It has all happened very quickly. Ben Smith released the first wines made under his new Cadence label a little over two years ago. On

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Flying High

It has all happened very quickly. Ben Smith released the first wines made under his new Cadence label a little over two years ago. On Oct. 15, Cadence will receive Wine & Spirits magazine's "Artisan Winery of the Year" award, and a lengthy essay by W&S founder-editor Joshua Greene will detail how a Boeing engineer managed to attract the attention and approval of the international wine press with his second attempt at commercial winemaking. Smith's formula for success is not one well-adapted to emulation. The Boeing connection isn't irrelevant; it gave Smith a chance to hone his amateur winemaking chops on grapes from the state's finest vineyards, thanks to the buying clout of the informal after-hours gang known as the Boeing Wine Club. It also provided a sufficient income for Smith to purchase and enjoy pricey samples of what other winemakers—Andrew Will's Chris Camarda, Quilceda Creek's Alex Golitzin—were doing with the same grapes he and his buddies were playing with. He also concedes that his decision to cut loose from the Lazy B, shortly after releasing his first (1998) vintages in early 2000, was easier to make for a man married to an attorney with a partnership in a top Seattle law firm. But it's what Smith did with his new leisure that put him on the escalator to early success. "It's not enough to make good wine," he says. "There are just too many new small wineries competing for attention. Restaurants and wine merchants have to have a face and a personality to associate with the product. Of course, they have to like the wine. . . . " They did. Smith was able to place his first vintage on some of Seattle's more prestigious wine lists, but the connection that turned out to matter most was with the man his wife bought her wine from, Dan McCarthy of McCarthy and Schiering. McCarthy liked Smith's stuff and communicated his liking to Steven Tanzer, who broadcast his own approval in his International Wine Cellar newsletter. That, in turn, helped find a distributor for Cadence wines in New York, a town as important in setting the style in wine as in hemlines. The accolade from Wine & Spirits, however, was all Smith's own work. "We sent our '99s blind to their San Francisco tasting panel. After a while, we got back a terse note talking about '94s, so I called them and said, 'Not '94s, '99s,' and they said, 'No, not the year, the rating.' So I said, 'Oh . . . OK.' " GET THIS Some people think Chablis is the greatest of white wines for matching with food. Good French Chablis is never cheap, but sometimes you find a young, drink-now bottle like this 2000 Chablis Champs Royaux from F趲e that won't break the bank should you grab a bottle to glorify the steamed clams or mussels for your quick seafood supper. Regularly about $18, through Thanksgiving it's "posted off" to $16 or under. rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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