With spring finally upon us, it can only mean one thing – and no it’s not three more months of rain in the Northwest. It’s Taste Washington!

This year’s annual event takes place in Seattle on March 29th and 30th. For those who have never attended – and those who have – it’s a great opportunity to taste an enormous selection of Northwest wines in one location. To wit, this year’s event includes 226 wineries and 68 local restaurants.

As in recent years, Taste is in a two day format this year. Each day begins with a series of educational seminars that are ticketed separately. I have the pleasure of moderating two seminars this year, one on Saturday called ‘An Old Vine’s Tale’ which explores the role of vine age in wine quality and another on Sunday titled ‘The Rise of the Rhones,’ which will look at the recent Rhone trend in the Northwest. Both seminars have a stellar lineup of panelists and wines and I invite you to join us.

The seminar lineup on Saturday also includes ‘The Allure of the Exotic’ which will be looking at less common varieties grown in Washington. Other seminars include ‘Northstar Blending Experience’ and ‘Playing Matchmaker – Pairing Food & Wine to Your Palate.’ Panels on Sunday include ‘Washington vs. the World 2014’ – a comparative tasting of some of Washington’s best wines versus top wines from around the world. The lineup of wines here is beyond stellar and if I weren’t elsewhere, this is where I would be. Other seminars include ‘Chef vs Somm Smackdown’ and ‘A Winemaker, Brewer, and Distiller Walk Into A Bar.’ See the complete list of seminars, the panelists, wines being poured, and ticket details here.

Following the seminars each day is the Grand Tasting with the same lineup of wines poured on Saturday and Sunday. For people attending both days, it’s an opportunity to increase their exploration.

There are a lot of different strategies for approaching Taste Washington. One is to take a ‘walk and wander’ approach. Another is to be more systematic. There are a lot of ways to do the latter: focus in on a particular variety, such as Syrah or Petit Verdot; focus in on wineries you are unfamiliar with; or even just pick a letter of the alphabet. It’s also a great opportunity to do vintage comparisons with red wines from at least 2008 through 2012 being poured. See a program brochure with the list of wines being poured here to help create your strategy as well as get a lay of the land.

As always, given the large number of wines being poured, I highly recommend using the spit/dump buckets during the event and also planning to have a designated driver from the event or taking a cab or Uber.

I should also note that Taste Washington includes a new event this year, a ‘Red & White’ party on Thursday March 27th. This event will be pouring wines from magnum and is being held at the Chihuly Glass Garden.

Below is a list of wines that I recommend trying (shown in italics) as well as some of the wines that I am hoping to have a chance to sample (shown in normal font) of the many, many hundreds of top quality wines being poured. Feel free to leave your own list in a comment.

Happy Washington Wine Month!

Note: I have assisted the Washington Wine Commission with coordinating various aspects of this year’s seminars.

Róses ­ – Always one of the best places to see the latest releases of róses

Cairdeas Cinsault Róse Yakima Valley 2013
Cote Bonneville Estate Cabernet Franc Róse 2013
Seven Hills Dry Róse Columbia Valley 2013
Tranche Cellars Pink Pape Dry Róse Yakima Valley 2013

Whites – A first look at some of the 2013 white wines, which have just been released.

Ancestry Cellars Reunion Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012
Array Cellars Dijon Clone Chardonnay Otis Harlan Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011
Auclair Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2013
Avennia Oliane Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2012
Castillo de Feliciana Vino Verano Columbia Valley 2012
Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington 2013
Cotes de Ciel Roussanne Red Mountain 2013
Cor Cellars Albacor White Blend Columbia Gorge 2013
Fidelitas Optu White Wine Columbia Valley 2012
Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012
JM Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2013
Nefarious Estate Viognier Lake Chelan 2012
Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2012
Syncline Scintillation Sparkling Wine Columbia Gorge NV (Not to be missed!)
Woodward Canyon Chardonnay Washington State 2012

Reds – An interesting mix of vintages displayed at this event

Andrew Will Sorella Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Avennia Sestina Red Blend Columbia Valley 2011
Barrister Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2011
Betz Family Winery Pere de Famille Columbia Valley 2011
Buty Columbia Rediviva Horse Heaven Hills 2009
Cadence Camerata Red Blend Red Mountain 2010
Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series Meritage Columbia Valley 2010
Chinook Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley 2011
Cloudlift Cellars Halcyon Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Col Solare Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009
Columbia Crest Reserve Malbec Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2011
Dusted Valley Petite Sirah Wahluke Slope 2011
Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2011
EFESTE Upright Merlot Red Mountain 2010
Eight Bells Sangiovese Red Willow Vineyard 2011
Fall Line Winery Artz Red Blend Red Mountain 2010
FIGGINS Estate Red Blend Walla Walla Valley 2010
Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah Columbia Valley 2010
Kevin White La Fraternite Red Blend Yakima Valley 2012
L’Ecole No 41 Ferguson Red Blend Walla Walla Valley 2011
Mackey Concordia Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009
Mark Ryan Long Haul Red Blend Red Mountain 2011
Matthews Claret Columbia Valley 2010
Memaloose Idiot’s Grace Dolcetto Columbia Gorge 2012
Lauren Ashton Cellars Cuvee Arlette Red Blend Columbia Valley 2011
Owen Roe Chapel Block Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011
Proper Wines Estates Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2012
Savage Grace Cabernet Franc Rattlesnake Hills 2012
Saviah Cellars Une Vallee Red Blend Walla Walla Valley 2010
Soos Creek Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2011
Southard Syrah Wahluke Slope 2011
Waitsburg Cellars Three Red Blend Columbia Valley 2012
Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2012