Taste Washington, the annual two-day, all-you-can-consume wine/food fest, is upon us. If you’re attending and need guidance on how to enjoy and navigate the show, look here and here. Need reminders on how to behave yourself, click here. (Pay close attention to No. 6 – you don’t want to be that guy.)
And if you’re looking for some recommendations, read on.
Certain wineries attract a crowd as soon as the doors swing open and if you aren’t moving with the herd, you’re gonna get trampled. Giddy up, partner, if you want a taste from one of these guys.
Avennia: Probably the state’s hottest winery right now. Avennia blends an Old World winemaking focus with fruit from some of Washington’s oldest, most prestigious vineyards. One taste, and it’s easy to see why Great Northwest Wine anointed them the “2014 Washington Winery to Watch.” The reds are seductive, but don’t miss the brilliant Sav Blanc, the only white in the portfolio.
Doubleback: Where else can you have former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe pour a glass of wine for you?
Figgins: Chris Figgins makes two wines for this gorgeous label – a crisp, bright Riesling and a blockbuster estate red blend. Act quickly – they’ll pour out in a heartbeat.
Gramercy: Supple, sleek, sublime – all great descriptors for Gramercy’s wines. Worth noting: Greg Harrington usually keeps something special under the table. Stems rule!
Spring Valley: All red, all estate, all the time. There’s a good reason that Wine Spectator listed SVV’s 2010 Uriah, a merlot-dominant blend, No. 27 on its list of the world’s top 100 wines. The Muleskinner merlot and Derby cab top my list.
And a few others: Andrew Will, Betz, Buty, Col Solare, Long Shadows, Northstar, Woodward Canyon
Fun factor goes to 11
These two days are more than just eating good food and drinking great wine. TasteWA is about fun, and these guys know how to bring it. Hang around their booths long enough and something wacky is likely to happen.
Alexandria Nicole: I swear, few people in Washington wine have more yuks than the ANC crew. Not sure what’s they’re pouring from a very broad portfolio, but keep your fingers crossed that it’s Mr. Big or their jammy Grenache.
Boudreaux: Winemaker Rob Newsom is hard to miss – white linen suit, no shoes and pouring his massive Reserve cab. A good time will be had by all.
Naches Heights Vineyards: Phil Cline isn’t bashful about promoting his NHV brand, which generally means he’s cooked up something lively for the big show. The wines, sourced from one of the state’s highest vineyards, reflect a playful spirit.
And a few others: Balboa, Guardian, Mark Ryan, Reininger, Va Piano, Skylite
Gems that you may have overlooked
Okay, suggesting that these wineries are ‘hidden gems’ is a little misleading. They have tons of disciples among the state’s wine crowd. It’s just that they may not be as well-known as some of their brethren, and that’s a shame.
Bunnell Family Cellars: Year after year, Ron Bunnell cranks out some of Washington’s best Rhones. For something special, check out Lia, a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise and Syrah, or just go single varietal with the powerful, peppery Mourvedre.
Cote Bonneville: Hugh and Kathy Shiels are the good folks behind DuBrul Vineyard and they set aside some of their best grapes for the house brand, Cote Bonneville. Daughter / winemaker Kerry delivers big muscular reds, but don’t overlook the Cab Franc Rose.
Double Canyon: I swear these guys poured one of the best wines I tasted at Taste WA 2013. Can’t wait to see what they uncork this year.
Obelisco: Doug Long has taken his family’s Napa pedigree (David Arthur, Montagna) and applied it to Washington. Obelisco’s big reds, resourced primarily from its estate vineyard on Red Mountain, are balanced, juicy and delicious. The winery recently closed its mailing list due to demand.
Swiftwater: Linda Trotta spent 20 years as Director of Winemaking and Wine Growing at Gundlach Bundschu before taking over winemaking responsibilities at Swiftwater in 2010, and her recent efforts have been nothing short of stunning. At the 2014 SF Chronicle Wine Competition in January, Swiftwater’s 2010 Malbec won best of class and its 2012 No. 9 Riesling was named best in class and top overall dry Riesling. (Worth nothing: Swiftwater is unique at Taste Washington, as its wines will be paired with particular food bites from the Hoist House, the winery’s award-winning restaurant. The booths will be side-by-side.)
W.T. Vintners: Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen recently was named Seattle’s top somm. He also knows something about winemaking. Get a heavy pour of his mineral-driven Grüner-Veltliner and head directly to the oyster bar.
And a few others: Cadaretta, Five Star, Sheridan, Soos Creek, Syncline
Tried, true & terrific
Certain wineries just don’t miss, which make them a joy to visit at large tasting events.
Ste. Michelle: They may be the 800-pound gorilla of Washington wine, but do you really care? CSM delivers excellent juice across the board, and their Eroica Riesling goes toe-to-toe with any on the planet.
Seven Hills: One of Walla Walla’s pioneers that helped kick off the region’s wine industry 30 years ago. If Casey and Vicky McClellan are pouring Pentad, their exquisite Bordeaux blend, I won’t be moving far from their booth.
And a few others: Maryhill, Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Vintners
Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event, will be held March 29-30 at the Century Link Field Event Center in Seattle. Tickets are still available. I’ll be reporting from the event both days via @Bob_Silver.