Oh, ye of little faith. We know that you rolled your eyes when Matthews Estate rolled out its super-premium Tenor Wines label last year. We all did. Let’s face it, it was nuts to push Washington wines at Napa prices during a recession – all single varietals but for the 1:1, at that. Or was it?
Winemaker Aryn Morell has brought his California wine industry sensibilities to Cliff Otis and Jim Rubstello’s iconic Matthews Estate, and makes no apologies for asking prices for Tenor releases that he feels are in line with the best wines the world has to offer. Anyone who has tasted these wines will agree.
When brand manager Eric Swikard first brought the Tenor line to the team at Cypress Lounge & Wine Bar at Westin Bellevue, an all-Washington wine bar (except for one Oregon Pinot Noir), the staff knew it was something special. Tenor Merlot was placed on the list and the Sauvignon Blanc followed as soon as it was available.
“We really wanted our wines on the Cypress menu,” said Swikard. “We respect the mission and quality of the wine list, and feel that we belong there.”
Picking up a super-premium priced Merlot and Sauv Blanc to offer on a glass pour may not make sense for many venues, but Cypress was happy to take on the challenge. “We take very seriously our job to showcase the best Washington wines to the rest of the world,” said Jim McGlashan, General Manager for the Westin Bellevue.
Having the right hardware to minimize risk helps, too. Cypress invested in a cruvinet wine preservation and dispensing system that stores wines up to 60 days, making it possible to keep expensive open inventory with minimal waste. But the reality is that once a bottle of Tenor is opened, it doesn’t stick around for long. “Whenever we taste our best customers on Tenor, they inevitably end up buying a glass, if not a whole bottle,” said McGlashan. “Tenor has been an addition that has made good sense for our business.”
Swikard and Cliff Otis’ son Bryan join Westin Bellevue chef Mark Santiago tableside in Cypress for an intimate, six-course paired wine dinner on May 19th, featuring three wines from Tenor and two from Matthews Estate. The lineup includes the 2008 “1:1”- Proprietary Blend, which recently won the Sommelier Challenge- An International Wine Competition “Platinum” rating, the 2008 Tenor Merlot, which took Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards, the 2010 Tenor Sauv Blanc earning “Excellent” from Washington Wine Report, along with Seattle Wine Awards Gold winner 2008 Matthews Claret, and the 2009 Matthews Syrah which also earned “Excellent/ Exceptional from Washington Wine Report. The wine alone is worth the ticket price.