We have no idea why Sleight of Hand Cellars (SoH) hasn’t been on our list of must-visit Washington wineries. It is now. Last week, we stopped by the SoH Cellars SoDo tasting room in Seattle, and rediscovered their outstanding wine. Daniel Burchardt, Seattle operations director, guided us through an exceptional tasting of eight magnificent wines. Read on for more details about Sleight of Hand and its incredible portfolio.
Sleight of Hand Cellars
Trey Busch and Jerry and Sandy Solomon founded Sleight of Hand Cellars in 2007. Production Winemaker Keith Johnson joined the team four years later. Together, they have guided this unique Washington winery to greatness. According to Trey, “Our only goal from the outset has been to make world class wines while having the most fun that is legally possible.” We saw that sentiment during our recent visit with Seattle Operations Director Daniel Burchardt at the SoH SoDo tasting room. Excellent wine and a friendly, fun and knowledgeable host – what more could you want on a Thursday afternoon in Seattle?
Sleight of Hand Story
In 2007, Sleight of Hand Cellars opened in a Walla Walla storefront. Subsequently, in 2011, Sleight of Hand moved to its current property in southern Walla Walla. Further, in 2016, SoH opened another tasting room in Seattle.
In Trey’s words, “Our tasting rooms are something everyone who loves wine and music should experience at least once (and hopefully often). We have over 2,000 albums from a wide range of musical genre, with turntables spinning vinyl in both of our tasting rooms as well in our new Wine Club Lounge at our Walla Walla property. Great wine, great music, and lots of fun—that’s our recipe for the Sleight of Hand lifestyle.”
We noticed this when we met Trey in 2010 at a wine bloggers conference in Walla Walla. And eight years later, when he joined us for dinner at another bloggers conference too. He is upbeat, and frequently bubbles over with enthusiasm – not only about his wines but also his love of music, especially Pearl Jam.
Trey is in charge of, and oversees, the winemaking. Co-owner and Director of Winemaking, Jerry Bush, and Production Winemaker Keith Johnson round out the winemaking team. Keith also spearheads the Devium label.
In the 15 years since the winery opened, Sleight of Hand generated a multitude of awards, in addition to accolades such as “the crème’ de la crème’ of the state’s wineries.”
Sleight of Hand The Psychedelic Syrah 2018 ($60)
When I heard about Sleight of Hand Cellars “The Psychedelic” Syrah, I knew I was going to love it. Unfortunately, some time passed before I could taste it, but patience paid off. And the reality exceeded expectations. We were so impressed, we brought home three bottles. Hands down (no pun intended), this is our favorite SoH wine, among a lineup of excellence. This is 100% Syrah from Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Rocks District.
First, the grapes were crushed by foot. Next came native fermentation in stainless steel bins, and then aged for 15 months in 30% new French oak. This standout wine exhibits the Rocks’ classic funky nose and savory flavors of smoked meats, bacon fat, wet stones, earth, olives, black pepper and lots of blue fruit. It’s balanced, textured, complex and elegant – quite simply, a bottle of deliciousness. And we can’t wait to share it with our wine-geek friends.
The Magician Riesling 2021 ($22)
The 2020 Magician Riesling is from the Ancient Lakes AVA, located on the cliffs above the Columbia River. Elegant and pure, this is one of the best Rieslings we have ever tasted. The Magician offers just a touch of residual sugar and crisp acidity. We tasted green apples, citrus, pears, and minerality from stainless steel fermentation and aging. This Riesling is a refreshing sip of summer, but can also be enjoyed with seafood or spicy dishes anytime of the year. Daniel suggests Thai food.
The Enchantress Chardonnay 2019 ($35)
SoH ferments the 100% old-vine Chardonnay in a combination of neutral oak and concrete, and ages it 11 months in new French oak, neutral oak and concrete. This Chardonnay is built for aging, and features fresh acidity that is the hallmark of 40-year-old vines at French Creek Vineyard. As a result, this is not a big, buttery, oaky Chard. Rather, it is clean, elegant and full of apple and pear flavors. Really, it’s the style of Chardonnay that we prefer.
The Spellbinder Red Blend 2019 ($25)
The Spellbinder is a terrific, fruit-forward blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot and 7% Syrah. Aromas of cherries, raspberries, dark fruit and herbs lead into flavors of more cherries, dark chocolate, blackberries, plums, Asian spices, savory notes and a hint of licorice. Certainly, it drinks above its price point. In other words, The Spellbinder is an every-day, quality wine that will please any crowd. Daniel’s pairing recommendation: Pizza!
The Conjurer Red Blend 2019 ($35)
Yes, that is Neil Patrick Harris on the label of The Conjurer. In 2011, he even tweeted about it (and apparently the SoH website crashed briefly as a result). At the time, Harris, president of Magic Castle’s board of directors, noticed that their wine list brilliantly included Sleight of Hand Cellars. Subsequently, Harris joined the SoH wine club. Through that connection, Harris met Trey, who asked if he would be on the label. NPH also showcased the bottle in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” The rest, as they say, is history. Meanwhile, the 2019 Conjurer blends 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot. We found aromas of plums and Christmas spices, and a textured, lush palate of dark fruit, olives and earthy, savory notes. Really delicious.
The Illusionist Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($52)
This impressive, luxurious Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is outstanding. Cab Sauv (81%) is blended with 12% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc, with grapes sourced from estate vineyard blocks in the Walla Walla and Red Mountain AVAs. So of course, this wine shines, with gorgeous, textured layers of dark fruit, chocolate and cassis. And better yet, you can cellar this beauty for 15-20 more years.
Sleight of Hand The Archimage Reserve Red Wine 2019 ($52)
Daniel gave us a sneak peek, or should I say taste, of the 2019 The Archimage, which won’t be released until spring. What a great guy! What a lovely wine! The Archimage 2019 focuses on the same balance, power and layered complexity as the revered 2016 vintage. It showcases a rich, luxurious mouthfeel from a 50-50 blend of Cab Franc and Merlot. On the nose, we found red and blue fruits, chocolate and savory, herbal notes. The palate features layers of dark fruits and spices. Wow.
Sleight of Hand Force of Nature Syrah Les Collines Vineyard 2017 ($75)
You know 100% Syrah from renowned Les Collines Vineyard, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, will show well. Force of Nature Syrah offers aromas of dark fruit, which is mirrored on the palate, along with graphite and minerality. Structured and intense, this is a magnificent wine. Decant for an hour or two before pouring, or put it away for 10 years, if you have more patience than we do.
Most importantly, Trey dedicates Force of Nature to his friend and mentor Eric Dunham. Eric gave Trey the foundation for his winemaking and philosophy at his first winery job at Dunham Cellars. “Trey fell in love with the winemaking process on the first day of crush in September of 2000, and that journey led him to Sleight of Hand Cellars.” Trey donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this stunning wine to the Seattle chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Summary: Sleight of Hand
In conclusion, we highly recommend the remarkable wines, and the vibe, at Sleight of Hand Cellars. Be sure to stop by their tasting room in Walla Walla or Seattle and sip through their lineup. They also have fun-filled events. And music!
We’ve always liked SoH wines, but after this experience, we love them. Thanks, Daniel!
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Margot and Dave