Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Tidbits from Taste Washington 2014

Well, just like that another Taste Washington is in the books, the 2014 version has come and gone this past weekend. The event, now in it's seventeenth year, if my googling is accurate continues to impress with the sheer volume of wines and wineries available for your perusal, somewhere north of 230.

Me, Rick Bakas & Madeline Puckette, really disappointed in my hair in this photo
Unless one plans to spend the evening in the ER trying to sample 230 plus wines is a very,very bad idea and so I typically go into Taste Washington with a specific strategy. It is the largest regional tasting event in America. If you don't have a plan you'll find yourself staring at cupcakes, or oysters and then the next thing you know, it's 5 o'clock and you still haven't moved beyond the first three tables. Once the general public time rolls around it gets mighty crowded in there, particularly if you're near the As. If you wanted to avoid the crowds hanging out in the wineries that began with the letter S through Z and you could almost lay down on the floor there was so much room.

I more or less failed at writing my strategy down when I left the house, which is nearly the same as not having a strategy. As I stood outside talking with Taryn, a friend and fellow wine blogger, which is exactly how I started last year's Taste Washington I was able to recall my strategy more or less. A few wineries I definitely wanted to hit that I hadn't had were Lauren Ashton and Proper and Array, the latter I never made it to, likely because they begin with A and it was very crowded over there. Also, I wanted to spend the first 15-30 minutes with the oysters and the white wines along the back wall. After that try to track down wine blogger and Twitter personality Rick Bakas and maybe arm wrestle him.

Everything more or less went to plan, except the whole Array thing but I've already explained that. Rick is a really nice guy and we talked shop about how to manage caring for infants and still more or less resemble a functioning human being. We never did arm wrestle. I also met the elusive Madeline Puckette of the now world famous blog Wine Folly. She's quite quirky and I think would also make a force to be reckoned with when it comes to arm wrestling.

As to the wine?  I did try a lot of new wines and some were really exciting, favorites included the Lauren Ashton Cellars . All of them. The rosé had a dash of effervescence and the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend was done in a oaky style, however the bright acid really lifted the wine and offered excellent balance. Of the red wines they were all quite good but a 2011 Cabernet that was poured from maybe "under the table" was stellar. This is a relatively new Woodinivlle winery and I got to speak with the winemaker, Kit. The labels are also fantastic, they are scenes from his wife's native Estonia. 

Other new wines that are definitely of note; the Gruner Veltliner from WT Vintners, out of the Columbia Gorge. This is certainly not a common wine but of the Gruners that I've had from Washington and Oregon, this was as good as any. Fruit forward but with good minerality and great acidity. I was really taken by the wines of Bainbridge Island Vineyards. I always make it a point to taste through some of the wines from the Puget Sound AVA because they tend to be higher acid whites or Pinot Noir and after tasting a lot of the bigger red wines that Washington is so well known for, they can offer a great contrast, not to mention help revive your palate a bit. Betsey Wittick is the owner and winemaker and she's doing a nice job with grapes that are grown right there on the island.

Another rosé to be on the lookout for was the Rosé of Carmenere by Bartholomew Winery. Really outstanding, bone dry, lots of juicy citrus and great acid and only $15. The Gilbert Cellars Rosé was once again very well made, they're also changing it up with the labels over there. I also really dug Syrahs from Proper and II Vintners, particularly the Stoney Vine vineyard designate.

My wine of the night (day) though was the Cinsault or Cinsaut, you know, tomato or tomahto from Dusted Valley. This wine was fantastic. Medium bodied and bright, only neutral oak so the fruit really came through, but from the Rocks so it had darker minerality and that "funky" character that this particular part of the Walla Walla Valley has come to be known for. The wine finishes with really great acid to give it an elegance and balance. Nearly like a Pinot Noir. A great wine, very well made but also it's unique in Washington and that made it really stand out for me. The bad news? Only 72 cases were made. Hustle!

I picked up a latte from Fonte, whoa they make great coffee and made my way home via public transit. Careful not to bump into the crowd who clearly did not understand the spit bucket concept. On the bus I met a couple, they were older, who had been coming to Taste Washington every year...from Oklahoma. They were really excited about the Cadaretta wines, and also shared that they had cases of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines from the 1970s at home. They'd fallen in love with Washington wine decades ago and continue to come to Seattle each year to see what's new. Pretty cool.


Post a Comment