Stina’s Cellars 2007 merlot

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted July, 11, 2010:

I thought New Mexico had smarter people than this: deputies found a 47 year-old man on the side of U.S. Route 70 with his prosthetic leg on fire. The man stated he lost a drinking bet with his “buddies” and that he agreed to have his leg lit up…and his butt-buns and lower back. Orygunians would be proud. Let’s get back to more normal odd news. A suspected California wine drinker sent hundreds of threatening text messages to herself while telling police it came from her ex-boyfriend and his sister-in-law. As a reward, she got: (1) a year in jail; (2) three years probation; and (3) ordered to pay $50k in restitution. The following smells of Lettie Teague: suburban NY police investigating a suspicious red suitcase in a park x-rayed the case and thought they saw wine tools and three cylinders so they blew it up, only to find the items were a can of corn and two cans of tuna. That’s one more homeless, oops, I meant New York Street Journal knucklenut that can’t do an accurate food-wine pairing tonight.

Time to go drink wine made from an area only known for McCrea Cellars’ wines. The south Puget Sound area has received no love whatsoever from wine writers, despite having around twenty wineries performing all the way down to Chehalis. Other than McCrea and Walter Dacon Wines, have you heard of: Medicine Creek Winery, Heymann Winery, Amocat Cellars, Andrake Cellars, Devorah Creek Vineyards, Black River Winery, or Scatter Creek Winery? Didn’t think so.

Stina’s Cellars of University Place (near the Narrows Bridge) became licensed in 2005 and produced 700 cases the following year. The Preston family (Perry, Penny and  son Ethan) run the winery and utilize their network of family, friends, and volunteers to meet production needs. They work with handpicked grapes from eastern WA but also plan to add juice from western WA vineyards as well.

Perry, a United Airlines baggage handler, was raised in Prosser and had a job picking grapes one summer. While dating (and eventually marrying) Penny, they took wine trips to California and it was Penny who first tried to make wine from blackberries in 1996. Perry will not describe the experience of tasting the “wine”, but the following year, they used Columbia Valley grapes and started winning amateur contests.

Now, here’s the part I like since it justifies what I have been mentioning about courting the Asian markets. Pierce County regularly hosts business and cultural dignitaries from “sister” cities around the world, so when the city of Tacoma, along with the port authority, worked on a project to network local businesses with Fuzhou, China importers, this winery stepped up and hosted three delegations from Fuzhou, a city of over 6 million consumers. At their tasting room, Montage (a bold red wine) was poured and wowed the groups enough that two importers purchased 224 cases while another importer dared to ask, “What’s the maximum capacity of the winery? I want to know how much I can get.” Needless to say, last year, Stina’s produced over a thousand cases. Guess where it’s going because I have yet to see a bottle for sale north of Fife. Stina’s wines are expected to target the upper-class and fetch around $40 a bottle in Fuzhou, where consumers can buy wine at Wal-Mart for $1 a bottle. With China minting more millionaires than the U.S., there’s a monstrous, untapped luxe market that the smart players will profit from since wine is a relatively new product for a country of over one billion people. Perry stated, “ China wasn’t part of my original business plan…(but) if it opens up the market there like I hope it does, I’ve got a huge opportunity for expansion.”

Let it be said, I truly enjoy being a fortune-teller for the Washington wine industry, and not just whooping-up the “pretty” wines of a small onion valley in eastern WA. Score one for the Puget Sound AVA!

Paired with Chinese take-out from Zen Garden in Mill Creek. Real Chinese food has a nice red-pepper spice lick and, as such, does not pair well with wines, including syrahs. My plate included: ma po tofu, marinated spare ribs, and green beans with chicken. It’s nice to know I’m drinking a wine that someone in Fuzhou, China is drinking, but very likely, the wine is not paired with food there. The pairing is acceptable, but nothing notable.

Nose: black cherry, black plum, gentle oak. Color: dark animal blood. Mouthfeel: very light. Tail trail: 4 seconds. Flavors: black fruit basket, soft tannins with some dry tongue, black-fringed toast and dark chocolate.

Alcohol: 13.8%. Columbia Valley AVA. Rated: 89. Value: $17. Paid: $18. Music pairing: “Rock’N Me Baby” by Steve Miller Band. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Purchased at Tacoma Boys in Puyallup. If you haven’t been there, I suggest you make a visit.

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