On day 4 of Road Trip 2009 I got the opportunity to spend the morning with Chris & Kelly Sparkman of Sparkman Cellars. Their facility is in the "winery ghetto" of Woodinville, WA. Small producers call this area home because of lower overhead & the ability to reach the millions of people right next door in Seattle. I was thrilled to be going here not only because Chris is a sommelier turned winemaker but also because both he & Kelly are fellow Tennesseans! Chris is from Knoxville & Kelly is from Germantown.
While at dinner at Chateau Ste Michelle the night before, Chris & I were discussing his Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet. I love love LOVE Klipsun! He was explaining how hard & tough those grape skins are & offered me the chance to punch some down. Well of course I said yes, I mean why the hell would I pass up that chance? So when we entered the back of the winery I saw it. An open top fermenter full of Klipsun...I nearly wet myself. After taking a stab at pigeage I almost just gave up. I couldn't break through the grapes, it was if I was hitting cement they were so damn hard. After a few tries Chris laughed a little & said "I told you they were hard! C'mon over here & I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself.". He took me over to a vat of fermenting malbec from the Double Canyon Vineyard.
This was much easier, but still a workout. I submerged the cap with the plunger over & over again & really got the grapes swirling around like a cauldron. For me, this was just ridiculous fun. To be a part of the process, to help make wine that I'll be sipping on in a few years was almost overwhelming to me.
After I worked up a good sweat & did my part in the making of outstanding wine we adjourned to the barrel room to taste Kelly's sauvignon blanc. One barrel held a sauv blanc that had finished fermentation & one had not finished. The difference was staggering, one was pure pineapple juice while the other was a perfect stylistic blend of Sancerre & South Africa. I had to return to the back room to look at a deeply purple & bubbling vat of fermenting Boushey Vineyard Syrah.
This was an incredibly hands on experience that gave me a peek into how much hard work it is to be a small family winery. Sparkman Cellars' wines are exquisite & I can't wait until they are in the Memphis market. Meanwhile, we will just have to satiate ourselves with the other insanely delicious Washington Wines in the market, such as Nicholas Cole Cellars.....