A Wine Made Specially for John Howie Steak in Washington

John Howie Columbia Valley Merlot

John Howie Columbia Valley Merlot

It is fun for me to find out about restaurants around Vancouver and visiting them. Trying their latest creations and wine pairings.  But also of interest, is our neighbours, in this case Seattle. There are a lot of great restaurants that we may not have heard of up here in Vancouver, but think about spending a weekend in Seattle and trying out the culinary and wine scene.  With that in mind, I received this latest announcement from the John Howie restaurant group about a wine made specially for them.  John Howie has 3 restaurants where you can try their new wine.  Read about it here.


Bellevue, Washington — Erik Liedholm, Company Wine Director for John Howie Restaurant Group and Seattle Magazine’s 2012 “Sommelier of the Year”, estimates that he has tasted thousands of wines during his 20-year career, created pairings for at least a couple of hundred dinners and has lost count of the numerous classes he has taught.  What could be a more natural next-step than blending wine?  The result is a stellar new bottling:  John Howie Columbia Valley Merlot, making its debut October 17th.

Liedholm and Chef Howie had recently finished collaborating on John’s cookbook, Passion & Palate: Recipes for a Generous Table (in which Erik provided recipe wine pairings), whenthe two business partners and close friends came up with the idea to produce house wine for the five venue restaurant group.   Rather than ask a specific winery to just custom label one of their own products, Erik and John wanted to craft a high quality wine that had a distinctive flavor profile.

Liedholm approached owner/executive winemaker Mark Ryan McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery, who he had known for several years. After much discussion, Mark and Erik began blending wines from numerous grape varietals and vineyards,  finally arriving at a beautifully structured gem of a Merlot, created from 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon.  “The goal was to have a luxuriously textured plumy wine, but still offer a nice balance of acidity, so it would pair with a wide variety of dishes from all the restaurants in the John Howie Restaurant portfolio,” says Liedholm.

John Howie Columbia Valley Merlot will join the wine list next Wednesday at both Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar locations (Bellevue and Seattle) as well as at John Howie Steak.  It will soon follow at SPORT Restaurant & Bar and Tacoma’s Adriatic Grill.   Priced at $56 a bottle, $18 for an 8-ounce glass and $9 for a 4-ounce glass, availability will be limited to only John Howie affiliated restaurants.   Those wishing to purchase a bottle to enjoy at home can do so at list price, less a 20% “to go” discount.

A private John Howie label cuvee of Champagne from Duval-Leroy will follow by December.