Friday, May 12, 2006

O'Shea and Scarborough: Seattle Garagistes

You gotta start somewhere. For many winemakers I've met, that meant having a lot of clams to buy a nice spread, the Tuscan Villa mockup and the $800 barrels. For a couple o' nice boys from Seattle, you just need to know the right people.

These guys are true garagistes: what the rock stars to-be playing in the basement are to music, these guys are to wine. Their neonate label O'Shea and Scarborough runs out of a tiny garage barely big enough to hold a Mini Cooper. Up on the wall behind an open pack of Ranier Beer is a large black and white photo of the vineyard worker who helped them swipe (er, pick) their first half ton. The crush pad is the driveway, and the restroom's a port-o-potty out back. This is the perfect setting for wine made by guys who love what they do. "The best wine is made while drinking beer," Travis reminds us.

Damn straight.

Interview with O'Shea and Scarborough

C&D: State your names for the record, please.

Travis: Travis Scarborough.

Darryn: Darryn O'Shea.

We're in the middle of a garage in the Queen Anne District. Underneath a condominium. Give me the nutshell on how this got started.

D: That's a damn good question. We were both working for wholesalers in the Seattle area. I actually met Travis when I started selling wine to him at Cassis restaurant, and I was making my first vintage of syrah, 2003. We just got to talking about it and purchased a half ton of syrah...when I first met him, I was making wine in a storage area underneath an apartment that was 8x10, if that big. I started looking for space and my landlord had this, so we started running it out of the garage. We had one barrel, one half-ton fermentor and that was it.

T: I made wine a little bit before in Napa, he was interested, he's been making wine as well, selling wine, we're like, "yeah, we should do it."

D: We like the same style of wine. That's what got us going, we were talking about the style of wine...

Did you make this decision over Ranier Beer?

T: There could have been some Miller High Life involved, as well as some...

D: Absinthe.

T: A little absinthe,too.

D: Definitely some absinthe.

T: I had a little Swiss absinthe hookup at the time that made our decision really clear.

You said you grew up in Napa...

T: Grew up in Napa, St. Helena, class of '97. The Saints.

Go Saints!

T: Yeah. I made my first wine when I was twenty. Not very good wine. It was a bunch of guys sitting on the porch, saying "Yeah, dude, let's make some wine." And we just picked some grapes around midnight, one a.m., brought them back to our place, made it the next day...we had a leaky barrel, our basement flooded, we had malo shooting out on our front porch, the wine didn't finish malo (second fermentation). Oh yeah, we made wine. We had no alcohol at that point, so we liked it.

Were your parents doing it? Was your family into wine?

T: My family were just collectors at the time. My dad would let me drink wine when I was younger, but he would also say, "What does it taste like? What does it smell like?" He gave me an education about it, rather than just, here you go.

So the two of you got together and said let's do it. When was that?

D: That was the summer of 2004.

T: Yeah. Spring or summer.

How did you hook up with the equipment you needed?

D: I had a lot of connections selling for the company Washington Wineries, we represented Dunham and Matthews and JM Cellars out in Woodenville. A lot of Washington wineries. Everyone was more than happy to help us out, whether it was getting fruit to us, we didn't even pay for the first fruit we got...

T: And I have to say, initially, all we were doing was a half a ton. That's it. Just to have some fun. That's what our initial goal was.

D: And it was tasting good, and you get hooked, it's just like anything. You get into it and you learn the fine points of it, and you say, if we do this next year it'll be better...

T: So we say, let's make more, more, more! Let's go over here and do this syrah! Let's do cab, let's do reisling! Whatever we could do.

D: Matt Loso of Matthews Cellars was really, really helpful. He gave us a barrel, helped us get our fruit, and wanted to crush it for us, but we wanted to crush it by foot...go kinda old school and non-interventional.

T: A lot of advice, too.

D: Everyone's willing to tell you what they'd do when you have a question...

T: Which is good and bad...

D: you get everybody on the phone and say, okay, eight guys would do this and three guys would do that, and you figure in what kind of style of wine they're making, and if that's the way you want to go, you follow that advice.

T: And then we do our own thing.

D: That's the great thing about the Washington wine community. It is competitive, but everyone feels like they're in it together and everybody's helping. There's a comradery, almost to a fault, because everybody only drinks Washington wine. It gets old, because everybody's comparing their wines to everybody else's wines.

That's got to cause a kind of homogeneity...

D: I think because many people are sourcing fruit from other vineyards instead of growing their own fruit, so there is a lot of wine that tastes similar.

So let's say in five years, O'Shea and Scarborough gets off the ground...

T: Let's say one year. We need the money.

Okay, one year. What's your ideal case production?

D: Probably 1500 to 2000 cases, where we can comfortably do it. Where it's a couple of guys who know each and every barrel, and you don't spend a lot of time messing around with wine you're not happy with.


The boys are working on a Cab, a Syrah, and a couple of blends. It's gonna be solid stuff. Big stuff, but well balanced. Check out the more in-depth barrel tasting notes Maggie's got on The Wine Offensive. They're also sitting on a fantastic late-harvest Semillon that for the life o' me smells like it's got a touch of the lovely botrytis that gives it a honey tangerine note.

Just remember: you heard of 'em first on The Cork and Demon.

My wine tour is almost complete! I'm in the Walla x 2 Valley now, where people are so friendly it makes my teeth hurt. Gorgeous out here. Before I get to that, I've got a great chat with Kay Simon of Chinook Winery from the Yakima you simply must check out.



Blogger Cecil Younger said...

Soooo..., the burning question is for those of us that live in the area; when and how can we get their wine?

1:21 PM  
Anonymous darryn said...

thanks for stopping by the garage. we'll let you know when the semillon is ready.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Kelvin said...

Kia Ora (Hello) from down under in New Zealand. What wine goes with oysters ? White or red ? You have a really great blog - worth sharing, just like a good bottle of wine !!! So I hope you don't mind me mentioning your blogs @ #560 on my blog 21 21 21 Great Blogs To Read

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of your more interesting commentaries.

Photos continue to of high quality too.

Very unique approach to wine/travel writing.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

travis is a homo

5:38 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Nice wrist brace Trav. PS- the Reisling was excellent.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

travis is no homo and the wrist brace was for a broken wrist which lasted 6 months!! This includes a staph infection from the doctors! Yeah, why don't you kick someone while there down.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I know some great places where to buy absinthe is so easy!

11:31 AM  

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