TASTE at SAM: Making Wine and Cheese

For a restaurant owned by a California catering company (Bon Appetit), TASTE Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum sure makes every effort to incorporate the local in all that they do, even listing the percentage of local ingredients used in house at any given time. The restaurant recently acquired a wine endorsement that establishes it as a licensed wine retailer, meaning it can now sell bottles of its Masterpiece red and white to customers for take away, at $23 and $19 respectively. The blends are a collaborative effort between TASTE's director, Danielle Custer, and Don Townshend of Townshend Cellars in Colbert, Wash.

"This was such a fun project, bringing together Don, whose wines we've all enjoyed at the restaurant, and the museum, which helped find a local artist for the label (Leo Kenney)," said Custer. "For myself, this is what I like to do, to be able to understand what Don doe, and translate that and fold it into what we do." The blends are very well priced and a little unusual; the white is made with viognier and sauvignon blanc grapes and the red is primarily sangiovese with cabernet franc and pinot noir. The Masterpiece red has a brighter, fresher fruit profile than your average Washington red, and carries through to a soft finish that has super acidity. The white makes for a perfect aperitif. I'd like to try it with a fennel soup I had at the restaurant a while back or anything sharp and green.

Townshend and Custer are working on their next round of blends and plan to make more wine this time around. Custer said, "These were definitely an experiment, and the reaction has been great. We just want to make enough wine to offer the experience to our guests in the restaurant and catering clients, too."

Executive chef Craig Hetherington will make cheese to go with those wines and for the upcoming Taste of the Northwest Farm Dinner in mid-May, which coincides with the Seattle Cheese Festival. He's planning paneer, ricotta, crème fraiche, and mascarpone, all made with salmon-safe dairy. I'd be on the look out for these creamy beauties to hit the restaurant's menu about the same time.

And if that weren't enough, I spied a "Farm to Glass" cocktail on the bar menu. It contains Oregon's Clear Creek kirshwasser, local mint honey, and verjus (literally "green juice") from grapes out of Red Mountain's Klipsun vineyards.

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