Celebrate the Holidays with AQUA and Wine-Making Friends

When an event becomes annual, it’s usually because it’s pretty darn special, which is the case for AQUA’s 10th Annual Holiday Wine Dinner, coming up on Thursday, December 20th.

This epic evening is guaranteed to elevate your holiday spirits, and what is especially fun is that not one, but three wineries are involved, with all three winemakers in attendance. This means each of the incredible five courses that Chef Steve Cain has prepared is paired with two wines. How’s that for some friendly competition and comradery between the winemakers?

Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand, Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan, and Chris Sparkman of Sparkman Cellars will be leading guests through each course and pairing.  All three winemakers have been with the event since it began in 2003, albeit in a slightly different capacity: at that time, Chris Sparkman was AQUA’s General Manager (then called The Waterfront); Trey was representing Basel Cellars (before he started Sleight of Hand with Jerry and Sandy Solomon), and Mark was still with Mark Ryan.  Chris was able to join the event representing his winery, Sparkman Cellars, in 2007.  Other participating wineries over the years include Baer, Ross Andrew, Stevens, and Boudreaux Cellars.

If you’re not familiar with these three winemakers or their labels, let us introduce you.  Mark McNeilly is largely self-taught, honing his palate and continually learning and working with other winemakers in both Washington and California.  He is known for his spirit and generosity by mentoring newcomers to the world of making wine, and was pivotal in putting Woodinville on the winemaking map.

Seattle Magazine 2009 named Sleight of Hand the “Next Cult winery of Washington State.”  Trey worked under Eric Dunham at Dunham Cellars, as well as winemaker for Basel Cellars, before opening Sleight of Hand with Jerry and Sandy Solomon in 2007.   His passion for music, especially Pearl Jam, is the inspiration for the brand name and each wine label.

Chris Sparkman is no stranger to the AQUA family: as we mentioned, he was its General Manager for years and helped develop a phenomenal wine program for the restaurant until his departure in 2007 to give his full devotion to the growing and successful Sparkman Cellars.  At one point, he had 27 first tier sommeliers under his wing, and today he still leads the wine syndicate for El Gaucho Hospitality restaurants.  Sparkman has enjoyed many recent accolades, including 2010 Wine Spectator Rising Star, 2011 Wine Enthusiast Cult Winery, and 2011 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Winery in the World.

Chef Steve Cain has planned a true gastronomical experience for guests this year, starting with roasted black cod, followed by foie gras torchon, roasted quail, and pancetta wrapped elk tenderloin.  A rich chocolaté cremeux is the sweet finale.  Each course is exquisitely paired with two wines to give guests a variety and a chance to taste different winemaking styles side by side. These wines are exclusive, as some are already sold out, and others are only available at the winery.  However, all of these wines will be available for guests to purchase at this spectacular event.


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