On this cloudy day we ventured into Guardian Cellars not knowing what to expect. Our first impression walking through the door was this is our kind of place. The simple but comfortable surroundings were perfect for wine tasting — not too pretentious yet sleek in design, roomy with comfortable tables and chairs. This is a great place to enjoy some outstanding wine with your friends. There was also plenty of cheese and crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings.
We were warmly greeted by the winemaker Jerry Riener along with his wife and co-owner Jennifer. While both Jerry and Jennifer were quite busy tending to all the people that came in for a taste, they made us feel as if we were the only ones there — seamlessly managing to give time, attention and an education of their wines to everyone.
The story behind Guardian Cellars is quite interesting. Jerry is a winemaker with a degree in chemistry and met Jennifer while she was a reporter at the Seattle Times (she used to write articles about Jerry). Together, they created a winery with a theme — see if you can figure it out as you read the rest of this column.
Jerry has actually been making wine for quite some time. He started out in 1999 volunteering at Matthews Cellars. A few years later he began working with his friend Mark Ryan of Mark Ryan Winery. Jerry had the good fortune to work with this seasoned and excellent wine- maker who helped Jerry and Jennifer get their winery going through his encouragement and assistance. Jerry started making his own label in 2004. Serious in their endeavor, much of the equipment they use in the production of Guardian wines is the same caliber of equipment they use in many Napa Valley wineries. Jerry and Jennifer felt that paying a little more up front for equipment would mean they wouldn’t have to upgrade as they grew their winery. And they are certainly growing.
We started our tasting with the 2009 “Chalk Line” which is a blend of 34 percent Cabernet, 24 percent Merlot, 22 percent Syrah and 20 percent Cabernet Franc. Next up was the 2009 “The Wanted” which is a blend of 64 percent Cabernet and 36 percent Cabernet Franc, all from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. We also had a chance to taste their Red Mountain wines, the 2008 “Rookie” which is a 71 percent Cabernet and 29 percent Cabernet Franc and the 2008 “The Alibi” which is 60 percent Cabernet and 40 percent Merlot – both were fabulous. But the real highlight for us was the 2009 “Informant,” which is a Syrah that is co-fermented with 4 percent Viognier that helps bring out the deep red color of this spectacular wine. This is one of the best Syrahs we have ever tried, and it is obvious why it was honored at this year’s Golden Grape awards. All of these wines far exceeded our expectations and were in our opinion well worth their price.
Guardian grapes come mostly from Stillwater Creek and Red Mountain but they do source their grapes from a variety of other vineyards as well.
What we liked the most about Guardian is how they do not rush their wine to market. Many of their wines age as much as 21 months in the barrel and then another 18 months in the bottle before they become available, which is about a year later than many other producers.
By now, you have probably caught on to a common theme with all Guardian Cellars cleverly named wines. Jerry is also a full time police officer with the Lynnwood Police Department and all of the wines we tasted were named after something related to law enforcement.
Because their wines are not mass produced they sell out quickly, and after having the chance to taste them, we know why. We made sure to purchase a few bottles while we had the chance.