Taste Washington is the largest single-region wine and food event in the United States. For the past 22 years, it has grown in activities and attendance with more than 235 Washington State wineries and 65 restaurants participating this year. In collaboration with Visit Seattle and Washington State Wine, participants drank incredible wines, savored delicious food, learned about different varietals and appreciated the bounty of the area with both connoisseurs and novices in the wine industry. Seattle, Washington, hosted the 2019 festival filled with parties, dinners, workshops, farm tours, the Grand Tasting, and a brunch.
Red and White Party
The Red and White Party at AQUA by El Gaucho took place on Seattle’s Pier 70’s waterfront. This stylish affair featured top wines from 30 leading Washington winemakers. Executive Chef Kevin Benner selected seasonal bites to serve with the wines. Guests arrived decked out in their finest red and white attire. My favorite dishes were the ahi tuna parfait with passion fruit, avocado, and fried onion and the confit potato topped with crème Fraiche and caviar. The edible bounty combined with the incredible sunset was indeed a night to remember.
I learned about sustainable produce supplied to the area at the farm tour and lunch at Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center. Farm Manager Kevin Haggerty led the tour. He said, “Our goal is to improve the land and steward it responsibly, not just to crank out vegetables.” Oxbow Farm practices organic farming and grows over 50 vegetables on 15 of their arable 30 acres. Kevin shared that organic farming starts with a mindset that mimics natural systems and plays an essential role within an ecosystem. He told us about their safe salmon practices and seasonal routines. Kevin described how they try to bring in beneficial insects and feed the soil to help build stronger plants that fight off disease and pests without using pesticides.
Owners from Buty Winery, Hightower Cellars, Three Rivers Winery, and Novelty Hill Januik Winery served wines at lunch and throughout the day. Melissa Miranda, chef/owner of Musang in Seattle, prepared lunch from sustainably grown food from the farm and other local vendors. The oven-roasted Anderson Farm lamb rib adobo accompanied by roasted Oxbow Farm carrots and parsnips with Philippine heirloom rice were succulent and tasty. Frankie & Jo’s plant-based rhubarb yuzu yogurt was a hit for dessert.
Executive Chef Brady Williams is the sixth executive chef at third-generation, family-owned Canlis restaurant. Brady collaborated with Director of Wine and Spirits Nelson Daquip. These two orchestrated a dining experience focused on Pacific Northwest cuisine paired with “The Best Washington Wines You’ve Never Heard Of.”
Canlis restaurant offers an outstanding wine program and incredible gourmet cuisine in a setting overlooking spectacular views of Lake Union, Seattle, and the Cascade Mountains. The evening began with a selection of lesser-known Washington wines and three appetizers. My favorite was the purple majesty potato and Manila clam. The colors were vibrant, and the taste and textures were scrumptious. A lightly cured halibut followed in citrus paired with a 2017 Savage Grace from Underwood Mountain Vineyard followed the appetizers.
The third course, Haiga rice with Dungeness crab and preserved strawberries arrived with a very dry 2017 Orr Old Vine Chenin Blanc. The notes of green apple, citrus zest, nuts and minerals melded well with the earthy rice and sweet tender crab. A hearty ribeye with black garlic and bitter radicchio was served with two wines, a 2015 Piolet Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, and a 2012 Somme des Parties, The Philosopher’s Companion Red Blend, Columbia Valley. Both wines cut through the richness of the beef while softening the bitter edge of the radicchio.
I savored the chocolate mousse bar dessert while listening to culinary travels and tales told by my dining table companions. We finished the evening by sipping on delicious, yet unfamiliar wines and gazing out at the city lights reflecting off Lake Union.
Seminar: Washington vs. the World — New World, Old World, Our World
One of my favorite experiences at Taste Washington was Washington vs. the World seminar. A panel of six amazing sommeliers in the Pacific Northwest led the discussion and tasting. Through a series of ten blind tastings, I learned tips to help me recognize a wine from Washington versus an old world wine. Moderator Doug Charles from Compass Wines shared that the purpose was not to see if we would rate one wine higher than another but to ask ourselves, “Do we enjoy the wines on the same level?”
Doug’s panel included Washington winemakers Marty Clubb from L’Ecole No 41, Greg Harrington from Gramercy Cellars, Mike Januik from Januik Winery, Kay Simon from Chinook Wines, and Mari Womack from Damsel Cellars. To level the playing field, Erik Segelbaum, an advanced sommelier from SOMLYAY, LLC and a world wine expert, joined the panel. The attendees and panelists commented on the tastes, textures, smells, and colors of the five Washington wines paired with five of the same varietals from France, California, Italy, Mexico, and Australia.
New Descriptors and Wine Tasting Tips from the Seminar
- Old World wines tend to give the perception of acid or tartness after swallowing and taste earthy while new world wines provide the impression of sweetness or fruitiness.
- Some strong tannins feel scratchy and astringent while others feel soft and supple coming across like you just inhaled a baby powder or touched a napkin to your tongue.
- Where the fruit hits on you on your palate can help you distinguish the varietal. Most people taste Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon on the front of their palate while the characters of Sangiovese and Merlot manifest themselves on the back.
The Grand Tasting
The largest and most popular event at Taste Washington is the two-day Grand Tasting filled with people sipping wine and dining on delicious bite-sized delights. Popular chefs give live cooking demonstrations. The Grand Tasting tantalizes every sense. Mark your calendars for March 19-22, 2020, and join in the fun at the 23rd Taste Washington Celebration.