Oftentimes, the journey is the reward when touring wine country.
Take, for instance, Walter Dacon Wines near Shelton. The southern end of the Olympic Peninsula is not classic wine country (though the state's first bonded winery after Prohibition began on Stretch Island, not far away).
Walter Dacon, run by Lloyd and Ann Anderson, launched in 2005 with the release of the 2003 vintage. The Andersons focus almost exclusively on Syrah, using grapes from some of the top vineyards east of the Cascades, including Boushey near Grandview, Williams on Red Mountain and Elephant Mountain not far from Zillah.
The Andersons named the winery after Walter Dacon, who was Lloyd's grandfather. Lloyd, who handles the winemaking, was born in California. His father was in the military, so he lived all over the world as a child. After earning a forestry degree from the University of California in Berkeley, he moved to Washington to work for Weyerhaeuser. He left the company in 1981 to start a consulting business. After the Andersons took up home winemaking as a hobby, they were encouraged by friends to turn it into a business.
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When the Anderson launched Walter Dacon, Syrah was Washington's hot, up-and-coming variety. In the past few years, though, interest in the red Rhône variety has waned a bit. However, the Andersons have seen no lack of enthusiasm for their wines and have had little difficulty selling their 2,000 cases each year.
They make five different Syrahs: The C'est Syrah Belle is aged in French oak; the C'est Syrah Beaux is aged in American oak; the C'est Syrah Magnifique is a reserve-level wine; the Appenage is a vineyard-designated wine from Boushey and available primarily to wine club members; and the Vin a Dessert is a fortified Syrah.
The Andersons also make a Syrah-based blend called Skookum Red. It's named after the Chinook word for "good." And the Andersons live on Little Skookum Inlet.
"Everything around here is named skookum," Anderson said with a laugh.
Though the Andersons typically have to drive 10 hours round trip to bring home their grapes from the Columbia Valley, they enjoy being on the peninsula, just 20 minutes from Olympia.
"It's pretty obscure here on the peninsula," Lloyd said, adding with a smile, "But we call Shelton the Syrah capital of the world!"
In fact, a bit of a wine industry has sprung up in the south Puget Sound, with more than a half-dozen wineries in the area. It is enough for the wineries to form the South Sound Wine Trail and market themselves as a destination for wine lovers along the Interstate 5 corridor.
Here are two Walter Dacon wines we've tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly at 360-426-5913.
Walter Dacon Wines 2008 C'est Cyrah Magnifique, Yakima Valley, $42: Lloyd Anderson admits this is his favorite wine. He was inspired by the wines of Hermitage in the northern Rhne Valley. The wine opens with inviting aromas of oak spice, boysenberry and cocoa powder, followed by flavors of blueberry, blackberry and dark chocolate. It's a hedonistic wine on the palate yet has all the acidity it needs to pair with lamb, beef stew or smoked pork.
Walter Dacon Wines 2009 Skookum Red, Columbia Valley, $22: This is Walter Dacon's least-expensive bottling and one of the only wines that includes grapes other than Syrah.
In fact, it is a blend of Syrah, Sangiovese and Grenache. It offers aromas of black cherry, cedar, cardamom and dark chocolate, followed by bold flavors of ripe dark fruit, black pepper and succulent spices. Enjoy with pizza, ravioli in a red sauce or barbecued chicken.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. For more information, go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.