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Washington Wine Month Stop #15 – Northwest Totem Cellars

About the Name:

“A name that pays respect to a life and people that once depended on, respected and revered their environment and the living world. We and our children are committed ambassadors to this living world.

Our commitment to compassion runs broadly across many constituents; people, planet and, never to be overlooked, all other non-human living beings who share our world. Our reverence for life securely encompasses the animals of our planet.

We share a view that they are their own communities, like that of our native ancestors, like us today. They are their own nations. The totem is our connection to life; old and new, human and non-human.”

About the Winery:

The words “personal” and “warm” will define your experience at Northwest Totem Cellars. As you walk through the front door, you realize this tasting experience will be one of your most memorable.

Pouring their wines from the “kitchen” private tasting room, Mike Sharadin, winemaker, barrel washer, one-man show et al, will enlighten you on Washington wines, our own voyage as a small producer and will share with you the passion that has fueled our love of the grape.

The highly-acclaimed Northwest fruit pairs with the rest of our winemaking efforts and efforts of our partners to create an intimate experience expressing the best varietal characters each year. “Our community is our customer. Our customers are our friends. They all make our wine and the experience which is ours to share.”

A New Different Closure Option:

Northwest Totem Cellars has chosen for their red wines, the new glass stopper by Alcoa in their effort to be more wine and environmentally friendly.

While there is plenty of debate over how often a wine obtains cork taint or any other complications, Northwest Totem simply likes this system as it comes from a renewable source and can be recycled.

A little more expensive than cork, they hope more wineries will give glass a chance and help this closure system become more widely used.

About the Wines:

2005 Merlot

Mike Sharadin

This Merlot from Chandler Reach Vineyard was blended with 3 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Elerding Vineyard. Aged 30 months in the barrel and eight months in the bottle prior to release, the nose has aromas of raspberries, vanilla, chocolate and current with a hint of smoke around the edges. The same awaits the palate, with bright fruit and very approachable tannins. Well balanced and drinking exceptionally well now but can lay down for the next ten years.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet from the Elerding vineyard was blended with 6 percent Merlot from Chandler Reach vineyard and 1 percent Petit Verdot, also from Elerding.  Aged 21 months in 75 percent new French oak, the full aroma of of black cherry, vanilla and coffee hit you at once when a second swirl of the glass brings hints of lavender. Deep chocolate, cherry and vanilla run very smoothly on the palate on the finish.

Low Man Red (Bordeaux Blend)  

A blend of Cabernet (70 percent), Merlot (21.3 percent), Cab Franc (4.7 percent) and Petit Verdot (4 percent) was aged seperately in 50 percent new French oak for 20 months. Aromas of raspberry, plum, currant and blueberry are complimented by vanilla oak tones. Bright raspberries await the palate with a perfect acidity that makes this wine a must have with just about any bold flavors, particularly garlic, spices and deep concentrated sauces.

2006 Potlatch  

A unique blend of all Elerding vineyard fruit comprised of Syrha (52 percent), Tempranillo (47 percent) and Petit Verdot (1 percent), the wine was aged for 18 months with 15 percent new French oak. This wine opens with bold aromas of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and a hint of cherry that dominate the palate. Soft tannins with a lingering finish allow you to enjoy this wine now.

Cabernet Franc

These extraordinary grapes are from the state’s most experienced growers at Sagemoor Farms and their Bacchus Vineyard block of Cabernet Franc. Aged in 50 percent new French oak for 20 months and blended with 4.8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has aromatics of black cherry, coffee, vanilla with a hint of allspice. More black fruit fills the palate making it very rich and full-flavored with a Cab Franc signature white pepper finish.

Qo-né (Cab Franc Blend)

This blend of Cab Franc (64.4 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (26.2 percent), Syrah (8.4 percent) and Petit Verdot (1 percent) was aged in 50 percent new French oak for 20 months. Rich with aromas of blackberry, vanilla, coffee and nicco wafers, this wine is well balanced with notes of chocolate and black cherry finishing with a hint of that signature Cab Franc white pepper on the finish.

2006 Late Harvest Viognier

The Elerding Vineyard has been a source for many of Washington’s finest wineries. At the base of Horse Heaven Hills on the southern end of the Yakima Valley, owner Steve Elerding and vineyard manager Roger Bates have developed a premium grape growing site that provides Northwest Totem Cellars with many of their red varietals as well as their Viognier.

This vintage has a unique split harvest report. On the eve of October 29th, the valley experienced record-breaking cold with temperatures descending below 11º F in many pockets. This would be cold enough for ice wine. A quick call to Roger Bates and they were picking in the wee hours of the morning.

However, with half of the field picked the sun was rising and so were the temperatures. They decided to delay the rest of the crop until the next morning with the hope that the remaining grapes would also be harvested under conditions allowing for ice wine. However, temperatures the next morning rose to a balmy 14º creating, instead, a nice cold “Late Harvest” with sugars at 30.6º brix.

This is in contrast to the first day’s harvest at 36º brix. There, a decision was made to blend the two harvests and create an “Icy Late Harvest”. This is certainly not a legal descriptor but, moreover, a poetic one that aptly describes the outcome as well as the finger conditions in the vineyard on both of those mornings.

The 2006 Late Harvest Viognier from Elerding Vineyard is a floral, tropical fruit resort with a delicacy of enhancing sweetness without trespassing on the palate. Pineapple, pear and passion fruit are just part of the flavor tour. The amber color exudes this wine’s clean finish. Though dessert wines are normally served in small stemware, this is one you may want to enjoy in a larger vessel to allow the aromatics to play equal billing.

Northwest Totem Cellars

15810 NE 136th Place

Redmond, WA  98052


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    Theresa Dillon

    Theresa Dillon
    Theresa Dillon earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. In her spare time she enjoys reading, attending concerts, weekly trivia nights, watching movies (especially her favorite The Wizard of Oz), and of course wine.