Spoiler Alert: this spotlight will have both Neil Patrick Harris and Pearl Jam in it. Cool, right? But before we get to their cameos, let’s talk about this little slice of sipping heaven in the heart of Walla Walla, shall we?
Sleight of Hand Cellars, named both one of “The Next Generation” of up-and-coming wineries in Washington State as well as one of “The Next Cult Wineries” by Seattle Magazine, was founded in 2007 by a couple of music and wine lovers out to have some fun. Originally just a storefront, its early acclaim eventually led to the opening of its full-on tasting room in Walla Walla in 2011 and a second tasting room Seattle in 2016.
My visit to the Walla Walla wine operation rocked. I suppose the better term would be that it rock ‘n’ rolled. That is because the main tasting space doubles as a safe space for the owners’ extensive vinyl collection. At their count, there are more than 3,000 record albums on display in the tasting room. Even better: they actually play them! They spin real records from open to close daily. (And while not a member myself, I am told from a friend who is that if you are a member of their Wine Illusionist Society you get a free digital download from Sub Pop Records in Seattle for a little mood music while sipping away from the winery as well.)
Among the record collections in their stash are a ton of Pearl Jam albums. Well beyond that, however, most of the wall space not promoting the wines features Pearl Jam memorabilia. And then there is a wholly separate tasting room for Wine Illusionist Society members (that I snuck into!) that looks like a funky living room with even more memorabilia and an awesome antique juke box.
Right now, if you are a Pearl Jam fan, you are starting to look at the name of the winery again: Sleight of Hand. It happens to be the name of winemaker and Pearl Jam mega-fan Trey Busch’s favorite song from the band. In the song, the main character is going through the motions in life before breaking out of his mundane mold, which spoke to Busch and his partners Jerry and Sandy Solomon as that was in many ways what owning and running a winery could signify to them.
The team sources their grapes from Blue Mountain Vineyard, Lewis Vineyard, Red Mountain Vineyard, Phinny Hill Vineyard, Stoney Vine Vineyard, Upland Vineyard and Elevation Vineyard, and they excel at Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and especially red blends. My personal favorite bottles from which to imbibe are the 2018 “The Archimage” Red Blend, 2018 “The Psychedelic” Syrah and 2018 “The Illusionist” Cabernet Sauvignon. And – of course – The Conjurer Red Blend.
Aside from its delectable plum and cherry notes and groovy finish, you need to take a look at The Conjurer label. Doesn’t the magician on the bottle look an awful lot like superstar and well-publicized magic fanatic Neil Patrick Harris? It IS Neil Patrick Harris! Turns out, he is a wine club member, so he offered his mug for a bottle.
Wines can be shipped, but you really should taste for the first time in person. Right now, tastings are available by appointment at both locations, and either make for a great day if looking to chill out with a great tasting and even better tunes.
To learn more of Sleight of Hand Cellars, visit www.sofhcellars.com.