Banking on a great wine in Washington

December 10, 2013

Amateur rugby to banking to winemaker. That is the typical path for a successful winemaker-right? Well, it is the path that Shannon Jones took in starting Hestia Cellars, located a short distance east of Seattle, Washington. Shannon and his business partner Angela (also his high school sweetheart and wife) run their successful family winery. One reason for Shannon’s success is the premium wine grapes that are sourced from the prestigious Columbia AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Eastern Washington.

We caught up with Shannon at Cypress Lounge & Wine Bar which is located in The Westin Bellevue.  Cypress is unique since they offer over 65 wines by on the glass on its exclusively Washington wine list.  We also like it since they often host winemaker’s dinners.

The wine sampling for this evening started with Hestia’s Tempranillo, which originated in Northern Spain. This grape eventually made it to the rich soils of Eastern Washington in the 1990’s. The Tempranillo is a smooth wine with a light vanilla taste and was a great start to the evening.

I chatted with Shannon to learn the secrets to his success. He took viticulture and enology classes at two elite West Coast schools - UC Davis and WSU (Eastern Washington) and this was the start of his career change. There are not many folks who switch from banking to winemaking. Shannon’s timing was impeccable since he left the industry in 2007, one year before the big banking collapse.

Hestia Cellars has flourished. Their wines are distributed in over 20 states in the United States, parts of Canada and into Japan and Korea. In fact the next morning Shannon was taking his dad on an international wine convention to grow his business further.

This evening Hestia Cellars was paired with Executive Chef Ivo Sandrea’s culinary favorites. Chef Ivo’s expertise spans from Hawaii to New York and now Westin Bellevue.  (One could say from coast to coast to coast). We really enjoyed Ivo’s Butter Poached Sweet Alaska Shrimp paired with the Chenin Blanc. This dry, crisp wine with a fresh nose really brought out the tasty shellfish. The citrus notes of this wine would go with any of our Northwest shellfish. It is Hestia’s only white wine and if you enjoy shellfish it is a must for your wine cellar.

My favorite meat dish of the evening was the Roasted Painted Hills Beef Tenderloin. Chef Ivo cooked this to perfection and the Cabernet Sauvignon was an excellent paring. The cab has some light cherry notes with soft flavors and was the right balance for the rich and tender beef.

I’m going to fast forward our winemaker’s dinner to the best part - dessert. The chocolate blueberry tort was very light and would warrant a second helping but that was not going to happen. I never would have thought to pair the Malbec with this, but the plum and spice flavors of the wine created a prefect presentation to my taste buds.

After dinner it was too late to go across the street to Bellevue Square or to the Bellevue Art Museum. We know we will return to Cypress to check out the live music and regular winemaker dinners. However, next time we will get there early so that we have some time left for shopping or to visit the museum.

About our guest contributors:
Michael Fagin is a freelance travel writer who has traveled across Canada and visited all the major Canadian wine regions. Mr. Fagin is currently touring the Pacific Northwest enjoying the wine country, dining, and hiking the region. While he is not writing Mr. Fagin is a weather forecaster  for West Coast Weather, LLC forecasting weather for the West Coast of the US as well as on an international basis. His wife Elizabeth Fagin, also a travel writer, is co-author of this article.