We attended one of my favorite annual events this past weekend -- Taste WA in Seattle. (For those who missed it, a smaller version of the event is being held in Portland on Monday, April 23 at Pure Space.)
The Washington Wine Commission team always does a fantastic job with this event, and over the years has added seminars led by industry leaders and national media, and more recently changed to a two-day format.
I particularly like Taste WA from an event management and consumer experience perspective for the following reasons:
* great value - from the wide support by industry to the high level of service, this is an excellent place to learn and taste fantastic wine
* appropriate venue - it is held in a central location with plenty of space (Century Link Event Center) and tables are well laid out
* ease of arrival/departure - there is plenty of parking and public transport
* well-organized - registration and check-in are easy, and they use email marketing for confirmations and reminders, and there are many staff available
Both the Red Willow Vineyard Exploration and Celebrated Vintages seminars were highlights for me. The Sauer family's Red Willow can be viewed as the birthplace of Syrah and one of the most beautiful properties in the state. Its elevation ranges from 1000-1300 feet and it has a very distinctive chapel atop the vineyard with a view of the Cascades -- it's breath-taking.
During the Red Willow Syrah seminar, we tasted six different winemakers' wines from Red Willow, including Betz, Columbia, Efeste, Gramercy, Mark Ryan and Owen Rowe. The Betz Cote Patriarche 2009 was the stand out for me. It had enticing black cherry, blueberry, white pepper, mocha and forest floor aromas with deep, complex fruit notes on the palate. The wine is still quite youthful and has much more complexity to develop. It had a delicious peppery -- almost pepperoni-like finish that just went on and on...
Sunday's Celebrated Vintages seminar was sold out for good reason. The presenters took us on a journey beginning in 1987, when there were 60 wineries and 9000 planted acres, and ending at the present day with Washington's 740 wineries and 43,000 acres under vine. During the last 25 years, the panel mentioned 1975, 76, 78, 83, 89, 92, 94, 95, 99 and 2005 as standouts. We tasted and compared the following wines:
1995 Woodward Canyon Charbonneau, Walla Walla
1995 Col Solare, Columbia Valley
1999 DeLille Harrison Hill Vineyard, Yakima
1999 L'Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
2005 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
2005 Betz Pere re Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
All of the wines showed finesse, balance and beauty. The two that most arrested me were the Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole 41. The Woodward Canyon showed worn leather, tar, black cherry, raspberry, cigar box and complex dirt aromas mixed with pencil shavings. The palate demonstrated all of these flavors and the finish lingered for some time. The L'Ecole 41 had a prettier (less bold) and more red-fruited make up: raspberry, cherry, black cherry, bark, worn leather and cigar box aromas. It blossomed into a very smooth, velveteen texture with a hint of smoke on the mid-palate and a persistent red-fruit finish. This persistent red fruit we learned is a function of the vineyard sourcing -- it's a characteristic of Seven Hills.
In closing, the below wines tasted during the Grand Tasting are also memorable:
Maison Bleue Rose
Dunham Cellars Riesling
Domaine Pouillon Gewurtztraminer
L'Ecole 41 Semillon
McKinley Springs Chenin Blanc
Airfield Aviator Red
Airfield Spitfire Red
Boudreaux Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cab
Bunnell Apic Rhone Blend
McKinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon
If only we could have tasted more!
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