WOODINVILLE -- When Ross Mickel became interested in wine, he was surrounded by plenty of people willing to help.
The University of Washington graduate went to school with Mark Canlis of Canlis restaurant fame and Carmen Betz, daughter of Master of Wine Bob Betz.
In the mid-90s, Mickel went to work at Canlis, learning the wine business from a restaurant perspective under the tutelage of Rob Bigelow, a Master Sommelier who now works for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
He then got on at iconic DeLille Cellars in Woodinville and became acquainted with Bob Betz, who was starting Betz Family Winery while still an executive at Ste. Michelle. After working harvest for DeLille, Mickel landed a job at Rosemount Estate, one of Australia's top wineries. In 1999, he returned and began a full-time job with Betz.
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"Bob and Cathy Betz are a second set of parents to me," Mickel said. "He was still working at Ste. Michelle then, and we'd be crushing grapes at 10 at night, then go back to their house."
Those late-night opportunities to break bread together sealed a relationship that helped Mickel launch Ross Andrew Winery with a few barrels of wine. He used his first and middle names because "it sounded better than Ross Mickel," he said with a chuckle. "My mother loved the name, and it had a good ring to it."
Today, Mickel makes 7,000 cases of wine from his location just up the road from Ste. Michelle near the Hollywood Schoolhouse. Of that, 4,000 cases are his Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon, a $15 red that is marketed and sold by Precept Wine in Seattle. That deal came about because Precept co-founder Dan Baty has been a longtime friend and supporter.
Here are some Ross Andrew wines we've tasted recently. Apart from Glaze, most of these wines are made in small amounts. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly at 425-485-2720.
Glaze 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: This wine has a lot of wow packed in it because of its price and quality. It's a rich, fresh wine with aromas of black plum, minerality, dark chocolate and black pepper. On the palate, it is approachable now, thanks to mild tannins and round flavors of chocolate, black cherry and bright acidity. This affordable Cab has a high yummy factor.
Ross Andrew Winery 2009 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley, $38: This wine takes full advantage of Yakima Valley grape grower Dick Boushey's prowess. It opens with aromas of orange zest, fresh plum, dark chocolate and oak. On the palate, it reveals flavors of sweet blueberry, black licorice, ripe black fruit and moist earth. It's a classic cool-climate Syrah.
Ross Andrew Winery 2011 Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris, Columbia Gorge, $20: Celilo is on the Washington side of Columbia Gorge and enjoys a strong reputation with winemakers and consumers alike, thanks to its pioneering of the cool-climate region. This Pinot Gris offers aromas and flavors of starfruit, Asian pear, jicama, lime zest and apple, all backed up with bright acidity.
Ross Andrew Winery 2012 Meadow Rosé, Columbia Valley, $15: This Sangiovese rosé comes from a Woodinville winery crafting several superb and affordable wines. This features aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry-rhubarb jam and Rainier cherry. It is dry and delicious and will pair with everything from pork chops to pasta.
Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Red, Washington, $25: This red blend contains Cabernet Sauvignon (60 percent), Merlot (35 percent) and a touch of Syrah. It opens with hints of white pepper, mint, lavender, plum and cocoa powder, followed by broad flavors of Western serviceberry, blackberry and plum. It has a great mouth feel backed by some midpalate tannin that brings just enough grip to pair with lasagna, flank steak or a meatloaf sandwich.
*Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue own Great Northwest Wine; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.