Better Late Than Never: Starting Off The Year With A Visit To The Townshend Winery

Ever since taking on wine alongside coffee and tea, I’m facing up again with just how little I know.

So many French and Italian names! So many decades! So much variety! This classic drink has thousands of years to its name and even the most experienced in the industry continue to learn new things about the craft. With the wine industry being faced with a more nebulous interest by several demographics, proposed tariffs and the ongoing impact of environmental changes, I expect everyone is going to see their intimate wine know-how challenged moving forward.

As for me, well…I don’t plan on sitting on my laurels.

My friend’s mother invited me to a Townshend winetasting event in January, set up to celebrate their different varieties and stir up some buzz. It was a night of firsts: I’ve never been to a winetasting event (unless you count my roommate and I popping open a bottle on a Friday night), nor had I ever tried wine straight out of the barrel. Consider me excited to continue seeing what local Washington wine culture is all about.

We had a little contest between us guessing the weight of the average wine barrel. I was wrong.

This winetasting event was an up close and personal look at what, exactly, goes into making wine, with barrels and crates as far as the eye can see. Townshend is a popular local wine choice in my friend’s family and one I regularly see on grocery store shelves every time I go shopping. Their robust red blends and lower price range make it very easy to indulge; I only recently gave their white wines a try and am thrilled to say they’ve converted me to another favorite…though that’ll be for another post.

(also the average wine barrel when full weighs six hundred pounds)

Her family are proud wine connoisseurs and were practically giving me a tour as we strolled around with food platters and wine samples. They’ve lived in Washington long enough to remember when Townshend was operating out of a tiny house on the outskirts of the city. The local winery has since expanded to include a warehouse, regular winetasting events and a brand that has become a staple in my everyday life. Reach for the stars.

Props to warehouse management. This can’t be easy.

Time for novelty.

Wine that hasn’t yet been aged in the barrel has a plainer and more sour flavor, barely a step up from juice. I can see why they let the drink sit for so long. Curiously enough, Townshend also had a crop that had been impacted by the wildfires going up and down the Pacific Northwest: one that was lightly grazed, while the other that was hit much harder. They gave my friend and I samples of both and…whew. The smoky flavor hit like a punch. I’m still spinning a month later.

The crop that was less affected won on more than just originality: it had a thick, appealing aftertaste and was honestly pretty good, creating a scent that traveled up through your nose and brought to mind the distant whiff of a summer barbecue. It’d make a great addition to a pot roast crockpot or steak, balancing the fruitier notes with a smoky finish. The other one, however, was like breathing in a car’s radiator. Best kept a novelty.

wine barrel

…Mind if I roll one of these home?

We came back for seconds and thirds. I tried out their 2006 Reserve Blend, a smooth and light wine that acted as a refresher after the smoke-touched varieties, as well as another straight-out-of-the-barrel pick.

To date: Townshend’s 2007 Merlot remains a favorite for its robust flavor and strong dark cherry notes, the kind of wine that soaks right into the meat of your tongue and makes you want to savor it. Their red blends, however, are perfect for those with lighter palettes. Sometimes you don’t want something too strong: just a nice cup to keep you company while you finish up the rest of your day.

I’ll round out this post by citing a conversation I had with my friend’s stepfather. I asked him the most expensive wine he’s ever had, which he proceeded to cite in the $100+ range. Damn. When I asked if they were any better than the $20+ wines, he responded with a resounding, “Nah.”

And there you have it.

two glasses of red wine

I would’ve taken photos of their mountain of cheese, olives and crackers, but I was too busy eating.

This was a fun little event that continued to open my eyes as to all the different hands that go into crafting a bottle. Whatever happens in the future, I never want to take human ingenuity for granted.

Why visit a winetasting event? What does it mean to support your local businesses beyond a purchase? An obvious answer would be fostering a sense of community, which would make more sense if I were more social. For me, the biggest appeal of local Washington wines is getting to know the process behind the bottle and how it changes depending on location. Storage techniques. Packaging. Even how an event is set up and who it’s aimed at.

I’m more of a history buff than a people buff. What local wines mean to you, and why you may choose a $15 bottle made in your state over an import, may be something entirely different.

Now that I’ve checked winetasting off the bucket list, I would love to visit a farm someday and see wine grape varieties up close. It’d also be neat to try some wine in different countries. Until that happens, I’m quite content to swing by local winetasting events and ask questions about the process. For any of you thinking of getting into wine (and want to keep their wallet happy), you can find Townshend winery at their site here. I went to another event of theirs after this one, too, so expect to see a little more on this local Washington winery.

Until then…I have a new red blend to pop open tonight.

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