Of all my geeky activities, Taste Washington is probably my favorite. All though, I have to admit up front, that I had never done the “Grand Tasting”, until this year.
When we moved to Seattle, almost six years ago, I knew how weak my Washington wine knowledge was, and how important it was to learn it. The seminars that are part of the Taste Washington weekend, have always been a unique experience that I look forward to every year. The forum is made of top-notch winemakers, journalists, sommeliers…and anybody else that might have opinions on the given topic. Some of the memorable seminars have involved Rieslings (paired with food), second generation winemakers sharing the stage with their fathers, and specific vineyards, with winemakers discussing the different wines they make from the same grapes.
This year, the seminar I chose for Saturday, was “Washington VS the World”. Five top Washington wines, poured alongside top French, Australian and California wines. The wines were set up blind, not as a contest, but as a way to judge without prejudice.
The Washington wines were: 1999 Woodward Cyn. Special Select, 2005 Quilceda Creek Cab, 2005 Leonetti Rsv Cab, 2010 Betz La Cote Patriarche and a young upstart 2010 Avennia Arnaut Syrah. The world wines were: 2000 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, 2005 Chateau Cos d’Estournel, 2006 Araujo Cab, 2009 The Standish and 2006 Chapoutier Ermitage. The panel was made up with the winemakers from all over Washington, journalists and sommeliers for the world wines. The Washington wines were for the most part, pretty distinguishable and very well done. For an example, it was pointed out that the 2000 Las Cases was given a 100 point rating. Angels should sing…a halo should be around this bottle! The Woodward Canyon held its own. In some respects, had more fruit and depth at this point, then the Las Cases. The Syrah flight was also interesting. The Chapoutier was easily distinguishable, along with the Standish. Maybe our Washington palette is skued towards the Washington wines, but they were noticeably very balanced in comparison.
I think the most interesting thing to me, after years of participation, is the opportunity the seminars provide for learning about the wines from the people who know them best. The passion that comes from sharing these wines is always prevalent and a truly unique experience. You never know who may be sitting next to you: a grower, a winemaker… all there to share their prospective on the topic.
In a lot of respects, this is a very young winegrowing/winemaking region. It is still evolving and the people involved are on the cutting edge of an amazing wine revolution. You can really tell with the panels, that they understand and appreciate the experience.
After the seminar, Peter met up with me and we attended the grand tasting. As I alluded to in the beginning, this was new for me. I had heard it could be a big drunk fest and that it was so crowded you couldn’t get to the wineries you wanted to try.
They moved the format to a two day event last year. It was the only year that I didn’t attend the seminars, because my daughter was getting her master’s degree that weekend. Apparently, this change in format has worked. I have to say, we were pleasantly surprised. There was plenty of room to move around, we had enough time to try the food and wine we wanted. We were able to say hello to any friends we saw.
Since I had tried the Avennia at the seminar, I was interested is tasting more of the wines. The winemaker came from Delille to start his own winery. The first release was two years ago. A good new one to try, if you get the chance. Another new one for me, was the Maison Bleue wines. They had a really nice Mourvedre Rose that I am dying to put up next to the Kennedy Shah Mourvedre Rose.
While we were at the Maison Bleue table, I overheard a conversation between the winemaker and somebody else at the table. The winemaker was asked where the Mourvedre came from. He responded with the vineyard name, but was asked more specifically what block from that vineyard! What other kind of event do you encounter that level of geekiness?! I loved it!
When all was said and done, Saturday at Taste Washington did not disappoint.
Did anybody else attend? What were your experiences? Was there a discovery that can be shared?