Willows Lodge and Barking Frog wine director Cara DeLavallade recently passed the advanced sommelier exam. Only a handful of local female sommeliers have achieved this status — her name joins the ranks of Lisa Rongren of The Herbfarm and Dawn Smith at John Howie. In DeLavallade’s class, she was one of only eight people out of 61 who passed the test.
Easy to say, DeLavallade, 32, knows her wine. When you are looking to bring a stellar bottle of wine to a dinner party, or are tasked to order it for the table (gasp!), now you will be in the know. We asked DeLavallade about her favorites and wines to watch in 2016.
Q. Do you have a favorite wine you prefer over all other wines, or does it depend on if you are pairing it with a meal?
A. What I’m excited about drinking depends so much on context — food, time of year, company. I do always swoon for a good Chinon. That sultry nature of a Loire Valley Cab Franc gets me every time.
Q. How do you feel about the Washington wine scene, and what’s on your radar that should be on ours?
A. I think the wine scene in Washington is so much fun. The growers and winemakers are amazing people, who support each other and their community. There are many exciting things happening in Washington as winemakers start to focus on varieties like Grenache and Chenin Blanc. The Columbia Gorge is a fascinating new region with cool-climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner. I think we’ll all be taking note of this region in the future.
Q. What wines are you watching in 2016?
1. Alleromb. The project is new, but the wines are straight-up delicious. Particularly the Sauvignon Blanc; $38.
2. Cote Bonneville. This might seem like old news to some, but I’m surprised at the number of our guests who have never tasted these wines. They are incredible, and older vintages are showing the strength of the vineyard and the winemaker. Buy these wines. Cellar them. Cote Bonneville Syrah; $65.
3. Idilico. Javier Alfonso makes Spanish-style wines with Washington fruit, and the wines are gluggable. They are pure wines that really showcase the varietals. Incredible values. Idilico Graciano Reserva; $35.
4. Orr. Erica Orr is a winemaking wizard in Woodinville and the brains behind many successful wineries. Her Chenin is singular, a very pretty representation of what the grape can do. Orr Chenin Blanc; $25.
5. Force Majeuer. Todd Alexander is a new winemaker up from Napa, and I spent some time nerding out with him in the brand-new winery. The new estate wines will be released in January. Those will be something to look forward to. Force Majeure; $65-$90.
6. Occhipinti. Arianna Occhipinti has been making amazing wines for some time, but I see them starting to take off in our market. Gorgeous, aromatic wines from Sicily. Try the Frappato, if you can find it. Occhipinti SP68; $30.