By Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue
Michael Haig is a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan, but the do-it-all quarterback of Whitestone Vineyard & Winery who playfully pairs his wines with junk food doesn’t plan to watch the Super Bowl.
“I’ve scheduled myself to do a wine tasting because I have no interest,” he said. “Seattle should be the NFC team there, not San Francisco.”
Haig, 36, still wants to make sure his fans attending Super Bowl parties don’t fumble a chance to class up traditional tailgate cuisine, so the Spokane-area winemaker offered a food-and-wine-pairing scouting report.
“Not all great bottles are consumed by candlelight and white china in a romantic setting with the one you love,” Haig said. “I’d bet most wine is consumed in sweatpants with the kids yelling and you ... trying to get the kids settled and their lunches for the next day made.”
So the Whitestone Wine & Junk Food Tasting is Feb. 2 at Haig’s tasting room near the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane.
“We’re going to the store’s frozen-food section and getting everything that can be deep fried,” Haig said. “Imagine fried chicken and fish sticks.”
“When it comes to really greasy fried chicken, I like the Cabernet Franc ($27),” Haig said. “It has a nice tartness to it, and you know that little bit of grease between the skin and the meat? The Cab Franc will cleanse that off your palate really good.”
Fish sticks won’t get paired with white wine, which Haig doesn’t care for.
“You’ve almost got to go with the Merlot, especially if you fry the fish with bread crumbs,” Haig said. “The Merlot ($27) is a bit more fruity, and it doesn’t matter if you dip the fish sticks in tartar sauce or ketchup. You’ll still be fine with the Merlot.”
Whitestone also will be pairing Doritos and Fritos with Pieces of Red ($21), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot — all from his family’s vineyard.
“When you are with the boys and playing poker or watching the game and enjoying some nice junk food like summer sausage, cheese and chips, all your friends may be drinking beer,” Haig said. “Instead, you put red wine in a coffee mug.
“Now if you are drinking the St. Vincent, our high-end blend ($35), make sure you stick your pinkie finger out while drinking from the coffee cup — just to class it up a bit,” Haig quipped.
“That’s one question everyone seems to be asking, but I can’t give away everything before the party,” Haig chuckled. “People will have to be here or get it off our Twitter account that afternoon.”
Make no mistake, Haig crafts serious wines at his 2,000-case facility. They are neither clumsy nor smothered by oak, allowing for red fruit flavors such as cassis, Marionberry, Montmorency cherry and Craisins. His grapes once went to Walla Walla wineries Canoe Ridge Vineyards, L’Ecole No. 41 and Walla Walla Vintners.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the vineyard planted with the help of Washington State University. Decades before, though, grapevines thrived nearby until they were flooded by the construction of Grand Coulee Dam about 30 miles downstream.
The winery is named for nearby Whitestone Rock — the iconic natural feature of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area — and the family-owned operation keeps Haig on the run. He splits his time between the Spokane tasting room, the 16-acre vineyard overlooking the Columbia River, the winery in the tiny Palouse town of Wilbur and a quaint tasting room across the street from the winery.
Whitestone Vineyard & Winery wines are available at Compass Wines in Anacortes and at whitestonewinery.com.
— Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.