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Remains of the Day: Wine-drenched observations gathered from the floor at Taste Washington 2013

Posted in Events, Wineries

In no particular order, a handful of notes and observations swept up from the floor of the 2013 version of Taste Washington.

Taste Washington is a great opportunity for wineries to show off something new. Here’s one that stuck with me – the sleek, elegant new labels from the Brothers Rawn at Two Mountain.

Not Rick Small

Talk about sartorial splendor: Rick Small, Woodward Canyon’s fearless leader, rocked a hip, back-facing cap atop his clean-shaven head while working Woody’s booth. Gotta love a bald man with style! Honorable mention in the wardrobe department went to Serge Laville from Spring Valley, who was smartly dressed in a plaid shirt and plaid sport coat. It takes a Frenchman to pull that off, n’est pas?

The sublime spicy fried pickles from Relish Burger Bistro. Who knew?

Favorite wine that I met for the first time at 2013 Taste Washington? Easy pick – 2010 Cab Sauv from Double Canyon. Big honkin’ fruit from Horse Heaven Hills, wonderful structure and balance. A sister property to Oregon’s stellar Archery Summit, Double Canyon is destined to become a very big deal among us lovers of Big Reds.

Did someone say Big Reds? Obelisco delivers plenty of them from its estate vineyard on Red Mountain. But I was smitten by Doug Long’s chardonnay. It was one of several excellent whites that rose to the occasion on Sunday.

Did someone say rose? No, someone said rosé, rosé, rosé! Ross Andrew, Cote Bonneville, L’Ecole and a host of others poured their new Rosés. Just another sign that spring has arrived in Washington.

I didn’t catch the seminar that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley AVA, but I loved the major-league props for Avennia from star industry blogger W. Blake Gray. (Aren’t familiar with Blake Gray? You should be – here’s a Q&A I did with him earlier this year.)

Rock-star somm Rajat Parr from Mina Wine Group (aka RN74 in Seattle) recently emphasized the importance of storytelling within a wine’s brand. The best story I heard all weekend is attached to Obelisco’s high-end red blend. Nefer III. It involves Egyptian beauty on the inside and out, clay pots marked for vineyards and vintages, and so on. Talk about a great way to make a brand memorable.

Speaking of RN74, general manager Eric Perlin worked the restaurant’s booth Sunday on the show floor. It was a bit of a swan song – Perlin moves this week to San Francisco, where he’ll be opening a new restaurant for the Mina Group. Under Perlin’s guidance and aided by the steady hand of lead somm Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, RN74 has quickly become the epicenter of the wine/food scene in Seattle.

My vote for wine of the day: Cote Bonneville’s astonishing 2011 Riesling, sourced from their home turf at DuBrul Vineyard.

How fun to see Ted Baseler light up when he talks about 14Hands, Ste. Michelle runaway hit in the value-priced category. And why not – it’s perhaps the nation’s hottest wine brand.

I chuckled as one prominent winemaker tried to talk his way past security after he presented at one of the morning seminars and couldn’t find his badge amidst all of the stuff he was carrying. It was one of those ‘don’t you know who I am’ moments. I realize security is critical at any event involving alcohol, large crowds and the WSLCB. But a few of the gatekeepers were a little over the top – sort of like TSA screeners on steroids.

I stopped by the booth at Guardian Cellars to say hi to Jerry Riener. But he and his wife Jennifer had more important matters to deal with on Sunday – the birth of their first child, Josephine Isabelle.

Like any large trade event, Taste Washington swirls with bustling activity. If you stopped for a moment, what did you see?

  • Well, over there was Steve Warner moving from booth to booth to chat with the individual winemakers. More than 220 wineries attended the Big Show, and it was great to see the wine commission’s chief work the room.
  • And over there was Greg Harrington pouring through a bunch of library selections at the Gramercy booth. “I wasn’t sure what we were going to pour this weekend, so I just started grabbing stuff out of the library,” he said.
  • And over there was Rob Newsom holding court out in front of the Boudreaux table. “I just sold 28 cases of wine to a Canadian buyer,” Rob told me. “He asked me, ‘How much of your wine should I buy?’ and I said ’28 cases.’ He said ‘Fine.’ I should have said 100.”

Sunflowers & cider at Finnriver

Cider is the hot new thing in the Northwest beverage scene, and Sunday’s cider seminar, led by the irrepressible Jamie Peha, was outstanding. Memorable moments: That first, luscious sip of apricot cider from Tieton Cider Works and renewing a love affair with Finnriver’s Artisan Sparkling Cider, which I first enjoyed several years ago at the Finnriver TR in Chimacum. (Editorial aside: Looking for a great short trip on a spring Sunday? Visit the Finnriver Farm & Cidery, then hit the nearby Sunday farmer’s market in Chimacum Corner.)

My taste buds are still reeling from the mind-blowing gazpacho from Tablas Woodstone Tavernas. They claim it only has six ingredients – tomatoes, cukes, green bell pepper, salt, cumin and olive oil – but I’m sure there was some crack thrown in. Nothing else could have made it so addictive.

And of course, my vote for wine of the day: Cote Bonneville’s astonishing 2011 Riesling sourced from their home turf at DuBrul Vineyard.

Finally, I don’t even want to think about all the wineries, winemakers and industry friends that I intended to visit, but didn’t – mostly due to bad planning and poor time management on my part. Good intentions are like … well, you know, and we all have them.

However, Taste Washington’s two-day format lends itself to a much more leisurely experience and I’m definitely signing up for the full weekend in 2014.






  • Melinda Knapp

    Bob!  So bummed we missed each other last weekend.  I have to concur with you on Double Canyon, what a wine!  I first heard of them through Adams Bench – they sourced some Malbec from them to use for blending and it was so good they trashed that idea and single bottled it.  It was just released and it is fabulous.
    I also loved seeing all the new roses’, a sure sign of spring on it’s way.  Tranche, Kerloo & Waters had theirs to sample and I loved them all.
    How to clink glasses with you soon!