/ The Seattle Traveler
Seattle — By Mary Jo Manzanares on October 12, 2009 at 9:39 pm

REVIEW: Tulalip Bay & Andrew Will Winemaker Dinner

Have you had a great meal lately?  A really, really great meal, full of all the tasty goodness that Seattle chefs have to offer?  Delightfully fresh seafood, vegetables bursting with flavor, all beautifully presented and paired with a wine that not only tastes wonderful, but brings out the very best flavors of the food?

That’s how I spend last Friday evening, as a guest of Tulalip Bay Restaurant and their Andrew Will winemaker dinner, and it was an evening full of the best of many things.  The best in food and wine, of course, but also a beautiful, intimate setting, conducive fine dining and conversation.  This was fun!

Tulalip Bay Restaurant I don’t know a lot about wine.  I can taste a few of the fruit flavors, but fewer of the subtleties of earth, leather, and smoke.  For me, the best wines are the ones that I like.  And I’ve never felt compelled to try to impress someone with any faux wine knowledge.  Simply put, I like it – and although I don’t always know why, it’s never really mattered.

A wine dinner is a perfect way to broaden your horizons when it comes to wine.  You don’t have to know anything about it, just have an open mind, be willing to try something new, and experiment a little, comparing taste with and without food, and one wine to another.  It’s the ultimate taste test, with the advantage of a wine maker sharing a little bit of history and information about the particular wine you are sampling.

My guest, Andrea, and I were fortunate to have wine maker David Oldham sitting at our table for the evening.  He as a delightful man, full of wine stories, of course, but what I found most entertaining were his stories about how he happened to end up as a wine maker for Vashon Island-based Andrew Will.  He was easy to talk to, not stuffy, and was kind enough to answer the many questions we peppered him with.  Asking a winemaker which wine is their favorite is a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.  But ask I did, and I appreciate (and won’t tell) his answer.  Since it’s crush time, David brought some of the grapes with him to the dinner.  The chef thoughtfully included these as part of the dinner’s intermezzo.

Chef Dean Shinagawa and his staff prepared delicious food to pair with the wines.  I asked him how he came up with the menu, and he said that he’d had the wines for some time, and spent a good deal of time thinking about what food and flavors would best complement the wine selections.  I loved his explanation of the the thought and research that went into the decisions.  But even more than that, as he took the time to introduce himself to every guest and to spend time talking with them, I plotted how I could capture this guy and install him in my kitchen at home!

Sommelier Tom Thompson was a delightful conversationalist, as he mingled with guests, answered questions, and shared his love of wine.  Many of the Andrew Will wines can be found in the restaurant’s wine cellar, and after tasting them, it’s no surprise.  I regret that Tommy didn’t have time to sit down with us for dinner with us, as I would love to have had more conversation with him.

Of course, I had a few favorites from the course of the evening, and while I hesitate to reveal the favorites of others, I have no problem sharing mine.  You can see the full menu and wine pairings at my previous post.  It was hard to choose some favorites, because I enjoyed absolutely everything, but here’s what I came up with.

From the food side of the menu:  prosciutto wrapped scallop appetizer (a delightful salty and sweet combo that exploded in my mouth with flavors), and the mini Hawaiian smoked pork roast served with a squash bisque (the combination sounded off at first, but boy does it work together!).  From the wine side of the menu:  Two Blonds Vineyard 2006 (this blend could easily become my personal house wine), and the Sorella, Horse Heaven Hills, 2006 (a delicious blend that made the dinner flavors pop).

If you’ve never been to a wine maker dinner, do not be put off from trying it out.  It’s not a hoity-toity affair, and you don’t have to know anything at all about wine.  Just come with an open mind, ask questions, have fun, and I’ll bet you find a couple of things that you like.

The Tulalip Bay Restaurant at the Tulalip Resort Casino is located at 10200 Quil Ceda Boulevard, Tulalip (map), and is open for dinner Wednesday – Sunday, 5 pm – 11 pm, offering fine dining for every special occasion.  And by the way, sometimes surviving Wednesday is a special occasion!  Dinner will run in the $30-50 range (per person), and reservations are recommended.  Wine maker dinners are scheduled about every month or so.   It’s a bit hard to find them on their website, so you may want to call them at (360) 716-1500 to ask about upcoming wine events.  The Taste of Tulalip is coming up in November and I’ll have more about that event later in the week.

There are plenty of wineries here in Washington, but there’s nothing like feeling you have a personal relationship with the wine maker to send you to the wine shop to buy their selection.  To me, wine is about far more than a mere alcoholic beverage.  It’s about the very best from the soil, and sharing it all with family and friends over a good meal and even better conversation.  My take away from the wine maker dinner — I’m not alone in thinking that is what it’s all about.

Photo credit: Tulalip Resort


  • thedenverguide says:

    Sounds delicious and so much fun! I love your last paragraph. I feel the same way!

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