Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fairytales Can Come True, It Can Happen To You, When You're Young At Heart...

On a freezing Saturday night in November, hundreds of young Seattleites in party dresses & their going-out best poured into Fremont Studios amidst club lighting, great beats from KEXP, and pink glowsticks. A swanky rave? A temporary nightclub? Nope – this was a wine tasting, built for the millennial set. Now in its 3rd year, the Washington Wine Commission’s 20 Something: The New Vintage, has found the formula to bring Washington winemakers and the young folks together, a big win for both parties.

Walking into the Fremont Studios space, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t your typical wine tasting. With a red carpet entrance and photo booth, guests could channel their inner celebrity (do we all get a turn? Because I think they’re just handing out celebrity status at this point…) with friends, new friends, or fun people who happened to be near the booth with them and find their pics for free on 20 Something’s Flickr site. A brilliant move that meant come Monday morning, 20 Something was occupying the valuable real estate of many a Seattleite’s Facebook profile picture.

Last year 20 Something gave tasting a twist with wineries making the rounds rather than remaining at a table. Guests were able to collect winery cards with information on the winery, wine and where to find them online if they were interested. This year, 20Something made the process a little more tech-savvy and a lot more festive: winemakers sported QR codes on their names tags, allowing guests to snap a shot with their ever-present smart phones and be immediately directed to the winery’s online presence, including social media. The number of excited tweets virtually squealing over the QR code up on the live-tweet board tells me it was a well-utilized feature. Not only were the winemakers sporting QR codes, but this year they sported pink glow-in-the dark necklaces. While this didn’t eliminate the Where’s Waldo element if you were looking for a specific winemaker, it certainly made it easier if you were looking for wine in general.

The hunt for specific wine – and winemakers – is part of the fun of the evening. Many a Coug in the house spent a portion of the night scouring the dark rooms for our favorite NFL quarterback turned winemaker Drew Bledsoe, who was there representing his Doubleback label. Fortunately for me and the lovely Taryn Miller, he’s 6’5” and you can’t pass up an opportunity to “Go Cougs” a legend of your alma mater. In addition to being one hell of an athlete and a nice guy, he makes a great wine. We got a sneak preview of the ’09 Cab Sauv, which is gearing up for a January release. Even a few months out, there was nice complexity and a touch of spice. Attendees can do a before-and-after taste test when it hits the world in January. This picture was a great item to check off the life-list. Fairytales can come true…

The great thing about wandering winemakers is that you’re bound to find something brand new (especially with over 75 wineries roaming the venue). Normally these events require a plan, a route, a backup route...possibly a compass. But when you can’t easily find specific wineries (unless they’re repped by a 6’5” former NFL quarterback), it’s best to sit back, go with the flow, and see what treasures come to you. In addition to some of our Northwest Wine Anthem favorites, I found myself tasting a number of wineries new to me and varietals outside of my usual go-to’s. Buried Cane and Yakima Valley Vintners were great new finds, and Treveri Cellars wowed with their bubbles. I wasn’t the only one wowed – they just secured a contract to provide the White House with their bubbles for future events.

While wine is certainly the star of the show, there were plenty of other goodies in store. A Mini Cooper decked out in whiteboard paint was available for guests to leave their mark. Some of the area’s hippest restaurants, including Brave Horse Tavern, Hook & Plow and Urbane, were serving up everything from smoked salmon and marshmallow skewers to lasagna to sushi. For the red-meat-friendly crowd, the Washington Beef Commission served up a blind taste test of Top Sirloin, and Dianne’s Delights practically had to fight back the crowds who came back for seconds and thirds of the Chocolate Shop cake balls. Beer & Cider even made an appearance for those needing a little palette cleanser.

The 20 Something event has been going strong since its inception, and this year’s small changes tapped in even more to connecting young Seattle with Washington wine. With many of the wines poured coming in at a reasonable $15-25 price point, Seattle’s millennials can afford to keep the party going on their own until next year’s event. It’ll be up to them to provide the glow sticks.


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