I thought it was a particularly great event this year. I have to admit that I had some concerns about the move to a two-day format for the Grand Tasting. Would it be too taxing on the wineries and restaurants? Would there be enough consumer support?
The weekend proved these concerns unwarranted. Based on an informal survey of a number of participants, there seemed to be resounding support for the change. Many winery representatives I spoke with gave a consistent description – “less frenzied” – and noted that they were better able to talk with attendees about their wines. While some noted that they might be inclined to have additional help for the event next year, most seemed to enjoy the slightly shortened day and the opportunity to enjoy Seattle Saturday evening.
Consumers seemed to enjoy the change as well. Many took advantage of the two-day package, using the days in a variety of fashions: one to explore whites and one to explore reds; one to explore old favorites and one to explore new wineries etc. With less sense of frenzy, there also seemed to be less over consumption than in some previous years.
While some people I spoke with noted that there seemed to be fewer people at the event this year, ticket sales were actually up considerably, with Sunday the busier of the two days. Overall, the move to a two-day format seemed to be a tremendous success.
In terms of the wines, one of the highlights for me was a series of new rosés from Gramercy, Maison Bleue, Cote Bonneville, and Syncline. For both Gramercy and Maison Bleue, this is the first time either winery has produced a pink wine, and they are outstanding (look for formal reviews in the coming weeks). Overall these wines brought a seriousness and sense of intention, while still retaining great vivacity. Syncline’s sparkling wine was another standout.
As in previous years, I found the Vineyard Tables to be one of the most enjoyable places to spend time. The sixteen vineyards represented were pouring a multitude of wines, allowing for the exploration of site and winemaker style. It was great to see a line three people deep waiting to try wines from Dick Boushey’s vineyards.
I also thought the seminars were a high note. I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on Saturday of how Washington wines compete and provide value across the price spectrum. The message seemed to resonate with many of the attendees who participated in the blind tasting. Sunday’s “Celebrated Vintages” seminar was an honor to be part of and, for me, the highlight of the weekend (okay, along with the life-size cutout of Charlie Hoppes).
The only hitch in moving the seminars from Bell Harbor to the site of the Grand Tasting was some background noise while people were setting up the floor downstairs. However, using these spaces also allowed for a considerably larger group of attendees as attested by Sunday’s standing-room-only crowd of 100 people for the “Celebrated Vintages” seminar.
Overall, I thought the weekend was a great success. Here’s to all of the wineries, restaurants, and other businesses that participated in Taste Washington this weekend. It continues to be the signature event for Washington wine.