By Duane Pemberton
After attending the Taste Washington event for the past several years, I’ve come to conclude that it really is a sort of homecoming for the people in the industry. In fact, I’d have a better chance of getting around to tasting more wines if I didn’t know anyone. I do enjoy the fact that the industry people are generally very friendly (even if they do like to bicker about each other) – it’s a laid-back, fun industry where both culture and personality collide.
Once again, a two-day throw-down of Washington Wine was held, the first day was various seminars at the Bell Harbor Convention Center and the second day was the Grand Tasting at Qwest Field Events Center.
Day 1 – The Seminars:
The great thing about the many available seminars is that it allows you to pick any or all that interest you – keep in mind that quite a number of them do over-lap each other, so choose wisely. I had the opportunity to jump into a few of them and had a great time, even simply being a “fly on the wall”.
Whats the Point(s) took on the topic of the 100-point system that has enslaved the wine industry with folks who represented both the pros and cons of it. The interesting thing here – from my perspective – is that they could’ve really cut it short by simply telling folks to embrace their own palates and like what you drink and drink what you like. I realize this is the “rogueness” coming out of me but I can’t help it – the sooner more consumers learn to trust their own palate, the better.
The best part for me, however, was the verbal exchange from Allen Soup of Long Shadows and Christophe Hedges of Hedges Family Estate. Christophe believes that wine is 100% about the land and terroir whereas Allen believes that ratings are more or less a “necessary evil” that helps move the marketplace. Allen said: “Christophe is too young to remember this but….. ” – Christophe chimed in: “I’m almost 40″ – Allen: “I’m twice your age”. A rather fun conversation to sit in.
The other session I sat in on dealt with Food and Wine Paring and featured award-winning chef and restaurateur, Michael Mina from San Francisco. He lead a panel that talked about whether there is such a thing as the “right and food and wine pairing” – good arguments on all sides, however, the bottom line is that everyone should drink whatever it is they enjoy with their foods. At the end of the seminar, Michael had the staff bring in a sampler plate of various foods to pair with the six glasses of wine each participant had.
All in all, the seminars are a great way for folks to have a good time with industry people and perhaps learn some things along the way as well.
Day 2- Grand Tasting:
The Grand Tasting is the main event – the big three-ring circus that has the mass appeal to both the trade and wine-lovers everywhere. I was there starting at the 12:30 opener (trade/media) until it closed at 7:00pm and like every single year before, I get frustrated in that it’s never enough time to see everyone. I believe the only way I could accomplish that would be to pretend I don’t know anyone and only spend about 30-seconds at each table.
Saint Laurent’s Sarah Bagdon and Emily Mrachek
Charlie Hoppes and Cyndy Ott of Fidelitas Winery
Richard “The Man” Funk of Saviah Cellars
Long Shadows’ winemaker, Gilles Nicault
The size and enormity of this event is both its blessing and its curse – it’s great to see such a vastness in Washington wine yet entirely frustrating knowing that I won’t get to taste it all.
Some of my favorite wines I had were (in no certain order):
- McCrea Granache
- Andrew Will “Two Blondes”
- K Vintner’s Rose
- Saviah Cellars Malbec and Petit Verdot
- Betz Family Winery 2009 Syrah
- Willis Hall Merlot
- Corvus Cellars Cuvee Red Blend
- Hedges HFE Red Mountain
- Tsillan Cellars Riesling and Gewurztraminer
- Saint Laurent Syrah
- Smasne Cellars Carmenere
- Bartholomew Reciprocity
This is an event everyone should check out as it really does offer something for just about any lover of food and wine – after all, that is why you read sites like this in the first place, right?
I’d encourage you not only to check out Taste Washington next year but as many wine events as you can – it’s a great way to meet new wine lovers and reconnect with past friends.
John Ball of Willis Hall Winery
Doug McCrea of McCrea Cellars
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