Taste Washington 2010: Restaurant Awards and Education Day

By Kori ~ March 31st, 2010.

Taste Washington 2010 is now in the books, so it’s time to reflect on what we learned and tasted and look forward to next year. Again this year, we had the pleasure to attend all of the Taste Washington festivities including the Washington Wine Restaurant Awards on Friday, Education Day on Saturday, and the Grand Tasting on Sunday. On Friday, I will be posting a complete recap of the Grand Tasting and a breakdown of all the wines that we tasted throughout the weekend.

Today, I want to focus on the Restaurant Awards and Education Day. While they are attended by fewer people than the Grand Tasting, they are no less important. In fact, these two events afford attendees the rare opportunity to learn a ton about Washington wines and mingle with the people that make the Washington wine industry tick. The Restaurant Awards are not open to the public, but Education Day certainly is. If you have not attended any of the Taste Washington seminars in the past, you should make it a point to do so next year. For the most part, they are well worth the time and money.

Washington Wine Restaurant Awards

The purpose of the Washington Wine Restaurant Awards is to honor restaurants, sommeliers, and individuals that help promote Washington wines in restaurants. Judges evaluate restaurants on a variety of criteria, including wine list, service and staffing, promotions and overall wine philosophy. The Walter Clore Honorarium, given to an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the Washington wine industry, was awarded to Doug Zellars of the Washington Athletic Club. The Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year is the most prestigious award, given to the restaurant that has promoted Washington wines above and beyond all others. This year’s winner was Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Washington. To commemorate the honor, Sun Mountain Lodge received a beautiful custom-blown glass sculpture designed by Seattle-based glass artist Jesse Kelly.

In addition to the awards ceremony, about 50 Washington wineries were pouring for a Washington Wine Trade Tasting which allowed us to get a head start on the wineries we wanted to taste at the Grand Tasting on Sunday.

Education Day

Education Day featured seven seminars on a variety of topics. The seminars give attendees the opportunity to taste, discuss, meet, and learn from some of the biggest names in the Washington wine industry as well as a few notable guests from outside of Washington State. In order to cover more, the Wine Peeps team split up and attended different seminars. I attended the Common Ground seminar featuring Boushey Vineyard as well as The Value Challenge. Dad (John) attended The Legend of Quilceda Creek and Mighty Malbec. Colby roamed from seminar to seminar taking pictures.

Common Ground – Boushey Vineyard
Bob Betz MW of Betz Family Winery led this seminar focused on Yakima Valley’s famed Boushey Vineyard. Dick Boushey, owner/grower of Boushey Vineyard sat alongside Joshua Greene of Wine & Spirits magazine, geologist and Whitman College professor Dr. Kevin Pogue, and Sara Schneider of Sunset magazine on the panel. Each panelist spoke about their thoughts regarding Boushey Vineyard and then Bob Betz led us through a tasting of seven Boushey Vineyard Syrahs, which included a barrel sample and a couple of not-yet-released wines, so that attendees could get a sense of the wines’ “Boushey-ness”. There were also a number of winemakers who use Boushey fruit in the audience who Bob called upon to speak about the vineyard. The common thread from winemaker comments about Boushey Vineyard was pigment, concentration, texture, vitality, and vibrancy. Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars summed it up well when she spoke about the fruit she gets from Boushey Vineyard, “It is very precise, beautiful from beginning to end.”

The Value Challenge
Sara Schneider of Sunset magazine moderated the panel which included Andrea Immer-Robinson MS, Emily Wines MS, Tom Wark of Fermentation, and Juan Munoz-Oca of Columbia Crest. Since we here at Wine Peeps are focused on being “Your Link to Great QPR Wines from Washington State and Beyond,” I had high hopes for this seminar. What could be better than tasting through five flights of wines in a “Washington vs. The World” challenge featuring wines in the $10 to $20 range? When the attendees tasted the wines, we did not know which ones were from Washington and which were from elsewhere. The Washington wines did extremely well. In my opinion, the Washington wines won four of the matchups and tied in one of them. Not bad considering the competition included wines from France, Australia, and California. Unfortunately though, after we tasted through the flights of wines, the seminar got a bit off track with the moderator and some of the panelists recommending non-Washington wines as great values. While I agree that there are also great values outside of Washington State, there are many great values in Washington, and I encourage those of you who live in Washington to search out the values in Washington wines first before venturing elsewhere. If you’re not sure where to start your search, you may peruse previous posts in our Featured Categories: Washington State Wine and Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, ask us a question in the comments section below, or send us your question via our Contact Us form.

The Legend of Quilceda Creek (Attended by John)
Bruce Schoenfeld of Travel + Leisure moderated a panel including Quilceda Creek Vintners founder Alex Golitzin, Andrea Immer-Robinson MS, and Heather John of Bon Appétit. Quilceda Creek is generally considered Washington State’s premier winery and is one of the most highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon producers in the world. Their flagship wine, the Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, has received three 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. This seminar afforded attendees the rare opportunity to taste some of Quilceda Creek’s highly sought-after wines including the 1999, 2005, 2006, and 2007 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignons as well as the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. It was great to be able to hear the Quilceda Creek story directly from founder Alex Golitzin, a very humble guy given the success he has had. Bonded in 1978, Quilceda Creek started out buying their grapes from Otis Vineyard. Today they only source from vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain, several of which they own outright or have an ownership-interest.

Mighty Malbec (Attended by John)
Seattle magazine recognized Malbec as the state’s Best Emerging Variety in their 2009 Best of Washington Wine Awards. Moderator Jake Kosseff of Seattle magazine led a panel including Dr. Thomas Henick-Kling of Washington State University, Christopher Miller of Spago Beverly Hills, Anna Schafer of àMaurice Cellars, and Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report in a discussion about this emerging variety. While none of the panelists offered any information about Malbec that I didn’t already know, we were able to taste five Washington State Malbecs as well as one Malbec from France and one from Argentina. The Washington Malbecs stacked up very well; in my opinion, four of the five Washington Malbecs were the best four out of all seven wines. This was not a surprise as we Wine Peeps have been saying for some time that Malbec is a variety to watch here in Washington and have even encouraged some growers to plant Malbec. In general, Malbec is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon but is spicier than Merlot and goes well with a number of different foods. One of the original five Bordeaux varieties, Malbec is somewhat unique in that its distinctive character is evident early so it does not require the aging of other big red varieties. If you are looking for a good place to start in exploring Washington Malbec for yourself, refer back to our Washington Malbec Extravaganza from last fall.

Remember to come back on Friday for a complete recap of the Grand Tasting and a breakdown of all the wines that we tasted throughout the weekend.

Filed under: American Wine, Malbec, Red Wine, Vineyards, Washington State Wine, Wine Activities/Events

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