Review of Washington Wines Blog
The Story of the Esquin Hidden Case
Written by Rand Sealey   
Saturday, 23 January 2016 15:33

My last Review of Washington Blog posting (see below) wrote about the memorable advertising campaigns David Horsfall produced for Esquin Wine Merchants, which I owned from 1969 to 1997. I also posted on Facebook pictures of some of these ads. One of the most commented on was the hidden case of wine. One comment was from Jim Gratton who was a sales rep for a wine distributor at the time that campaign was going on. He wrote, "I would love to hear the whole story of the Cos d'Estournel treasure hunt." I replied, "Jim, the next Review Blog which goes on line Saturday will have the back story of the hidden case of Cos d'Estournel." So here it is.

At the time (1979) the Esquin ads in the Seattle Weekly were on the theme of "Who's hiding the best wines in Seattle." so David and I came up with the idea of "hiding" a case of wine. Not actually, but a wood Chateau Cos d'Estournel box with a certificate for the wine inside. The series of advertisements contained Clues #1 through #4, each bringing the searchers closer to the location of the case. The treasure hunt took place in Seattle's Discovery Park, an expansive park granted to the city by the federal government after the naval base there was closed.

The ad campaign elicited a couple of phone calls from government officials. The first was from a Liquor Control Board agent saying we couldn't give wine away. I replied that it was just a promotional expense. I never did hear back from the Liquor Board about that. The other call was from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation complaining about people digging up the grounds in the Park. I explained that the ads stated that one didn't need to dig anything up, but apparently some people still did.

As the campaign and the clues progressed, more and more interest was created. Finally, the last ad had the heading, "Near the feet of the Patriarch lies Esquin's hidden case of 1970 Chateau Cos d'Estournel." Clue #4 directed readers back to the first ad in the series, which showed in the background a tall old snag tree in Discovery Park, "The Patriarch." A few days later, a Seattle architect, Jerry Arai, appeared at Esquin to claim his treasure. A few days later, we did a photo shoot at the site, re-enacting the discovery of the hidden case with me hiding behind the tree. This concluded this memorable campaign. We did another hidden case campaign where we hid a case near Pioneer Square, with clues taking hunters from Esquin through SODO and under the Viaduct. A group of lawyers found the case. That was the last time we "hid" a case of wine.

For pictures of the hidden case ads, go to Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.


No Review Blog next week

Tomorrow, Sunday January 24, we will be leaving for South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and there will be no blog for the week of February 1. The next blog will be on Wednesday, February 10.


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 January 2016 16:11
The Rand Sealey / David Horsfall Esquin Ad Campaigns
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 18 January 2016 15:01

A couple of weeks ago, I received a posting on my Facebook page from an old family friend with a picture of an advertisement from 1985 with me and four Esquin Wine Merchants "clients" captioned "Rand Sealey is looking for a few Good Clients." (I owned the store from 1969 to 1997). The Facebook comments included, "Awesome pic," and "Love, love, love!" I commented, "This ad was dug up in the Chevignard home in Nuits St. Georges in Burgundy, going through the possessions of Eleanor Chevignard after she had passed away. Her son, Paul, lived with David Horsfall [producer of the ad] at the time this and other advertisements were being published in the Seattle Weekly [a newspaper launched in 1976 by David Brewster]."

A week later, my wife, Lynn, posted on Facebook an ad from October 1978, "I'd walk a mile for a 1976 Meursault Genevrieres," with a photo of me with a glass of white Burgundy and a pack of Camel cigarettes, a takeoff on the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco ads of the 1950's. That posting elicited 40 "likes" and 11 comments, including, "So awesome, Rand Sealey is the epitome of cool."

When finding the "Walk a Mile" ad, Lynn happened to spot a Seattle Weekly article about some music recordings by Paul Gregutt (today, my wine writing cohort) next to the ad, and scanned and forwarded it to Paul bt email. Paul replied, "Wow, Lynn, this is a real blast from the past." He added, "I began writing for the Weekly in March of 1976 - their first issue - and was on staff for several years before wandering off into the broadcast wilderness. During those years I worked under Roger Downey...I wrote about music, theater and media in particular, but this article, with its focus on jazz and references to classical music amazes me, as I was then and still am firmly rooted in pop, blues and country!. I didn't write about wine until 1985, when I was gone from the Weekly full time staff, but I talked David Brewster into running some wine coverage which turned into a Wine of the Week feature that ran for several years and launched my ersatz 'career'." Lynn also found in our files a couple of these articles, one about Chanpagne and one about Port.

The Esquin Wine Merchants advertising campaigns were the brainchild of David Horsfall, at the time an independent producer. In the 1970's, my wine shop was in a rut, with slow growth. We did some radio advertising which brought in some people, but not a lot. The radio station rep, Michael Levin, suggested I contact David about doing some print advertising. The first ads he did, with Sue Cummings, were on the theme of "Who's hiding the best wines in Seattle" in 1977-1978. Other memorable ad campaigns were the hidden case of wine in Discovery Park, and the "Rand Sealey and Esquin," with me and an attractive, pert model pouring wine in the clouds. We also did sale ads and the "Esquin - Wine at its Best" inserts in the Weekly, a takeoff on Esquire magazine. In later years, David's wife, Terri Nakamura did the art direction.

I sold Esquin to Chuck Lefevre in 1997 and his daughters are still doing a great job running the store. Paul Gregutt is still writes wine reviews for the Wine Enthusiast. David Horsfall and Terri Nakamura now run the Alki Surf Shop, a boutique store of beach themed clothing and accessories. Lynn has been going through these old ads and we've been going down memory lane with them. Those were the days.

For pictures of some of the ads, see Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.


Coming up for February

On Sunday, January 24th, we will be departing for the warmer climes of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, returning February 9th. The February issue of the Review of Washington Wines will go on line Saturday, January 23rd, along with a short Review Blog posting. There will be no Review Blog for the week of February 1st, and the next Blog posting will be on February 10th.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 January 2016 15:48
Walla Walla Valley Wine News
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 15:57

As the new year gets under way, here are a few news items on what's happening in the wine scene in the Walla Walla Valley.


Changes at Abeja, Dunham and Sinclair

At the begining of 2016, David Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler took over as winemakers at Abeja. Both are excited to be working together as a husband-wife team. At the end of 2015, John Abbot and Molly Gault retired from the operation of the Abeja winery. These changes also leave Dunham Cellars, where David was winemaker, and Sinclair Estate Vineyards, where Amy was winemaker, without head winemakers. Both wineries are transistioning with other help as they look for replacements.


Alaska Airlines adds New Flights between Seattle and Walla Walla

Beginning March 13, a third flight four daya a week between Seattle and Walla Walla will be added by Alaska Airlines. This will provide added flexiblity for travellers between the two cities as the added flights will be in late morning. Air travel in and out of the Walla Walla Regional Airport increased dramatically in 2015. The number of passengers flying rose 13.7 percent for the year. The load factor for all flights was 80.47 percent, which means the average flight was about 80% full, meaning greater profitability for Alaska Airlines. This increase also means the airline's management believes the increase in flights is warranted.


Walla Walla Valley Wine Tastings to be held in Seattle and Portland

In February, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance will be presenting wine tastings in Seattle and Portland. The dates are:

Seattle: February 8 at McCaw Hall

Portland: February 29 at Pure Space

For tickets ($50) go to the Wine Alliance website, Walla Walla Wine.


The Waters / Flying Trout Industry Appreciation Night

Last night, January 11, the Waters Winery and Flying Trout Wines held an Industry Appreciation Night for its friends. Over 50 guests were in attendance and some delicious wines were poured, including Waters' 2012 Loess Syrah (to be reviewed in March), the 2011 21 Grams Red Blend, and the 2013 Flying Trout Konnowak Vineyard Malbec (reviewed October, 2015). It was a fun evening of tasting and conversation. Kudos to the Waters / Flying Trout team, Michelle Aichle, Ashley Trout, Trista Flores, Janna Detoiler and Jill Mediah for putting this on.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:48
Holiday Wines
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 04 January 2016 15:44

The Christmas and New Year's Holidays was a time for drinking many fine wines. Here's what we had.

Christmas Eve - We had the Michels, Philippe and Penny, and son, Max for a casual dinner. We started off with a Champagne Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs, a classically-styled Propietaire-Recoltant bottling, made entirely from white grapes. With the tranches de jambon Morvandelle, we had two fine Burgundies, a 2012 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Aloxe Corton Blanc, 1er Cru, Clos Berthaut and a red, the 2012 Domaine Chandon de Brialles Aloxe Corton, 1er Cru, Les Valozières. We finished off with a bottle of Champane Aubrey Brut Rosé with the fruit tart.

Christmas Day - We had an afternoon dinner of prime rib roast at the Michels, along with Sue and Howard Higgen and Gordy and Kate Venneri. Leonetti was the theme, with a magnum of 2010 Merlot, a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 1988 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet. The latter was showing age, but still quite drinkable. The Merlot was tasty, and a bit young. Also poured was 2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, which was superb.

Sealeys' Post Christmas Buffet - On December 27th, we hosted an informal dinner with a variety of exceptional wines. A Georges Vernay 2012 Condrieu was a spectacular expression of ultra precise Viognier. A 2013 Domaine Graillot Crozes-Hermitage turned out to be a fine value in Rhone Syrah, likewise, the 2012 Domaine Labastide Blanche Bandol Rouge, a fine expression of Provençal Mourvedre. Cindy Rasch brought her 2010 Golden Ridge Walla Walla Red Blend.

New Years Eve - We went to Brandon and Emma Kubrocks' for the final evening of 2015. Scott and Linda Byerley brought two striking Cayuse wines, a 2011 "Edith" Grenache Rosé and a 2011 "The Lovers," a 90% Caberfnet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah combination. Trey Busch uncorked his well concentrated 2010 Sleight of Hand "The Black Circle" Cabernet Sauvignon from the Scooteney Flats Vineyard on Red Mountain. A 2012 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc and a 2011 Grancercy Estate Walla Walla Syrah were also impressive. I took the Champagne Aubry Brut Rosé. Aryn Morell uncorked a 1969 Chambertin Clos de Bèze, which was stll very much alive.

New Years Day - At supper, Lynn and I toasted the New Year with a bottle of Champagne Copinet "Cuvée Marie-Etinenne" Rosé. Made in the saignée method of drawing off red juice, it was strikingly deep colored and elegantly perfumed.

Have a great and prosperous 2016!

Last Updated on Monday, 04 January 2016 16:30
Looking Ahead to 2016
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 28 December 2015 15:33

As the year comes to a close, I am writing about what's ahead in Washington Wine for 2016. Here are my predicitions.


More Exceptional Wines at Affordable Prices

In my last Review Blog posting, " Wine Best Buys of 2015," there were 80 wines scoring 19/20 points for $40 or less and 42 wines scoring 18.5/20 points for $25 or less. This is the largest listing ever in this publication. It attests to Washington State's high quality to price ratios, something that is unmatched by California or Europe. With the current costs of grapes and production it is harder to come up with exceptional wines for less than $25. These are often undervalued or underappreciated varietals. But when it comes to truly outstanding wines, one doesn't have to spend $50 or more a bottle. All this is what makes Washington wines a value bonanza.


Along with Expanding Wine Grape Acreage Comes Infrastructure

With the increased acreage of vineyards, there needs to be increased infrastructure for wine production. Last Fall, the Dusted Valley Winery opened a new production facility on Braden Road in the South Walla Walla Valley. And a major new development is under way at the junction of Lower and Middle Waitsburg Roads, just off Highway 12. This will include production and shipping facilites.


More Tasting Venues Around the State

When it comes to wine tasting rooms, it isn't just Walla Walla and Woodinville any more. Walla Walla is filling up, and Woodinville is maxed out. Seattle's SODO (SOuth of DOwntown) district is an up and coming winery and tasting room venue. During 2015, Kerloo Cellars, Scarborough, and Structure Cellars opened just south of Spokane Street on First Avenue South. And other wineries have plans to open facilities in the area. Further south, in Georgetown, the Charles Smith Jet City winery in making a big impact. The Leavenworth and Spokane areas are expanding as well.


Watch for the 2013's and 2014's

As the 2012 vintage nears the end of its cycle, more 2013's are being released and the 2014's will be coming around before long. The 2013's are turning out to be "friendly wines," as Vicky McClellan (Seven Hills Winry) descibes them. Coming from a warm summer and cooler harvesting season, they are nicely balanced and attractive. (See my blog of 1 October for more). The 2014's come from a more normal year, with fewer temperature spikes and a steady, even harvest. The 2014's I have tasted so far, are elegant, well-structured wines, with fine aromatics. They seem to have both Old World and New World characteristics. More later!


Wineries to Watch in 2016

Nota Bene Cellars - Tim Narby and Carol Bryant have turned out some very nice 2012's which will be reviewed in the February and March issues of the Review of Washington Wines.

àMaurice Cellars - Anna Shaefer continues to turn out outstanding wines. As the Estate Vineyard off Mill Creek Road, continues to mature, some highly impressive wines will be coming.

Walla Walla Vintners - With its Estate Vineyard next to àMaurice, and the adjacent Yellow Bird and Leonetti Vineyards, we will be seeing the makings of a sub-AVA. Gordy Veneri tells me some interesting blends and varetals will be coming out from WWV.

Barrister - This Spokane Winery is making its mark as it continues to produce impressive wines. Some fine 2012 have been released and more is in the offing.

Full Pull & Friends - Paul Zitarelli's negociant label continues to offer excellent values - 19/20 points wines for $30.

Salida and Gino Cuneo - Doug McCrea's Salida offers interesting wines from Spanish varietals and Gino Cuneo, does likewise with Italian varietals, making the "Latin Corner" on Second and Rose in downtown Walla Walla a must-visit location. See the Blog posting of 8 December for upcoming releases.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 December 2015 16:56

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