of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with a full dose of circus and a hint of good old-fashioned burlesque sex appeal. Costumes, masks, draperies, and unapologetic, luxurious gaudiness–you enter a world where the only surprise would be an unlikely failure to surprise.
A truly exotic venue to showcase some exotic Washington wines. Twenty-five wineries set up shop inside the big tent of Teatro ZinZanni, showcasing their more uncommon vino. From the Brian Carter Cellars “Tuttoroso” super-Tuscan blend, to the Gilbert Cellars “Allobroges” Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache blend, to the Kyra Wines Dolcetto, to the Whidbey Island Winery Primitivo, to the Gård Vinters “Freya” Roussanne/Riesling/Pinot Gris blend, to the Forgeron Cellars “Ambiance” Roussanne/Grenache Blanc/Viognier blend, to the McCrea Cellars Counoise and much more. Waterbrook even brought a chocolate-infused red wine available only in their tasting room.
It takes both talent and skill to make a good Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but walking around the room at the Exotic Wines Festival demonstrated the artistic and adventurous spirit of Washington winemakers willing to experiment with unconventional blends and new varietals.
Midway through the evening, there was an amazing performance by Bernard Hazens, an unbelievable juggling act atop an unsteady and increasingly climbing totem of rolling and twisting objects. The buzzing room of pin-striped and boa-clad party-goers were silenced as Hazens took center stage and awed the crowd with flash and precision.
Following the act, David LeClaire–renown sommelier, event coordinator, main sponsor and owner of the new 23,000 sq. ft Wine World Warehouse in Wallingford–discussed the night’s event, and the organization who was to benefit from the proceeds: The Ryther League Child Center. The Ryther League is dedicated to helping children heal and recover from all kinds of abuse, from violence to neglect, from substance abuse to mental illness. Not only did the Ryther League benefit from the $40 admission price (a steal), but on bottle sales. This is one more detail (but a big detail) that made the Exotic Wines Festival unique. After tasting through all the wineries, you could purchase bottles of each of the wines in the lobby to take home. This was a brilliant strategy, because the wines poured were in most cases small-batch productions that would not be easily found in stores. Kyra Wines, for example, sold out of the ’09 Dolcetto, making me especially glad that I had bought a bottle in the Moses Lake tasting room last week.
Managing Director Markus Kunz intends to do many more wine events at Teatro ZinZanni, perhaps even quarterly. Be on the lookout for more zany wine events at the venue. I had wished there were more performances than just the one, but even if there weren’t any, it would still be a perfect setting to experience wine and winemakers under the big top. And, if it goes to support worthy organizations like the Ryther League, then the already impressive QPR on the ticket price becomes high as a, well, trapeze. If you’re looking for something new, you won’t be disappointed.
222 Mercer ST
Seattle, WA 98109
Brian Carter Cellars
Elevage Wine Co
Irlandes Limited Reserve Winery
Madsen Family Cellars
Naches Heights Vineyards
NW Totem Cellars
Pleasant Hill Cellars
Sky River Meadery
Whidbey Island Winery