Taste Washington is very much like the wine industry tastings put on by distributors to sell what they had in their “book.” Only this one is open to the public. It’s a great way to learn about your wine likes and dislikes. What pairs well with your favorite wines and what does not. This huge gathering of Washington winemakers – 225 – with at least three wines each was a perfect opportunity to taste, munch and learn.
In addition, there were the vineyard booths that offered tastes of many different wines from that particular vineyard or AVA. For instance, one wine area I’m the least familiar with is Lake Chelan. I spent some time in Lake Chelan and didn’t spend a dime on gas! Lake Chelan is in Cascade Valley Wine Country that also includes Leavenworth and Wenatchee. There are 43 wineries there, and the corner booth offered an array of whites on ice and as many reds.
My plan was sketched out on the ferry ride over and the list was long. I didn‘t get to even half the wines on my list, granted it was ambitious, but did get to quite a few not on the list. Mostly because of the uncrowded white station in back of the Taylor Shellfish oyster bar where hundreds of whites from all over Washington were on ice.
One of my all time favorite oyster wines is Chinook’s Sauvignon Blanc. Kay Simon and Clay Mackey have been part of the Washington wine industry since 1983. Always perfectly balanced, their 100% Sauvignon Blanc from 2013 is a blend of five different clones of this varietal.
Chelan’s Cairdeas Winery’s white Rhône blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, and Marsanne dry was crisp, fragrant and a perfect contrast to the El Gaucho’s fabulous seafood chowder served up at the oyster bar. The Buty 2013 Sémillon was popular and going fast. This is a traditional Bordeaux blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle was really enjoyable with the oysters. Isabelle Elizabeth Sauvignon Blanc was another perfect match.
One Wine Inc (they actually make three) out of Chelan makes One White that’s a nice blend of Pinot Gris with a small dose of Viognier. Other Viognier’s offered, tasted and recommended are Chateau Faire la Pont, William Church 2013 and Force Majeure 2013. Chateau Faire le Pont in Wenatchee won a unanimous double gold and four golds at the North Central WA Wine Awards in 2013 for their other Rhone varietal, Mourvedre.
Another unusual white grape variety that was extracted from obscurity around 1986 is the Albariño grape. Prized for its distinctive aroma, much like Viognier or Gewurztraminer, this grape is all peaches and apricots with a wonderful crispness. It’s indigenous to Spain, specifically the Rías Baixas DO region. But if that proves too hard to find, I encourage you to look for Palencia, Coyote Canyon or Crayelle 2013 Ancient Lakes Albariño. These are really great wines from Washington.
The Kyra Chenin Blanc may have been my favorite white of the day, possibly because it was sourced from the old vineyards of Harold Pleasant and Cave B. It has perfect balance, sweet but not too and a long lingering finish. Jemil’s Big Easy served up Jambalaya with a blackened chicken skewer – this was a spicy hot taste quenched by the cold sweetness of the Chenin.
Other delicious whites were Henry Earl (no relation, but I’ll not forget the name) Estate Riesling 2013, Gamache 2013 Riesling with 3.5% RS and the classic Long Shadows Poets Leap Riesling. The Poets Leap with Poquito’s razor clam cerviche with lime, Serrano and red onion was a perfect pairing.
Mellisoni 2013 blend of Gewürz and Riesling at 13% was sweet but the balancing acidity made it a great wine. Purple Café’s shrimp salad gourgere with a lemon cayenne aioli was the match there. C.R. Sandridge makes a very dry and spicy Gewürz. This would be a great march with cerviche or even the spicy Asian cuisine. Eagle Creek 2013 Gewürz was sweeter and very fragrant.
One other obscure grape I found was the delightful Uplands Aligoté. I paired it with Yard House Restaurant’s seared Ahi with a soy vinaigrette. It was heaven.
I may have tried a rose or two but it was definitely red wine time at the half. Having run out of time and space here, the marvelous reds tasted will have to be in the next edition. You can read all about the reds on the Cheers to You blog.