Women Stars of Food and Wine returns to Seattle

By on January 16, 2015
Chef/author Becky Selengut, left, Mercer Estates winemaker Jessica Munnell, center, and chef/author Erin Coopey share a laugh during the 2014 Women Stars of Food and Wine in Seattle.

Chef/author Becky Selengut, left, Mercer Estates winemaker Jessica Munnell, center, and chef/author Erin Coopey share a laugh during the 2014 Women Stars of Food and Wine in Seattle. (Photo by Nityia Photography)

SEATTLE — Thanks to the success of the Seattle Seahawks, it’s getting easy for folks to mark the Women Stars of Food and Wine on their calendar — the Sunday after Super Bowl Sunday.

“They seem to have been very careful to have it after that and not on a Seahawks game day,” said Natalie Barnes-Conway, co-winemaker of Latah Creek Wine Cellars in Spokane. “If it had been the same day as the Super Bowl, my husband would have killed me!”

The second annual Women Stars of Food and Wine will be Sunday, Feb. 8, and it returns to the tony Columbia Tower Club. Even the teetotaler and designated driver can enjoy the delicious and fun opportunity of looking down from the 75th floor of the Northwest’s tallest building.

More than 20 female winemakers and winery principles will join forces with women chefs, sommeliers, retailers and authors.

“We are in non-traditional female roles, and to be part of that group, in the Columbia Tower Club and with those talented women chefs, what could be wrong with that?” said Kelly Hightower, co-winemaker of Hightower Cellars on Red Mountain. I’m really excited to go back. It’s a nice event, and I think it’s good to celebrate the women of this industry.”

Women winemakers pour for wine-savvy patrons

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Jessica Munnell, winemaker for Mercer Estates in Prosser and her own Wautoma Wines brand, said, “For me, it’s an honor to be surrounded by so many talented women winemakers, chefs and sommeliers. Along with celebrating some of the powerhouse women in food and wine, this event is partnered with the Women’s Funding Alliance, which helps better the lives of women and girls around Washington state — an absolute perfect pairing. It’s an opportunity to come out and enjoy some amazing food and wine, and support women.”

Last year, a Sunday morning snowstorm didn’t put a major damper on the debut of Women Stars of Food and Wine in Seattle.

“I was impressed with how many people were there, and the people who were there — unlike other events — were actually interested in tasting the wines,” Conway-Barnes said. “The people there seemed more wine-savvy. And they also have sommeliers walking around with bottles offering blind tastings. Some people who won’t try certain wines because they have preconceived notions.”

Hightower said the event’s early success is partly because of its organizer — sommelier David LeClaire. He leads Seattle Uncorked, a wine-based social club, and founded Wine World & Spirits before landing at Esquin Wine and Spirits.

“We just finished our 18th harvest, and through the years we’ve attended several of his events and have always been very pleased with the outcomes and the connections we make,” Hightower said. “David always puts his stamp or signature on them in some way, and they are not your usual events.”

Another of the special touches at this show — created by Seattle sommelier Natashia Remchuk Munson — is the food-and-wine pairing concept. Barnes collaborated with a chocolatier on a chipotle truffle with the award-winning Latah Creek Moscato.

“The pairings really highlight that restaurant or chocolatier, but it also highlights the wines and the winemaker’s style,” Conway-Barnes said. “That’s another way of getting people to try your wines — by offering a food pairing they wouldn’t otherwise think about. As soon as they do try it though, most of the time they like it.”

Hightower remembers an “enthusiastic” Sarah Brinlee of El Gaucho Bellevue bringing sweetbreads to serve with her Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Sweetbreads sounds a little risky, but I’ve had them with our wine before,” Hightower said. “The first time was with our Merlot at Gramercy Tavern in New York. They were on the bar menu, and they warned me, ‘You know, they are neither sweet nor bread, right?’ ”

The winemakers said there also sales to be made at the Women Stars of Food and Wine. Conway-Barnes noted one of her wines went on to become one of the monthly features last year at the Columbia Tower Club.

While the snowstorm prevented some chefs and a number of wineries from making last year’s debut, Hightower said she’s had no trouble talking her co-winemaker/husband, Tim, into again helping her at the Women Stars of Food and Wine.

“He loves it because he’s surrounded by all these great women,” Kelly chuckled. “The camaraderie in the Washington wine industry is part of what drew Tim and I to this business. The people are wonderful, interesting and intelligent.”

So far, the list includes Lynne Chamberlain (JLC Cellars/Spofford Station), Casey Cobble (Robert Ramsey Cellars) Marie-Eve Gilla (Forgeron Cellars), Rachael Horn (AniChe Cellars), Leigh McMillan (Welcome Home Winery), Lisa Packer (Warr-King Wines), Judy Papesh (Falling Rain Wines), Carol Parsons (Red Sky Winery), Hillary Sjolund (Sonoris Wines), Holly Turner (Three Rivers Winery) and Tanya Woodley/Elaine Jomwe (SuLei Cellars).

“We are still in the process of confirming winemakers,” LeClaire said.

The lineup of sommeliers includes Shelly Fitzgerald (Downtown Spirits), Janice Dean (Purple Wine Bar), Lisa Rongren (The Herbfarm), Cara De Lavallade (Barking Frog), Stacey Gibson (Olympic Provisions SE), Katelyn Peil (Purple Wine Bar), Van Doren (Le Crocodile, BC), Cheri Walters, Patricia Borgardt (Vino-Fare), Reggie Daigneault (Wine Technology Coordinator South Seattle Community College), Annette Lucille (Wischermann Partners), Jocelyn Foiles (Seastar), Mackenzie Parks (El Gaucho) and April Poque (Loulay Kitchen and Bar).

Participating chefs are Deborah Breuler (Cutters Crab House), Emily Moore (Emily’s Kitchen), Kate Gallego (Vespolina), Jennifer Schell (The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine & Cheese Maker – An Okanagan Cookbook), Teresa Carew & Maria Lofgren (On Safari Foods), Monica Dimas (Nacho Borracho), Kären Jurgensen (Seattle Culinary Academy), Celinda Norton & Sara McCabe, Olive Huang (Cooking Dolls), Jullie Farrell (Tease Chocolates) and Ami Varsanyi (Luv Macaroons).

A ticket costs $50 in advance or $55 at the door. Purchase a pair of tickets ahead of time and the price is $90. Columbia Tower Club members receive a deeper discount.

And for the second straight year, a portion of the proceeds will help support the Women’s Funding Alliance, a 30-year-old organization that assists women and girls throughout the state.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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