Red Thread™ Exclusive | Damsel Cellars

Red Thread™ Exclusive | Damsel Cellars

binNotes | a wine blog

Red Thread™  Exclusive | Damsel Cellars 

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

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“I don’t damsel well. Distress, I can do. Damseling? Not so much.”
― James Patterson, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports


Welcome to the Red Thread™.

A writer’s job is to listen. 

This means allowing wine growers, wine makers, and wine regions a place to say their say on the page. 

The Red Thread™ chronicles stories about wine, the red thread that binds us all.

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A winemaker’s story is a true hero’s journey, involving obstacles, an occasional mentor, and the ultimate reward – wine. Details may vary, but never the storyline. Today Mari Womack of Damsel Cellars in Woodinville, WA. shares her story with in the Red Thread.™

I know Mari through her affiliation with Darby Winery, where she runs the tasting room and serves as assistant wine maker. But savoring Mari’s own wines calls to mind a comment our instructor at BIVB in Burgundy sometimes made.

    “Ah, yes,” he would say.”This wine captures the personality of the wine maker.”  If the remark ended with a sly smile, one knew the wine maker was a woman.

Mari’s wines capture her personality – equal parts elegance and strength. Attending her recent Release event, it’s easy to understand why many consider her a rising star in the Washington wine scene.

NOTE: Mari’s 2012 Damsel Cellars Syrah recently garnered 91 pts. in Wine Enthusiast.

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b/N: Who or what brought you to the world of wine?

MW:  My path to winemaking was not a straight line. I began working in restaurants in college and was introduced to some lovely wines and wine/food pairings and a whole new world opened up.

I caught the wine bug and began doing research on my own, attending industry tastings and starting the process that eventually led me to where I am now. I continued to work in the restaurant business and wine was always an interest, but it was relegated to the sidelines until 2011, when I decided it was time to find out what really goes on in the wine business.

First, I began volunteering in tasting rooms in Woodinville and during crush. Soon after, I was hired by Darby Winery to manage the tasting rooms. The one condition of employment I had for Darby was that he would teach me how to make wine.

b/N:  Tell readers a little bit about the history of Damsel Cellars. How did it evolve, and what makes it unique?

MW:  Damsel Cellars is a project that is still in its infancy. I’m very interested to see how it’s going to evolve. My main goal with Damsel currently is very simple: make great wine that people want to buy and enjoy.

I’m still honing my craft and there are so many variables that go into the process of winemaking. I’m constantly learning and the evolution of Damsel will be directly influenced simply by me getting smarter and better at what I do.

b/N:  You currently make wine under three different labels. What, if any, differences do you see in your approach at Damsel Cellars vs. working with your brother at Rivalry or as assistant winemaker at Darby Winery? How do you juggle it all during crush?

MW:   I think the major differences between working with the different wines (Damsel, Rivalry & Darby) is really about who is making the final decision during each step of the process.

Damsel, I feel, is really my baby and the purest expression of my style as a winemaker. Rivalry is a wonderful collaboration with my brother and we make decisions together and as the assistant to Darby, he’s definitely calling the shots and I’m helping to execute his vision for his wines.

b/N:   Do you consider yourself more old world or new world in your wine making style?

MW:  My process isn’t really new or old world. I think there are benefits to learning new techniques and continuing to keep up with the advances of the industry, but wine has been around for a very long time and there is a beauty to simply letting the wine do what it’s going to do with minimal interference.

b/N:  Does the concept of terroir influence your wine making at all? Where do you source your grapes? Do you have any favorite AVA’s or vineyards? 

MW:  I think there are very distinct differences in the grapes coming from the different AVAs in Washington State. I’m specifically intrigued by the nuances in Syrah from the various AVAs. I’m currently sourcing fruit from Boushey Vineyard (Yakima Valley) and Stillwater Creek Vineyard (Wahluke Slope).

My first goal was to find amazing fruit to work with and doing that meant finding great vineyards. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of fruit from both Boushey and Stillwater Creek. I feel going forward I would love to pick up some Syrah from Walla Walla and if there is a little extra Cabernet Sauvignon from Discovery Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills, I’d be very happy to work with that fruit.

b/N:  Do you have any wine region(s) or wine maker(s) that inspire(s) you? If so, why? 

MW:  I’m around winemakers in Woodinville that are constantly inspiring me. Not only are many of them making delicious wine, they are happy to share their knowledge and experience with the sincere goal of elevating Washington wines. It’s a creative and competitive environment, but competitive in the best sense of the word. ­

Praise for a Washington winemaker really helps us all and raises the reputation of wine from our region.

b/N:   Any insights on being a woman wine maker in Washington state?

MW:   All the women working in the wine industry that I’ve met so far have been awesome. The women I know are driven, hard­working and passionate about what they do. As far as being a woman winemaker in Washington, the goal remains the same – to work hard and make great wine.

bN:   What are your greatest challenges as a wine maker at Damsel Cellars?

MW:  The greatest challenge for Damsel at this point is growing and creating a brand that endures. After only three (3) vintages, I’m finding that making the wine is the fun and easy part; ­getting out there and selling it is the greater challenge.

bN:   Anything else you care to share?

MW:  Wine for me is filled with romance and ritual. There is such a rich history to wine that I wanted to be a part of that story. I love the ritual of opening a bottle of wine, pulling the cork, smelling it, pouring that gorgeous liquid into a big decanter and savoring that first sip…it’s romantic and I love it.

bN:   Finally: “If wine making has taught me anything, it’s taught me…”

MW: Wine making is teaching me patience. It’s teaching me to slow down, to observe and to wait. So much of wine is a waiting game and patience has never been my strong suit. It’s a challenge, but I’m learning to give the wine time.

Learn more about Damsel Cellars here.

Red Thread™ | Damsel Cellars | ©2015 L.M. Archer from binNotes on Vimeo.



Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

Mari Womack, Damsel Cellars

Images: Courtesy Mari Womack, Damsel Cellars.

Note: binNotes sometimes pours for Darby Winery.



Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Walla Walla Wine @McCaw Hall | Seattle 2015 

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“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
― Victor Hugo

No coincidence that Walla Walla Wine chose Seattle’s McCaw Hall to host their 2015 road show. binNotes attended this event, and breaks it down for you in three (3) easy pieces:

I.  Lyric

An undeniable musicality underscores the wines of Walla Walla, running the gamut of high, low and mid-notes with varying acumen.

For example, noteworthy performer G. Cuneo Cellars 2011 Bonatello Riserva Sangiovese lilts with supple grace across the palate like a Puccini libretto, while Kerloo Cellar’s 2012 Upland Grenache pours out with Carmen-esque coloratura, as Gifford Hirlinger 2012 Estate Malbec struts and frets like The Tales of Hoffman.

Scene Stealer: Waitsburg Cellars

Utterly original renditions of old world standards with new-world phrasing.

A tri-part harmony of understated brilliance. Sui generis. 

2013 Cheninieres | Snipes Mountain

2013 Chevray | Snipes Mountain

2013 Three White | Yakima Valley

II.  Luminous

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”  Galileo once observed. Apt when referencing the luminous wash of wines from Walla Walla. They illuminate like broad bolts of sunlight across the region’s epic expanse of hills. Something in the sun, soil, soul of the place that pulses through the vines and wines with a super-charged energy. It’s the same savage beauty experienced during my visit to Walla Walla last summer, as noted in Ode to Walla Walla.

III.  Luscious

Get real. Most Walla Walla vignerons will tell you that the fruit comes first – they just grow it, then get out of the way, and allow the wine to speak – or sing – for itself. Indeed. Walla Walla belts out some lyrical, luminous, luscious wines.


Care to share? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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Thank you:

Walla Walla Wine Alliance

Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved. 



Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Lake Chelan Wine Valley | Top 3 Takeaways

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“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” –Wallace Stevens

Washington State Wine Commission makes it look so easy…

Recently Washington State Wine Commission teed up Lake Chelan Wine Valley trade event portside at World Trade Center Seattle.

binNotes offers top three (3) takeaways from her ‘walk around the lake’:

1. Attitude

Lake Chelan Wine Valley boasts a ‘naturally intoxicating‘ effect – and for good reason! The area attracts those drawn to a destination resort lifestyle offering outdoor adventure, first-class farm-to-table fare, and year-round cultural events such as the upcoming Red Wine and Chocolate Festival. It’s easy to fall in love with Lake Chelan Wine Valley, while falling in love with its wine!

2. Altitude

Lake Chelan Wine Valley rims its namesake, a 50.5 mile, 1, 486 foot deep, pristine glacier-formed lake punctuated by sky-high Cascade Mountains. Subsequently, Lake Chelan Wine Valley enjoys ‘the lake effect,’ a moderating influence translating into a longer grape-growing season and less danger of frost. Moreover, Lake Chelan AVA’s unique combination of sandy sediment and crystalline quartz, granite and mica soils add to the wine region’s viticulture complexity.

3. Assortment

Taste through the wines of Lake Chelan Wine Valley, and you’ll find nuanced flavor profiles running the gamut from the bracing Alsatian intricacy of Vin du Lac 2011 Lehm Gewurtraminer, to the crisp Alto Adige clarity of Lake Chelan Winery 2013 Pinot Grigio, to the precise Austrian minerality of Chelan Estate Winery 2008 Pinot Noir.

Varietals also span the spectrum, including Syrah, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, Barbera and Nebbiolo.

binNotes fave(s):

Super affordable dark-horse Atam Winery 2013 Malbec. A surprisingly silky smooth sipper.

Cairdeas Winery 2013 Southern White Blend. A succulent deck, dock or bonfire-ready blend of Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul, and Viognier.

Chelan Estates Winery 2008 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Chiseled, stealthy stunner.

So what are you waiting for? Find your own truth in a ‘walk around the lake’ of Lake Chelan Wine Valley.


Care to share? Leave your comments below…thanks for stopping by.

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Thank you:

Washington State Wine Commission

Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved. 



Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Washington State Wine Awards 2015 | Top 3 Takeaways

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“A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.” – P. J. O’Rourke 

Greetings, dear readers! Ever wonder about what goes on at those fancy wine award events?

binNotes attended the 13th annual Washington State Wine Awards on January 26th in Seattle’s stunning Benaroya Hall. The event honors those in the wine, restaurant, retail/distribution and tourism/promotion industry professionals that best boost Washington State wines and wine region.

binNotes’ top three (3) takeaways from the 2015 WSWA and trade show:

1. White is the New Orange Black

Steely whites stole my heart this year, including some exciting unoaked chardonnays that forego malolactic fermentation. Secondary malolactic fermentation softens chardonnay, giving it that familiar, creamy texture. But snappy, malo-free whites like Airfield Estates 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay tap dance on the palate like a zesty Sauvignon Blanc. Quite refreshing, and highly affordable.

Other binNotes fave whites include:

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2013 Shepherds Mark White Rhone Blend. A blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Pale straw robe, light body, crisp finish.  A perennial delight.

Avennia 2013 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc. Pale lemon robe, light/medium body, clean finish. Elegant stunner.

Dunham Cellars 2013 Lewis Vineyard Riesling. Translucent robe, light body, dry finish. Lemony- snickets, lip-puckering lusciousness.

Owen Roe 2013 Chardonnay | DuBrul Vineyard. Light yellow robe, light/medium body, bright finish. Nice acids on this – another chardonnay masquerading as a Sauvignon Blanc.

2. The Fruit Abides

I love Burgundy because of the stories the wines tell, tales built upon aeons of nuance – countless variations in terroir comprising the mosaic that is Burgundy. Washington State wines tell a story, too. That story? The fruit abides.

Regardless the varietal, the vineyard, the wine maker, it all comes down to the freshness of the fruit. And Washington state schools other wine region in freshness. Maybe it’s grape-growing eastern Washington’s ‘high desert’ effect: Dramatic diurnal shifts between warm days to bring along the sugars, and cool nights to keep acids bright. Maybe it’s the soils: basalt bedrock, Missoula floods glacial tills, caliche (arid mineral-rich soil), with a little volcanic ash for good measure. No wonder that Washington State racks up more accomplishments in forty years than other wine regions have in centuries. The fruit abides.

3. And the Winner is…

Look for a list of the 2015 winners here. A special shout-out to fellow Burgundy lover Chris Horn of Purple Cafe & Wine Bar| Bellevue, Sommelier of the Year.


Care to share? Leave your comments below…thanks for stopping by.

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Thank you:

Washington State Wine Commission

Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

WITWIB? Wine Tasting!

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

WITWIB? Wine Tasting!

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Seattle - Winter 2014
Seattle – Winter 2014

This week, binNotes bundles up and trundles off into the bitterly cold Seattle winter scape to attend an exclusive release event for a rising star among women winemakers in the region.

You can check out my interview in the next installment of The Red Thread™ later this month.

Next week, be a hero of social, office, and family holiday gatherings with my Burgundy: Top Five Obscure, Accessible and Affordable Wines feature.

As always,  please feel free to leave a comment or question.

Thanks for stopping by – and remember: ’tis the season to drink – and drive – responsibly!


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Copyrighted 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

Harvest Time…

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

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…and the riesling is ready!

Some views from my sister’s organic vineyard on the banks of the Yakima River for your enjoyment.

That it…lots going on right now, so catch up with you soon….Cheers!

Care to share? Leave your comments below – and thanks for stopping by!


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Thank You:

Leeanna, Dan, Miss Lily, Brew & the Crew

Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved. |  Images courtesy: Handprint Farms

Need Riesling??

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

Like wine? Like compelling stories about wine? You’ve landed on the right page!

Follow    binNotes | a wine blog: |   Facebook    |     Twitter    |    Pinterest

Need Riesling?!?

binNotes takes Terroirist Tuesday off-road…just in time for harvest…

Today binNotes breaks her own ban on infomercials for a good cause…

Wine Makers:

Looking for a few tons of luscious, citrus-noted, organically grown Riesling?

Handprint Farms in Prosser, WA. farms Riesling organically, and has a few tons still available.

Hey, it’s my sister’s farm!



Care to share? Leave your comments below – and thanks for stopping by.


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Copyrighted 2014. All rights reserved. |  Image courtesy: Handprint Farms