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Cork Dork: Four Sommeliers Earn Advanced Certification

More sommeliers, more crush, more truth and more food and wine harmony.

Chris Lara of in Bellevue, Cole Sisson of in Woodinville, Erik Segelbaum of Bellevue-based and Rina Bussell of Canlis Restaurant in Seattle passed the advanced sommelier examination last week.

Even though less than a third of candidates pass the advanced sommelier test, the Seattle area has a high concentration of advanced sommeliers. Lara said mentoring tracing back to former Canlis wine director and master sommelier Robert Bigelow has sprouted the vibrant sommelier community.

Bigelow mentored master sommelier Shayn Bjornholm, who replaced Bigelow as wine director. In turn, Bjornholm trained the current Canlis wine director, Nelson Daquip, also an advanced sommelier along with Canlis colleagues Philip Dunn and Kevin Weeks.

“I look at Canlis for inspiration, and it just breeds itself,” Lara said. "We are a small, burgeoning community. It’s fun to watch that happen. We are geeks, I guess. We attract each other. We multiply.”

For Lara it is both an education and a means to educate others. He said he studied four hours a day, six days a week in preparation for the examination.

“I never went to college,” Lara said. “For me this is my diploma.

“I would love to educate others about wine in some form or fashion. I want to teach people about wine. It’s part of the job of the sommelier when you are on the floor. There’s no bigger compliment to a sommelier when you turn a consumer on to a particular wine.”

Lara has been in the restaurant and wine industries for almost 20 years, including four years as wine director at Matt’s in the Market at the Pike Place Market. He has also worked at Crush in Madison Valley, Il Fornaio in Pacific Place, the Space Needle and the now-defunct 727 Pine at the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Seattle.

CRUSH-ing on Woodinville warehouse wineries

The Woodinville warehouse wineries will be hosting their annual CRUSH, A Wine and Food Festival from noon to 5 p.m. today. There will be no charge for the event, but regular wine tasting fees at each winery will apply.

Participating wineries in the Warehouse District will open their tasting rooms and wineries on Saturday afternoon for tours, live music, wine tastings and interactive winemaking activities such as stomping grapes and punching down caps.

Participating wineries include Alta Cellars, , , , , Gard Vintners, , , , , , , , , and .

Mobile food vendors and restaurants, including , Armadillo BBQ, and Café Veloce will be serving food.

Truth in labeling

According to a poll of 1,000 wine drinkers in the United States, most consumers presented with two labels to compare side by side were unable to determine the correct origin of the wine. The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition advocating for truth-in-labeling wine, released results of the poll administered by Public Opinion Strategies to make its case.

The poll also found:

  • 79 percent of consumers consider the wine region an important factor when buying a bottle of wine
  • 75 percent report they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned its origin was misleading
  • 84 percent think that wine region is extremely important in determining its quality
  • 96 percent say that consumers deserve to know that the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels
  • 98 percent support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require that they accurately label the location where wine grapes are grown

“Protecting place names are paramount to the consumers who should have the right to know where their wine originates, and the winemakers who deserve to present their product to the market in the most accurate way possible,” Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, said in a statement.

Wine Pick of the Week: 07 Des Voigne Cellars Solea, Columbia Valley

The 07 Des Voigne Cellars Solea, named after the Miles Davis tune from the album Sketches of Spain, is a blend of all five major Bordeaux varietals: 46 percent Cabernet Sauvingon, 26 percent Merlot, 13 percent Cabernet Franc, 8 percent Malbec and 7 percent Petit Verdot. Like many Bordeaux blends this wine greets the drinker with black fruit, including black cherry, cassis and blackberries. It even has a hint of the classic Bordeaux earthiness. Plum, vanilla and cigar box nod to its New World roots and complete the aromas of this round and elegantly structured wine.

This harmoneous and versatile wine pairs with a range of dishes from pork to beef. The fruit, elegance and earthiness make it an ideal pairing for the Muscovy Duck breast (for two) served at Canlis. The duck is aged for 14 days by second generation butcher Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats in Rochester, Wash. The aging concentrates the flavors for this succulent cut of duck. The duck is roasted whole and butchered to order.

The 07 Solea is available at in Kirkland and in Redmond.

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