I’m starting to worry about the effect that the endless gray of this extended Seattle winter is having on my sanity, by which I mean my sense of taste. While by mid-May I would typically be reveling in bright, fresh gin cocktails and glasses of rosé, this year I’m still craving red wine and whiskey. Now, my personal tastes might not be of interest to most of you, but this exact dilemma is puzzling wine directors, sommeliers, and bartenders throughout Seattle.
Much like the vegetables you see on menus throughout the city, there’s usually a certain rhythm to the drinks that pop up over the course of a year. All those winter ales and chocolate stouts convert to pilsners, lagers, and the myriad lighter styles that go well with our purely hypothetical sunshine. Bars use the cocktail menu as a way to highlight fruits and white spirits, which feels a bit odd when it’s 42 degrees outside. Oh, and I can’t tell you how many “It’s Rosé Season!” events I went to in March and April while wearing a raincoat.
So if you’re putting together a beverage program, how exactly do you grapple with the stubbornly unchanging season? Do you forge ahead with spring and summer drinks, hoping that the weather catches up eventually? Do you hold on to what fits the current weather, which can’t last much longer … can it? These might seem like mere hypotheticals, but they’re actually supremely challenging questions in certain situations.
Consider rosé. While we typically don’t think of wine as particularly perishable, the shelf life for most pink wine is short—not because the wine will spoil, but because it’s such a seasonal product. True, demand for pink wine exists in Seattle year-round, but sales skyrocket when it’s sunny. Since much of the selling point for rosé is its freshness, older vintages don’t hold much appeal. Thus, trying to suss out when the sunshine will show up is vital to avoid an overload of outdated offerings.
There’s also the chance that we will vault almost directly from winter into summer. While I would of course welcome the warmth, the wine and food pairings of late spring in the Pacific Northwest are some of my favorites: Bright pinot noir with morel mushrooms, smoky syrah with grilled salmon, and plenty of others are more enjoyable to me in the freshness of spring than in the heat of summer.
There are of course bigger reasons to be concerned by our weather—construction delays, flooding, mudslides—but Seattle Weekly doesn’t pay me to write about those, so I’ll stick to hoping for some mild weather so my taste buds can catch up to the calendar.