So my plan for the Taste Washington weekend was to hit the Restaurant Awards on Friday, then head down and race the Independence Valley Road Race Saturday morning, returning in time for the afternoon seminars at Taste Washington. That last part never happened. Coming back from Rochester, Washington takes a lot longer than I thought. Luckily Yashar Shayan, the sommelier at Seastar in Seattle and a Twitter fixture in Northwest wine, had the hook up. Yashar used Ustream streaming video to allow those of us who couldn't be there in person to check out some of the seminars remotely. So I went to Yashar's blog and jumped right in to the Mighty Malbec seminar. In fact, Yashar even asked the panelists a question I asked, and gave The Oregon Wine Blog a shout out. Thanks, Yashar.
Sunday, though, I wasn't going to miss a serious day of wine tasting so I was on my way to the Qwest Event Center for the 1 p.m. kick-off to the media and trade tasting. This was my first Taste Washington and I am a relative newcomer to the world of online wine media. I was slightly nervous and I had to figure out what to do with my coat.
I did a loop of the place and took it all in. I needed a plan. I needed advice. I looked up and I saw Josh Wade, the king of #WAMerlot and the guy who seemingly is always being stalked by a guitar. (I don't even know if Josh plays the guitar.) He told me where to put my coat, and after that, things started to fall into place.
There was so much going on at The Grand Tasting, it was like a wino's dream come true. I paired some oysters from Elliot's (they had three or four varieties) with a Terra Blanca Reserve Roussanne. I did a blind tasting with the lovely Emily from Full Pull Wines and got it horribly wrong (I blame the Tabasco on the aforementioned oysters). I was having a great time all the same. I ran across my favorite wine country culinarian Chef Frank Magana from Picazo 717 and he took me around and introduced me to some of Prosser's winemakers like Jarrod from Alexandria Nicole Cellars. I started to feel pretty comfortable at Taste Washington and managed to get over to Betz Family and Boudreaux Cellars before they poured all their wines.
The takeaways from Taste Washington?
- My short conversation with Dick Boushey, and what still excites him about his fruit and the wines that people are making with them. Look for another post on this cool opportunity to pick the brain of a Washington Wine legend.
- The Food! I had some amazing bites. The oysters from Elliot's were great, but so was the lamb chop pop from Picazo 7 Seventeen. They also make a chorizo-stuffed prawn wrapped in Proscuitto that was unreal. Other treats included a crispy thing with Dungeness crab from Muckleshoot Casino with a citrus-based salsa and a lime sorbet. All together, it was incredible. I also had more oysters from Alderbrook Resort with the pink peppercorn migonette. I ate a lot and it was all so delicious.
- The Wine! Of course it's about the wine. What surprised me was how many wines and wineries that were out there that I'd never heard of. And some of them were damn good. Nodland Cellars out of Spokane may have had one of the nicest wines available. They make a Bourdeaux blend with a nice presence of Carmenere. I was tipped off to the wines by Josh from Drink Nectar, and I passed it on to Doug of Wino Magazine, who also thought it was excellent. Nanstad Cellars is another winery I had never heard of who is making a great Cabernet Franc. I also ran across El Corazon and finally got to meet Jon Martinez from Maison Bleue and the fellas at Gramcercy Cellars. All of these winemakers are producing some excellent and original wines.
- The People! I got to see my buddy Frank again, as well as Emily and Paul from Full Pull Wines. I got to meet some of the famous folks of the Twitter universe. The aforementioned Josh and his lovely wife, as well as Yashar, Seattle Wine Gal, JJ from Kiona Wines, 106 Pine's Shannon Borg, Robert Smasne, the Full Pull folks, Jessica from Gifford Hirlinger, Heather from Terra Blanca and Josh from Cartel Wine.
Even though I just got done saying it's about the wine, it's really about the people. Washington is the home to a bounty of great wine, but also great wine folks. And let's be honest, would you want to drink all this great wine alone? Of course not. We're lucky to have great terroir and brilliant wine makers, tasting room staff, restaurant folks, media, twitterati, and farmers. I've been lucky to taste some amazing wines via my work with The Oregon Wine Blog, but my real perk has been meeting some great folks. That's what keeps me blogging. See you all again very soon. I hope.