Taste Washington 2012: Highlights from Seattle’s Wine & Food Weekend

By Kori ~ April 4th, 2012.

Taste Washington, held in Seattle annually, is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event. This past weekend brought Washington wine lovers from around the country to Seattle to drink, eat, and be merry. This year, the event was expanded to two days, with Seminars offered each morning followed by the Grand Tasting each afternoon. Hosted by Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau in partnership with the Washington State Wine Commission, Taste Washington featured the wines of over 200 Washington wineries and small bites from many of Seattle’s top restaurants.

Setting the tone for the week, the Washington Wine Restaurant Awards were held at the Washington Athletic Club on the Monday before Taste Washington weekend.

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 Budd Gould from Anthony’s Restaurants. Nelson Daquip, Wine Director at Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, was honored as Sommelier of the Year. 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 The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle.

In addition to the awards presentation, over 40 Washington wineries were on hand pouring their wines. A few wines that got our attention during that tasting were the 2009 EFESTE Big Papa, the 2009 EFESTE Ceidleigh Syrah, the 2009 Robert Ramsay Cellars Boushey Vineyard Syrah, and the not-yet-released 2010 Rotie Cellars Dre Mourvedre.


The education portion of Taste Washington featured six seminars, three each day, 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. I attended the Vineyard Exploration seminar featuring Red Willow Vineyard.

Moderated by Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle, the panelists included owner/grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyard, Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits Magazine, and Bob Betz, MW, of Betz Family Winery. Each panelist spoke about their thoughts regarding Red Willow Vineyard which was the birthplace of Syrah in Washington State and has a long history of grape growing innovation, and then Jon Bonne led us through a tasting of wines from Betz Family Winery, Columbia Winery, EFESTE, Gramercy Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, and Owen Roe.

All of the wines were very good, but my favorite was the 2009 Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah. The fruit for this wine comes from the 1986 Syrah block, the oldest Syrah planting in Washington State. The name of this wine, which translates as “the founder’s slope”, is a nod to Red Willow owner/grower, Mike Sauer, and former Columbia Winery winemaker, David Lake, who planted those original Syrah vines.

“Red Willow Syrah has the same concentration as Red Mountain without the astringency.” –Bob Betz, MW

For more information about the vineyard, check out the article I wrote about Red Willow for Washington Tasting Room Magazine.

Grand Tasting

The Grand Tasting is the “main event” each day. This year, Taste Washington featured over 200 wineries pouring their wines and over 50 restaurants serving small bites. With more than 740 wineries now open in the state of Washington, this event offers attendees the opportunity to try a large number of them in one place at one time. Considering the time and gas money you save not having to crisscross the state visiting tasting rooms and making appointments, the price of admission to Taste Washington is money well spent. Now, don’t get me wrong, once you attend an event like this and discover some favorite new wines and wineries, you will definitely want to make plans to travel to the wineries to visit and taste again. There is nothing like spending a long weekend in Washington wine country.

One of the best aspects of Taste Washington is that often you will find either the winemaker and/or winery owner pouring that winery’s wines. In addition to visiting with a number of people whose wines we have enjoyed in the past, we always find it a great opportunity to try some wines from wineries whose wines we have not previously tasted.

My favorite wines from the Grand Tasting were the 2008 FIGGINS Estate Red Wine, the 2009 Nefarious Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Sparkman Cellars Stella Mae Red Wine.

Taste Washington was the perfect way to cap off Washington Wine Month. But here’s to enjoying excellent Washington wine all year long. Cheers!

Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Activities/Events

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