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Remembering a Leschi Wine Legend

Longtime readers, neighbors and patrons of the Leschi Market may remember the name Ed Raftis.

Others may not remember the name, but may remember a friendly, refined, older gentleman, that shuffled around the wine aisle with his larger than life, seemingly gold plated scissors that I swear could shear a lamb, cutting and hanging shelf talkers and wine descriptors. Either way, for a solid 20 years, if you purchased wine from Leschi Market anytime between 2000 and 2020, you were selecting a wine that Ed helped select for the store.

In early 2020, before the pandemic had really hit, for health reasons, Ed moved from his Lake Washington condo, just minutes from the store, to Moraga, California to be near his son and his son’s family. Last month, we at the Market learned from one of Ed’s oldest friends, Richard Nelson, that he passed away in April, shortly after celebrating his 88th birthday.

Ed’s passion for wine led him to Leschi Market in his retirement. He was extremely instrumental in the expansion of and dedicated his time and knowledge to the success of the Leschi Market Wine Department and what it is today. I will forever be grateful for my time spent with Ed, in the store and out. Whether he would ever admit it or not, he took me under his wing in 2007 as the wine department grew and grew, and become increasingly difficult for a one-man show (in retirement mind you), to run. He taught me a lot about how retail worked, what he looked for in wine and the ever important price to quality ratio. He respected my palate, valued my ideas, and slowly transitioned into a supporting role – focusing his time pouring over reviews upon reviews of wines, recommending wine to bring in, and creating and fully facilitating weekly email blasts and monthly newsletters in addition to every single shelf talker hanging on the shelves.

Ed also wrote for the Leschi News for many, many years. When he decided to hand that over to me, he approached me with a printed copy of every single column he had ever written, and said, “Maybe this can give you some ideas.” I have so many fond memories of Ed. From our early adventures carpooling to trade tastings together, to his unfiltered, unapologetic, and at times brutally honest feedback on wines, and somehow maybe even more critical opinions on labels. “The sales people need to know what they are working with!”

I have a plethora of valuable insight from my time with Ed that I carry with me today. I’ll share some of my favorites here in no particular order. Be honest with feedback to winemakers and sales reps. Sometimes a phone call is much simpler than an email – tone and meaning will not get lost or misconstrued. Wearing shorts in January is okay, “shorts are a sign of royalty!” Don’t spit wine, spit olive oil and beer. The first chilled wine of the day is the best wine of the day. Really cold wine hides its flaws, the question is, was it shown this way intentionally?

I don’t know much about Ed growing up in Colville, or his life as an attorney in New Jersey, but I am proud to have worked with him and know him how I did. He was a proud grandpa that bragged about his grandkids. He loved Mariners baseball and Gonzaga basketball, which always led to heartbreak in the end, and maybe a little extra friendly ribbing from this Husky. He loved wine and reading and writing about wine. Wine was a true passion of his. German Riesling was his gateway wine, and when he tasted one, you could actually see with each sip how he was transported back to a specific time and place in his memories.

I want to close by giving a heartfelt thank you to Ed-Edmund B-Mr. Raftis. Thank you for all you did in your time at Leschi Market. Your contributions live on in the store and the neighborhood.

Here are five current offerings of favorite Ed Raftis wines, complete with accurate and thorough descriptors.

Louis Roederer Collection 244 Champagne

An elegant Champagne, with bright acidity buoying a well-integrated range of ripe pear and white cherry, almond skin, fleur de sel and apple blossom notes. Fine and seamless, with a lingering, spiced finish. –Wine Spectator, 93-points, 94-points James Suckling, 93-points Wine Enthusiast

2022 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills

Dried flowers, incense, rosemary and dried strawberries. Wonderfully fresh, crunchy in feel, with stimulating acidity offsetting its tart red fruits and hints of sour citrus that pucker the cheeks. Finishes with youthful tension, lightly structured, leaving suggestions of tart raspberry. –Vinous, 93-points

2021 Ridge Three Valleys Red Sonoma Coast

Nose of toasty oak, strawberry jam, mixed berry pie, black tea and baking spice. Layered black and blue fruit on the palate with milk chocolate, cherry, garrigue and textured tannins on the finish. –Winemaker notes

2022 Lobo Hills Dry Riesling Yakima Valley

This Riesling was slow fermented on yeast cultivated from Alsace, France, which produced a range of lovely aromas: apricot skins, white peaches and honeysuckle. On the palate, this Riesling has a rounded quality, giving way to flavors of apricots, melons and peaches. –Winemaker notes

2021 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot Walla Walla Valley

Lifts from the glass with a blend of peppery red berries and dusty rose. It’s luxuriously soft, with a pleasant inner sweetness and crisp wild blueberry fruit. This tapers off with admirable length—pleasantly chewy with a dark resonance. –Vinous, 90-points

~Kenneth Benner

Co-Owner & Wine Director

Leschi Market / Leschi Cellars



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