Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Wine...Oh My!

Picture your last visit to the zoo. Odds are good that memory includes the squeal of small children running about, babies being toted around well past naptime, peering over the crowd to try to sneak a glimpse of the meerkats, and noting the alarmingly high number of high school couples there for an afternoon date. It’s boisterous and lively, but definitely requires a high tolerance for little ones. Now imagine a zoo visit sans children, with the addition of Washington wines, live music and gourmet chocolate. It’s not a pipe dream – that’s the Tasting Flight event at the Woodland Park Zoo.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a bit biased here; as a card-carrying zoo member, I clearly harbor a deep and undying love and affection for the zoo and its conservation efforts. Conveniently located at the nexus of some of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods – Phinney Ridge, Fremont and Greenlake – I’m apt to visit the zoo on a whim because the day ends in “y”. But for those with a desire in your hearts to frolic the grounds without the presence of children (yours or others'), the Tasting Flight event is made for you. From 6:00pm – 9:00pm, the North Meadow becomes a playground for those 21 and over, including access to the critters. Through their “Get Real Close” animal encounters, the staff at Woodland Park Zoo offer the opportunity to interact with some of the animals and their handlers right out in the Meadow. As we made our way to the wine, we were greeted by an impressive falcon perched atop the well-gloved hand of its raptor handler.

Over two dozen wineries are represented at the event, and with 10 tasting tickets there is opportunity to savor old favorites and discover new ones. We began with Smasne Cellars, who were pouring their Farm Girl White and the ½ Ass Red. The Farm Girl White does not disappoint. With a nose that’s more than little reminiscent of DKNY Green Apple perfume, and a palette that's sweet but not cloying and a little crisp, it's perfect for sprawling out on the zoo lawn while taking in the tunes of Coco Loco. The Palouse Winery '08 Dynamique Cab Franc, with its nice acidity and smooth finish, was a great complement to the black bean burger I devoured, but if the catering doesn't excite you this event allows you to bring in your own picnic dinner as well. We spotted many blankets and elaborate food set-ups throughout the grass. Over at Knight Hill Winery we were treated to a rare bird in the Washington wine world, an 09 Mourvedre. This was my first exposure to the varietal, but certainly won't be my last. With a lightly peppery nose and a big,dark-fruit body, the Mourvedre had me craving a steak.

The Seia Wine Cellars 07 Clifton Hill Syrah was our drink of choice as we made our way through the Northwest Territory exhibit. With a feisty Pinot-esque funk on the nose and smooth finish on the palette, this was one of my most memorable of the night. I'm sad to say that Seia will be closing its doors. Rob and Kim's Syrahs are still available until they're gone, and at $15 a bottle for the Clifton Hill they are an incredible deal. I think that the Grizzly Bears in the Northern Territory must know a good wine when they smell it, because they were out in full force and putting on a show when we arrived at their exhibit.

If you've ever made an afternoon zoo visit only to be disappointed that the animals a) were napping or b) weren't even in the exterior enclosures at all, the night time is the right time to visit. The bears, wolves and penguins were active and zoo staff were on hand to answer questions about the critters and conservation efforts. Species Survival Plans, and partners with federal and state agencies, as well as other accredited zoos, on a variety of Species Recovery Projects for wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Through its Tasting Flight event, tickets, food sales, additional tastings and bottles purchased at the event all raise money for the zoo and its conservation efforts. So you can feel even better every time you sip from that knowing that you've helped support a clouded leopard, or maybe an Egyptian tortoise.

The Woodland Park Zoo seeks to "inspire people to learn, care, and act." If you've been looking for an excuse to check out what the zoo has to offer, there's no better time than over great Washington wine and a side of delicious Theo Chocolates. Seattle Uncorked is bringing the second Tasting Flight at Woodland Park Zoo Thursday, August 11. In keeping with the zoo's conservation mission, the event is Bring Your Own Glass, so be sure to come prepared! And as much as they may seem like they want it, please don't share that wine with the animals.


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