Taste Washington is coming up this weekend! Here are some ways to make the most of this year’s event, which is truly the ultimate celebration of Washington wine.
1. Check out the seminars
There are a series of educational seminars Saturday and Sunday morning exploring everything from food and wine pairing to Washington’s oldest AVA to comparing Washington to some of the world’s best wines. Read the full list of seminars here.
I’m moderating two seminars this year. The first (Saturday) is ‘Introduction to the World of Wine’ – truly an introduction to the world of Washington wine. We’ve got a great lineup of panelists including geologist and terroirist Kevin Pogue from Whitman College and VinTerra Consulting (hearing Dr. Pogue talk about Washington’s terroir is worth the price of admission alone); Thomas Hennick-Kling, head of Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program; Linda Murphy, whose long list of accomplishments over the years includes the recent book American Wine (written with Jancis Robinson); and Master Sommelier Thomas Price of Seattle’s The Metropolitan Grill. If you or someone you know is interested in beginning to learn about Washington wine, this seminar should provide an excellent entry point.
The second seminar (Sunday) is ‘All Mixed Up – The Art of Blending.’ This seminar will focus on how winemakers approach creating blends, one of the hottest categories of wine right now. We’ve got a superb group of panelists including winemakers Brian Carter (Brian Carter Cellars), Dave Merfeld (Northstar), and Mike Macmorran (Mark Ryan Winery, Force Majeure, and Manu Propria). We’ll also have retailer Doug Charles of Compass Wines and sommelier Tom Thompson of Tulalip Resort offering their insights. And, of course, we’ve got a great lineup of wines (see the list here). Hope you can join us!
2. One day or two?
As with last year, the Grand Tasting takes place over two days. You can attend one day ($80/$145 VIP) or two ($125/$185 VIP). The lineup will be the same both days, but this means that you can potentially sample from a larger number of wineries or not feel as rushed if you decide to attend both days.
3. Make a plan for the Grand Tasting
There are over 225 wineries represented at Taste Washington, so it is only possible to taste wines from a small fraction of them even if you do go both days. You can take a walk and wander approach and taste at wineries as you come across them, or you can have a specific plan of attack.
In terms of making a specific plan, look at the list of participating wineries and categorize ones that you a) definitely want to check out, b) ones that you really hope to go to and c) ones that are on the bubble. Some wineries pour out early, so make sure to visit the ones you definitely want to visit first. You can also make a point of focusing on a single varietal or type of wine. I always like to try to visit wineries I am unfamiliar with as well.
4. Get the lay of the land
The conference center is a massive place and the layout can be a bit confusing at times when you are looking for a particular winery or restaurant. Make sure to check out the map of the event in the event guide to help get oriented before you go.
5. It’s hip to spit!
The great thing about Taste Washington is that you are able to taste a large amount of Washington wine in a single setting. However, you can taste even more wine if you make a point to spit most of it out/dump wine during the event. In previous years there have been spit cups and buckets placed everywhere throughout the event hall. If there are not this time around, grab a cup from the espresso bar and use it to spit into and then pour into the dump buckets. You’ll have a much better time (and a better recollection of the event the next day!). Regardless of whether you spit or not, I strongly advise taking a cab to and from this event.
6. Eat early, eat often
There’s a lot of great food (see the list of over 60 participating restaurants here) at the event so make sure to take advantage of it. In particular, check out the oyster and chowder bar which has a seemingly endless supply of oysters. If you are a vegetarian, it can sometimes be somewhat difficult to find food at times, so keep that in mind and plan accordingly.
7. Check out the Taste the Vineyards section
There is a section devoted to vineyards where you can sample wines made from a single source across multiple producers. Vineyards represented this year include Sagemoor, Clifton, StoneRidge, and Upland. See the complete list in the program guide. This area tends to be pretty quiet so you can taste a number of wines reasonably quickly and talk to people about their vineyards.
8. Keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for special ‘under the table wines’
Some wineries bring special treats for their Social Media fans. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter before and during the event for special ‘under the table’ wines. If you’re tweeting during the event, use the hashtag #TasteWA.
9. Have fun!
This is a great event, so make sure to have a good time. Things can get quite crowded at times. If the lines at a particular table get long, try moving on to another spot and coming back. There’s more than enough wine out there.
Below are a just few wines being poured at the event that I have either had before and recommend checking out or am hoping to try. For each of these lists, I only picked one wine from the producer. Feel free to comment with your own list (or, of course, keep it very, very secret).
Hope to see you there!
Wines I Recommend
Adams Bench The V Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
aMaurice Estate Syrah 2009
Auclair Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2012
Avennia Sestina Red Wine Columbia valley 2010
Betz Family Winery Pere de Famille 2010
Cadence Bel Canto Red Mountain 2009
Bunnell Family Syrah Boushey-McPherson Yakima Valley 2008
Chateau Ste. Michelle Red Blend Cold Creek Vineyard 2009
Cote Bonneville Carriage House Red Blend Yakima Valley 2008
Dusted Valley Petite Sirah Columbia Valley 2010
Efeste Jolie Bouche Syrah Yakima Valley 2010
Eight Bells Winery Syrah Red Willow Vineyard 2010
Fall Line Winery Red Blend Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009
Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2011
Gorman Winery The Bully Red Wine Red Mountain 2009
Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010
Lauren Ashton Cellars Proprietor’s Cuvee Red Mountain 2009
Long Shadows Pedestal Columbia Valley 2008
Mackey Vineyards Merlot Columbia Valley 2009
Maison Bleue Le Midi Grenache Yakima Valley 2010
Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010
Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Washington 2010
Sonoris Red Blend Red Mountain 2010
SYZYGY Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009
Tempus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009
Treveri Cellars Brut Columbia Valley NV
Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009
Woodward Canyon Chardonnay Washington State 2011
Wines I’m Hoping to Try
Andrew Will Sorella Horse Heaven Hills 2010
Amavi Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2011
Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese 2012
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington 2012
Chinook Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley 2010
Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2003
Columbia Crest Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Cor Cellars Alba Cor White Blend Columbia Gorge 2012
Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2010
Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI Red Blend Red Mountain 2010
Gilbert Cellars Rose of Mourvedre 2012
Gramercy Cellars Rose Columbia Valley 2012
Guardian Cellars Chalk Line Red Blend 2010
JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley 2010
Kerloo Cellars Grenache Rose Yakima Valley 2012
Milbrandt Traditions Pinot Gris Columbia Valley 2012
Nefarious Cellars Viognier Lake Chelan 2011
Owen Roe DuBrul Vineyard Red Blend Yakima Valley 2010
Pepper Bridge Estate Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2010
Purple Star Syrah Columbia Valley 2011
Robert Ramsay Syrah Horse Heaven Hills 2010
Soos Creek Artist Series Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2010
Tranche Pink Pape Rose Columbia Valley 2012
Waters Loess Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010
William Church Viognier Columbia Valley 2012
The past few years I've been at TasteWA I have always hit up the the "big name" wineries (most of the recommended list above). However every year the one thing I take away from the event is how impressed I am with the wines from the smaller, lesser known wineries that I've never visited before. Sure, the big names have some good wines, but the "under the radar" wineries are why I'm going and who I'm going to visit exclusively this year. With over 750 wineries in the state now, there are so many great wines that have received zero press coverage or been reviewed, and I'm going to spend my time with them rather than the big names seen above. Plus the added benefit of not going to the big name wineries is that there are often short lines or no lines at all!
Here are just some of the wines I'm hoping to try:
AniChe – 2011 Come & Go Albarino
Arbor Crest – 2010 Dionysus Red Bordeaux Blend
Barrister – 2010 Cabernet Franc
Bartholomew – 2012 Aligote
Balboa – 2010 Estate Syrah
Castillo de Feliciana – 2009 Tempranillo
Challenger Ridge – 2009 Estate Selection Clone 667 Pinot Noir
Cloudlift – 2010 Halcyon Cabernet Sauvignon
Elsom – 2009 Two Blondes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Kaella – 2010 Meritage
Kontos – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lullaby – 2010 Viognier
Market Vineyards – 2009 Basis Points Red Bordeaux Blend
Mellisoni – 2011 45 Degrees White Blend
Ryan Patrick – 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Scarborough – 2010 Midnight Red Rhône Blend
Sonoris – 2008 Burney’s Blend Cabernet Sauvignon
Southard Winery – 2011 Estate Riesling
Tunnel Hill – 2010 Estate Pinot Noir
Whitestone Vineyard – 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Great tips, Sean. My tip for attendees is to download the program in advance and scan it. It can be downloaded here.
What I like to do is to look for unusual and less common wines that are being poured and to try those, especially ones that I like. What I do is open the pdf file and perform finds to search it. Cabernet Sauv?…no problem, there are well over 100 of those being poured but Mourvedre?….there are only 3. Malbec? Only 15. Rose'…only 7. So if you are seeking a specific type of wine to taste, this can be a very useful trick.
The program also lists the food being served at the events and provides a map and location listing for each vendor. So scanning this in advance is very useful. And mouth watering! I'm looking forward to it!