Posted by Clive on Sunday, April 3, 2011
I drink a lot of Washington wine; probably 65% of what I consume minimally, and maybe closer to 80%. My wine rack is loaded with Washington wines and honestly I love the stuff.
Having said that, there's a lot of wine being made in Washington. Over 700 wineries now call this great wine producing state home, and Taste Washington for your general consumer, is a way to really explore what the state can offer. The event hosted over 200 of Washington's wineries. The food that was showcased was an added bonus (or perhaps a necessity given all that wine). About 60 of the state's best restaurants, many of them from around the Seattle area, provided bites of varying sizes to pair with the wines.
Taste Washington is truly a remarkable event and a great celebration of the state's most interesting and delicious product: Washington wine. In addition to the tables of food and wine, there are educational opportunities for attendees as well; seminars where vineyards of some acclaim poured wines made from their fruit and highlight the vineyard characteristics that show up in different varietals. The Viking center stage had chef demonstrations and interactive audience opportunities.
What many people don't know is that Taste Washington really begins on Friday with the Restaurant Awards where The Wine Commission takes the time to recognize the restaurants, sommeliers, and service industry professionals that do their share to spread the word and love of Washington Wine.
Notable awards this year were given to The Oregon Wine Blog's favorite wine country restaurant; Picazo 717 of Prosser, which was recognized as the Winemaker's Choice. This (well-deserved) award is selected anonymously by winemakers for the restaurant that they deem the most supportive of the wine industry. The first ever Washington Wine Ambassador award was given to long time industry supporter Lars Ryssdal, most recently of Tranche Cellars. Kristen Young of the Waterfront Seafood Grill was honored as Sommelier of the Year and legendary Seattle eatery Canlis was given the grand honor of Restaurant of the Year, and the cool looking goblet that goes along with it.
Saturday follows Friday, at least on the Roman calendar, and Saturday brought the Taste Washington Seminars. For reasons that are becoming increasingly unclear to me, for two years running I have missed the seminars so I could race my bicycle in the Independence Valley Road Race. I'm not sure why because both years I have had my ass handed to me. What did I miss?
The seminars covered the gamut from food pairing with celebrity chef Michael Mina to a look at Washington's up and coming varietal, Grenache, to a panel exploring the 100 point system. Had I gone to the seminars, I would have likely gone to the Grenache and point system seminars. Washington Grenache is really promising and with examples from Maison Bleue, Grand Reve, and Syncline, there is real sense that this varietal shows Washington's ability to blend both new and old world style in wine. The point seminar included a discussion of the 100 point wine scoring method and included the Washington Wine Report's Sean Sullivan, Rebecca Murphy of the Dallas Morning News, and Blake Gray, most famously the guy who started all the dust storm that had Charles Smith of K Vintners suing people. As someone who doesn't subscribe to the scoring system but understands its place in the market, this would have been a fascinating debate to overhear.
As the weekend ended for many, it was just beginning for most as Sunday brought the Grand Tasting. This is a wine event that you should make a point of attending at least once. The sheer scope of it, combined with the overall quality of the wines, just boggles the mind. It's proof positive that Washington may just be the perfect climate for wine.
Though I'm no stranger to Washington wines, the scope and breadth of the Grand Tasting means that even I got to make some new discoveries. The most impressive wine I tasted was also the first, the Betz Family Cellars 2009 Cote d' Patriarche Syrah. Betz, of course, has one of the finest reputations in the state and so this wasn't a discovery per se, but it was indeed the finest. I did however taste some wines that I'd never had. Here are of some of the day's most impressive findings:
Cadaretta Cellars SbS is a Bourdeaux style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It may have been the best white wine I've had in a long while, with great acidity and a really nice mouth feel. The nose was a beautiful example of floral and bright fruit notes. Very young and new winemaker Brian Rudin is especially proud of this release as it's his first wine to be made to completion as the winemaker at Cadaretta.
JB Neufeld are the initials and last name of Justin Neufeld and his wife Brooke and is a relatively new winery. Justin, however, has been making excellent wines at Gilbert Cellars for quite awhile. JB Neufeld makes two Cabernets from two of Washington's most sought after vineyards, Artz Vineyard on Red Mtn and my favorite of the two the Dubrul Vineyard Cabernet. The Dubrul is the more elegant of the two Cabernets and has an excellent finish. The flavor profile is nuanced, layered and compliments the nose of this wine beautifully.
aMaurice Cellars Syrah/Grenache blend. Anna Schafer easily the prettiest person making wine in Washington state and has made a reputation for herself with her Malbec, but I really liked this Syrah and Grenache blend. It was less of a big, bold example of Washington Syrah and more true to some of the elegance of its ample but not 100% Boushey vineyard fruit. The wine spoke of fruit and herbal characters and shows the range that Rhone varietals have in the state.
The final highlight was the Tranche Cellars Rose. While I've had Tranche Cellars wine before, I hadn't had this Rose. There was a time when I would claim, hands down, that the Rose coming out of Delille Cellars was far and away the best in Washington. That day has passed. The rose that Tranche is making is dynamite. It’s very light in color and has a crisp old world style. It’s a Syrah based wine that includes Cabernet Franc; this is a rose that will make serious wine drinkers proud. With this offering Tranche continues to shock Washington wine fans with amazing wines at affordable prices that boggle the mind.