Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magnum Force: Taste Washington Red & White Party A Very Large Format Success

It’s impossible not to love the idea: a classy party featuring 90+ rated Washington State wines all from large format bottles. No doubt it was worth winging my way thousands of miles west to Seattle for this kickoff event for the annual Taste of Washington affair.
I was in town visiting Seattle as a guest of Visit Seattle, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. Knowing my love of wine, they invited me to tour their facilities while epic wine events were taking place in town.
Back in 2010 I visited Seattle as part of a VIP bus tour that started in the Emerald City and wound its way through a number of wine hotspots before reaching Walla Walla for the Wine Bloggers Conference. One of my favorite memories of that trip was a five-course wine dinner at the Waterfront Seafood Grill.

As we drove up to Aqua by El Gaucho, the site of the Red & White Party, things looked awfully familiar – including the fountain where one of our wine bloggers took a dip after our wine dinner in 2010. As it turns out, Aqua and Waterfront Seafood Grill are one in the same, just rebranded.
The restaurant has a spectacular view of Elliott Bay and the view inside was superb as well. Guests neatly attired in red and white were queuing up for sips of wine as large format bottles stretched as far as the eye could see.
If you attend only one event at the four-day Taste of Washington event, I’d suggest this is the one. You have a chance to meet winemakers who are pouring exclusive wines from magnum (or larger) bottles. The list of wineries is off the charts, including: Col Solare, DeLille Cellars, Dunham Cellars, EFESTE, FIGGINS, Januik, Leonetti, Long Shadows Vintners, Northstar, Sparkman and Woodward Canyon. The wine was paired with an eclectic mix of appetizers.
While I didn’t sample all 29 wineries, I found each wine to be a standout. Indeed, to be part of the program, the wine had to attain at least a 90 point rating. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Leonetti 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • Chateau St. Michelle 2011 Artist Series Meritage
  • Januik 2012 Weinbau Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Figgins 2011 Estate Red Wine
  • Long Shadows 2011 Sequel Syrah
  • Northstar 2007 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • Sleight of Hand 2012 Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
Washington State is the second largest premium wine producer in the US with more than 850 wineries. The growth has been explosive. In 1981 there were only 19 wineries.
There are more than 40 varieties produced, but most prevalent are Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot and Chardonnay. The wine explodes with fruit flavors and in the hands of the region’s experienced winemakers, they are second to none in terms of quality and refinement.
Whether your hobnobbing at a ritzy gala, or uncorking a bottle at the kitchen table, Washington wine offers a wide array of superb wines.

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