Taste of Washington is the largest single region wine event in the country. Spanning three days, including 224 wineries, beaucoup gala events and seminars, and a galaxy of celebrity chefs, its breadth is dizzying. In fact, it required me to sit down and develop a game plan to help ensure I was able to squeeze in all that I wanted.
I was in Seattle, site of the Taste Washington bash, as a guest of Visit Washington, the Emerald City’s convention and visitors bureau. We enjoyed a superlative brunch at the historic Fairmont Olympic Hotel and at the end of the meal we shared insider tips and favorite wineries. We had VIP passes and as a result a “golden hour” to enjoy the attractions before the doors opened to the general public.
My colleague and I had attended the Red & White kickoff party and the New Vintage event at the Four Seasons the previous two nights, so we had checked a number of wines off our bucket list.
Our first stop is an example of what makes Washington State wine great. We began at Alexandria Nicole Cellars station. I’m a huge fan of their Jet Back Syrah, a dense, dark blockbuster of a wine. Not only did they share the 2013 vintage, but also were pouring the highly-rated 2012 vintage from a keg. It was a more focused and complex wine.
Sliding next door, we continued our sipping with the 2012 Amavi Cellars Syrah. This is eye-popping quality with grapes mostly from one of my favorite vineyards (Les Collines). It’s delightfully smoky with notes of black cherry and herb. How about yet another Syrah? Why not. We sampled the 2012 Estate Fred Syrah from àMaurice Cellars. This is a nice meaty wine from a new-to-me winery.
There were a lot of nice surprises at Taste Washington. A nice one was at Cooper Wine Company. At our brunch I was given the secret password, “lucky 13.” When I mentioned it at the booth, up from under the table came a luscious bottle of Carmenere from Red Mountain – one of the top picks of the day!
There certainly were some superb reds. Special mention goes to Ambassador Vineyard 2011 Plenipotentiary Cabernet Sauvignon, a complex red that matches its name.
An up and coming winery that I wanted to check out is Eight Bells. Eight Bells is an urban winery in North Seattle that sources grapes from Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley. Their 2011 Merlot was an enjoyable glass. While there I overhead a discussion between winemakers about Savage Grace Wines.
I made a beeline over the Savage Grace and met winemaker and owner Michael Savage. I had been locked into the reds (and why not, they are spectacular), but he suggested I try his whites. I started with a Gruner Veltliner, sampled the Sauvignon Blanc and then was knocked out by his 2013 Riesling. The wine is wild fermented and is off dry on the palate with a dry finish. Tangerines and wet stone flavors rule in this delightful wine. This was another star of the show for me.
This caused me to do a backflip (of sorts) and focus on refreshing whites. From Ascendente, I sampled their 2012 Pinot Gris and a standout Viognier from Cave B Estate. A smudged tasting note prevents me from telling you the winery that produced a very refreshing rosé.
This is a truly glorious wine event, enhanced by the culinary swagger of the Pacific Northwest. The festival featured an Oyster & Chowder & Washington White Wine Bar. Morsels such as morel and brie macaroons, slow roasted pork belly scrapple with Douglas fir syrup were interspersed with the wine. We really appreciated the Scharffen Berger chocolate and the KoKos Coconut Cheese at the Cheeseland booth. You can’t eat or drink them, but it was also nice to be able to sit in the latest Jaguar sportscars.
Here are some of my favorites not already mentioned in my narrative:
- Brown 2012 Tribute blend
- Reininger 2010 Helix Sangiovese
- Kiona 2012 Estate Lemberger Blue Franc
- Rotie 2012 Southern Blend
- DeLille Cellars 2012 D2
- Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cabernet Franc
- Doubleback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
- Avennia 2012 Sestina 2012 Bordeaux style blend
- Gilbert Cellars 2012 Left Bank Red Bordeaux blend
- Dunham Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon XVII
- Fidelitas 2010 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- Syncline 2013 Cinsault, Horse Heaven Hills
- Van Loben Sels Cellars 2012 Avansino Grand Reserve Red Blend
My only regret is that I could spend just one day at Taste Washington. There was so much left undone, such as checking out the Taste the Vineyards exhibit. Nine different vineyards offered comparisons of bottlings by different wineries using their grapes. What an awesome idea – that’s worth a whole day just by itself.
The excellence of this event shows what can be done when great minds in the arenas of wine, food, hospitality and event planning converge. My first visit to Taste Washington was memorable – but it won’t be my last!