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.

12th Annual Washington State Wine Awards

12th Annual Washington State Wine Awards Honors Food and Wine Leaders

by L.M. Archer

Washington Wine Commission honored wine and food industry leaders at the 12th annual Washington State Wine Awards on Monday, January 26, 2014 at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall.

Washington State Wine President Steve Warner and staff organized the elegant, four-hour extravaganza featuring wine tasting from over 70 Washington state vintners, gourmet nibbles, hob-nobbing, and awards emceed by Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow. 

Northwest food and wine impresario Jamie Peha of Peha Promotions, created the event twelve years ago to showcase Washington’s wine and food industry post 9/11.  Today, the Annual Washington State Wine Awards stands out as one of the most anticipated annual events for Washington wineries, retailers, distributors, hotels, tourism vendors, and restaurants alike.

Awards include Sommelier of the Year (Jeff Lindsey-Thorsen, RN74 Seattle), Restaurant of the Year (The Marc Restaurant – Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla), and the Walter Clore Honorarium (Bob Betz, Betz Winery for ‘an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the Washington State wine industry.’

Washington State Wine Awards 2014: 

Walter Clore Honorarium: Bob Betz – Betz Winery

Sommelier of the Year: Jeff Lindsey-Thorsen – RN74 Seattle

Restaurant of the Year:  The Marc Restaurant – Walla Walla WA

Independent Restaurant of the Year: Russell’s –  Bothell WA

Restaurant Group of the Year:  Schwartz Brothers Restaurants

Best Event Featuring Washington Wine: Anthony’s Restaurants,  ‘Raise a Glass, Fund a Schoalrship’

Retail Group of the Year: PCC Natural Markets – Seattle

Retailer of the YearTotal Wine & More

Independent Retailer of the Year: Full Pull Wines – Seattle

Retail Salesperson of the Year: Dan McCarthy, McCarthy & Schiering Wine – Seattle

Distributor of the Year: Cru Selections (WA)

Distributor Saleperson of the Year: Jason Harris –Young’s Market Company (WA)

Hotel of the Year:  The Westin Bellevue Hotel

Tourism Champion of the Year: Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Center

Tourism Concierge of the Year: John Cooper, Yakima Valley Tourism

Washington State Wine Commission deserves an award themsevles or a job well done. Cheers!

Thank you to:  Washington State Wine Commission

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All Rights Reserved. All images courtesy of the author.

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Leave your comments below…cheers!



…in case you haven’t noticed, binNotes has a new look. That’s not all.  In October, binNotes changes hats at Lachini Vineyards to Guest Blogger during my upcoming studies in Burgundy and travels in France.

Look for upcoming October guest blogs at:

In addition:

I’ve got some great events coming up, including attending Restaurant Zoe’s Burgundy Wine Dinner with Peter Wasserman this Monday, September 30th –  can’t wait to share the experience.

NOTE: Peter Wasserman’s mother is legendary  Wendy  Wasserman, a guest instructor at French Wine Society’s Master Level Bourgogne Program in which I’m enrolled. The Immersion program includes studies at Burgundy Wine School, guided by esteemed instructor Jean-Pierre Renard.

No, this isn’t an info-mercial. I’m just super-excited to geek out!

NOTE: WordPress has started incorporating random ads into sites of bloggers who do not pay to ‘opt out’, as a means of collecting revenue.  Regrets – those ARE info-mercials.


Copyrighted 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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Notes from the Tasting Room Trenches

After taking a bit of a hiatus from binNotes this summer to learn the business side of wine, I return to the keyboard not quite refreshed,  but definately more informed about the realities of the wine industry.

I’ve learned about retail and distribution and production, in addition to fluffy events and marketing.  I’ve interviewed, hired, trained, and sweat alongside tasting room troops. I’ve worked weekends, holidays, and evenings  throughout the summer while others play. And I don’t regret a minute of it.

Indeed – working the biz side has only strengthened my appreciation and respect for the wine world  – as art and as industry.

Bottom line: The wine industry is not for slackers.

At the end of the day, Pourers gonna pour. Drinkers gonna drink. Geekers like me gonna geek. It’s all good.

So the next time you belly up to the bar of a tasting room near you,  give it up to the folks behind the counter.

And remember: Pourers pour because they want to, not because they have to. Not a lot of cranky people in the wine industry.  Every day in a tasting room is a good day – and only gets better with each guest that crosses the threshold to share in The Joy That is The Juice.

Meanwhile, back on planet binNotes, bear with me as  I get back in the saddle of word-slinging while studying about Burgundian AOC’s, soil types, slope elevations, viticultural and vinicultural practices and exceptions…ALWAYS exceptions in Burgundy….before heading to France in October for my French Wine Society Bourgogne Master-Level Immersion Program, with time off for bad behavior in Paris and Avignon…

…So stay tuned for binNotes’ Adventures of a Wine Geek in Burgundy

Have a question about the wonderful wine region of Burgundy you’re dying to ask? Leave it below…and I’ll get back to just as soon as humanly possible! Cheers~


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Geeking Out

Hey there, dear readers! Later this week, I head out of Woodinville Wine Country, international wine destination and hot air balloon mecca, for parts south and east, as follows:

7/27-7/28: International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, OR.
I’ll be checking in at Lachini Vinyards in Newberg, OR., then checking out our new tasting room in Carlton, before making my way to the Sunday walkabout.

7/29-8/1: 2013 Society of Wine Educators Conference in Orlando, FL.
I’ll be geeking out with other Francophiles participating in the French Wine Society‘s Bourgogne Master-Level Program this October…plus attending some other cool seminars, and French Wine Night, sponsored by Wines of France… Santé!

Pinot…Burgundy…French Wine…pinch me!!! I’ll do my best to remain legible and recount events as they unpour…cheers!

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What I’m Spouting Now…425 Magazine

Actually, I’ve been too busy to write the past month, but I’ve been quoted in the July-August 2013 425 Magazine’s ‘Quick Trips’ Section on Woodinville Wine Country.

Check it out here. Kudos to Linda Jenkins for one fabulous article – cheers!

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Somewhere in WWC…

Dear Readers:
No, I am not gone, nor have I forgotten you…it’s just that my day job has temporarily taken my writing life hostage, and refuses to negotiate…I’m sure many of you know the drill: interviewing, hiring and training staff; events scheduling, organization and management; working weekends and holidays delivering ‘Pinots Worth Coveting’ to appreciative audiences, plus the odd distribution run and special events surprise…I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe it’s just be the lights of an oncoming car…

Anyway,  thanks for staying true, and staying tuned for my next post, which must and WILL be about writing and wine, not writing and whine. In the meantime, keep on enjoying wine as an art, not just a beverage…Cheers!

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