(Disclaimer: While all the other wine bloggers were releasing their Taste Washington pieces last week. I was on a romantic getaway with Gwynne to the Willamette Valley. I apologize for the delay, but not really.)
Friday March 26th kicked off the Restaurant Awards for the marathon of wine and culinary appreciation that is Taste Washington. I found my way to the Washington Athletic Club and managed to get past security for this event. The event is held annually as a way for the Washington Wine Commission and the wineries to show their appreciation for their supporters in the restaurant and service industry.
Restaurants apply for recognition and awards are given based on a variety of criteria, including hosting wine events featuring Washington wine, staff training, promotions and percentage of Washington wines on an establishment's wine list. Sommeliers were also recognized for their expertise, but also specifically for their support of Washington wine.
There were about 40 or 50 Washington wineries also in attendance pouring their wine and getting the crowd warmed up for the awards presentation. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to tick a few of the wineries off my Grand Tasting list. The Sunday event was going to include 225 wineries, and quite frankly there was no way to get around to all of them, from a time and physiological stand point.
I also got to see Chef Frank Magana and Trina Cortez from Picazo 7 Seventeen again. We chatted and talked about the various wines that were in the room. Frank and Trina had served several of these wines at Picazo and so they were able to recommend particular options for me.
I sampled the Cote Bonneville wines for the first time, and I was impressed with all of them, though the Chardonnay particularly stood out. The Waters Winery wines did not disappoint my high expectations. Their Forgotten Hills Syrah was a very earthy, gamey wine both on the nose and in the palate. I had heard that his wine typically elicits a love or hate response. As for me? I loved it.
There were various levels of awards, including the Grand Award, the Certificate of Recognition and the Award of Distinction. The Certificate of Recognition goes to several restaurants doing their part to promote Washington wines, but whom the Commission hoped would continue to find ways to integrate Washington wine into their program. The Award of Distinction is granted to restaurants for restaurants who have shown dedication and support to Washington wine. The Grand Award is the recognition for those restaurants that are considered industry leaders in support of Washington Wine. This award went to restaurants like the Barking Frog, SkyCity at the Needle, Sun Mountain Lodge, and my hands-down favorite, Picazo 7 Seventeen.
Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA, received the Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year award, which included a custom-blown glass sculpture designed by Seattle-based glass artist Jesse Kelly.
The event was interesting and there were certainly some VIPs in the house. I would be interested to see what the Washington Wine Commission thinks about the idea of recognizing a restaurant that is working to bring younger wine drinkers to Washington Wine. There are some restaurants out there doing inventive and and creative things to bring young people to wine and food. I think that kind of effort should be recognized. If we had a The Oregon Wine Blog Restaurant Awards, we certainly would.
Some of the other awards given on this day:
Most Improved Wine Program of the Year – The Marc Restaurant, Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, WA
Best Restaurant Event Featuring Washington Wines – Taste of Tulalip, Tulalip Bay Exceptional Dining, Tulalip, WA
Best Out-of-State Washington Wine Program – ENO, InterContinental Chicago, Chicago, IL
Doug Zellars of the Washington Athletic Club won the Walter Clore Honorarium award. Eric Zegzula from Anthony’s at Columbia Point in Richland was honored as Sommelier of the Year.
The Winemaker’s Choice award went to Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle, WA.
The Washington Restaurant Association award was presented to Pearl Bar & Dining in Bellevue, WA. The Seattle Business magazine award was presented to Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, WA