Monday, August 27, 2012

FoodTrek: Wine-Whoopin' and Hollerin' Hootenanny

I love words like "Hootenanny." Much like shindig, hullabaloo or hoedown, it's an old-timey kind of word that brings to mind people kicking up their heels to a rowdy band, maybe in a barn, with bottles of something brewed up in a friend's bathtub that may or may not make you blind. AQUA by El Gaucho's annual end-of-summer wine party, Hootenanny, was like a well-heeled version of a roof-raising barn-buster of a party, no moonshine-blindness allowed. And it wasn't even in a barn. Instead it was held on the giant patio space that overlooks Elliot Bay, the perfect spot to catch the sun as it slipped away into the evening clouds.

Sippin' the summer away at Hootenanny 2012 - Photo by Wasabi Prime
If this sounds similar to the earlier summer wine festival, Pour, held at the Bellevue El Gaucho location, you'd be correct -- nearly all the same local wineries are in attendance to pour tastes of their signature wines, about twenty for Hootenanny, plus most of the winemakers are there so guests can meet them in person and just say, "hello," and, "thank  you for making delicious adult grape juice." AQUA, over in the huge Pier 70 building along Seattle's waterfront, is the ideal location for a summer patio party, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. A week ago and everyone would have been sweltering in the unusually warm heatwave, but on this evening, the air was cool and the sun was out, only playing momentary hide-and-seek with lingering clouds.
 
Lots of pouring, eating, drinking, repeat as needed - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Despite attending Pour for almost every year, this was my first Hootenanny. It's that "last call" time of summer where a lot of people do outdoorsy vacations and are eager for anything to signify a last hurrah before school and/or the colder months begin. That's what this event felt like: a bon voyage party to summer. The last chance to wear strappy sandals, brightly colored dresses and linen suits before we swaddle ourselves in flannel and all those free logo-emblazoned fleece sweaters you get from work that you know you shouldn't wear but hey, it was free. No flannel to be seen at Hootenanny. People were dressed to the cocktail hour nines. I felt a little underdressed in a casual blouse and bright minty-green jeans, but I tend to hit the "practical" button when I'm taking photos. With the early evening breeze kicking up now and then, I knew I would be a walking wardrobe malfunction if I wore a cute summer dress.

Waterfront party - I did feel like a Fancy Wasabi for the night - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It was great to see a lot of familiar faces, both the attendees as well as the winemakers. It's a small enough community of food and wine people to where you start seeing the same folks and the events start to feel more like a familiar gathering among friends. There were a lot of Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, and Rosé wines being poured, plus a couple of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, and many blends -- all ideal for getting your summer drank on. My personal favorite grape for summer is Viognier. Lightly fruity, a pleasant balance of dry and acidic tones, it's something I love on its own, although perfectly friendly for food pairing. Mark Ryan had a 2011 Viognier, one of the only single varietal Viognier wines poured at the event, at least that I saw, and Darby had a Viognier-dominant blend, the 2011 Le Deuce. In terms of blends, DeLille's Chaleur Estate Blanc is a favorite summertime sip I've had many times before; its more reserved sweetness and peppery notes perfectly cuts through the heat of the day. Chardonnay is a perennial white wine that I think it's just as appropriate for cold days, as the buttery tones can make it very lush and satisfying. Gorman's Big Sissy is probably one of my favorite Chardonnays because of its particular richness. I've had a bottle I've been wine-hoarding, thinking I'd enjoy it on a special summer day, but I think I'd rather wait for a blustery mac n' cheese day, which will probably be coming along soon enough.

Dusted Valley - colorful and tasty wines - Photos by Wasabi Prime
All this talk of white wine, which of course everyone was enjoying in spades... but I stuck with red wine for the night. I know -- crazy, right? All the flirty summer dresses, cute sandals and festive patio party atmosphere, and I go all Azrael Abyss, Prince of Sorrow with the red wines. I blame the blustery wind that would kick up now and then, and that evening chill creeping up, being so close to the water. So the red wine was theraputic more than anything else, of course. It made the bold flavors of Dunham's 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Dusted Valley's 2010 Wallywood, Darby's 2010 Aunt Lee Syrah and Efeste's here-comes-the-boom Big Papa 2009 feel like warm cozy Snuggies around my liver, to which it cheered and said, "More, please."  I also couldn't resist a taste of DeLille's D2, a favorite special occasion wine that we'll treat ourselves to once in a while. While I'm a fan of some seasonal wines like a fruity Rosé during a really hot afternoon, a neither here-nor-there weather day has me reaching for my comfort zone, which tends to be red wines, typically Syrah. It probably makes me a Philistine of a wine drinker to more accomplished palates, but much like my food choices and my fashion choice for the evening, I'm all for comfort, yo.

A chill summer night and I discover a new wine gadget - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I'm also all about the gadgets, specifically ones that are simple and have multiple purposes. I noticed at the Fidelitas table, many of their wines had these nice silicone attached-cap stoppers on several of their bottles. I particularly liked the idea of the flip top and I asked about them, to which they were happy to show off one of its main attractions, a mesh covering that aerates as it pours! The silicone stopper creates an airtight seal around the bottle's opening and the cap is strong enough to keep the wine from spilling. It seems like an ideal pocket-sized gadget to bring for camping and the fact that it aerates the wine makes those bigger, loudly-glugging aerator gadgets seem like 1980s cel phones. So of course I had to look up this marvelous wizardry on the In-ter-webs, which I discovered is called the Haley's Corker. I'm filled with so much excitement over this discovery, I want to buy a giant box of these things, so that I may gleefully fling them to the masses like loaves of bread at a Roman gladiatorial match. I can think of several people who would use these regularly, myself included, and apparently it's recommended for use on spirits as well, so gold star to that.

Cheers! And the pours kept pourin' - Photos by Wasabi Prime
So there was wine, women (and men), as well as song. I had heard about local rockabilly band The Dusty 45s and was really excited to see them perform live at Hootenanny. Could not have been a better choice, this band embodies the summertime shindig in the coolest way possible. They did a mix of their songs as well as surfer rock classics like Misirlou, and I swear I heard a little riff on GNR's Welcome to the Jungle. But maybe that was my wine-hearing kicking in, because I just want everything to sound like late 80's buttrock after enough alcohol. Their performance ended with a trumpet on fire, which got the crowd cheering, since as we all know, FIRE IS COOL. And musical instruments on fire is COOLER. The  Dusty 45s will be performing at Bumbershoot this year if you want to check them out, which I highly, most definitely recommend for getting your toes tappin' and your booty shakin'.

Eat this, Hendrix - brass instrument pyrotechnics! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And so it was, another Hootenanny come and gone, left to summer's twilight. I admit, I was dying for another blockbuster sunset, expecting the skies to turn into a symphony of neon pink, orange and yellow the way its done on similar evenings. Sadly the cloud cover was too heavy towards the horizon's edge and it just blotted out the sun's fading light instead of amplifying its creamsicle glow. But that's all right, there were a rainbow of different wines being poured and plenty of light left to celebrate into nightfall. Cheers to you, Summertime.

Oh the colors! - Photo by Wasabi Prime


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