Tag Archives: Taste Washington

Taste Washington Bites with Wine Review

tastewaThe 17th annual Taste Washington featured dozens of restaurants. Each of those restaurants came up with a Pacific Northwest inspired bite that had their own signature. It was an inspiring array of dishes that you could put together for your next wine tasting.  From savory desserts (olive oil ice cream) to oysters on the half shell, scallops and salmon, with pork bellies, steak, lamb and cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, arugula, Taste Washington left no culinary stone unturned.

This tastings tapas-styled food bite was absolutely necessary when you are walking around with a wine glass, small food tray with the wine glass holder, program, pen, and, in some cases, a spit cup. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle with just two hands.

Following is the short list of the bites that inspired me and a Washington wine that I did or would pair with the little dish.

Andaluca‘s Cauliflower soup with lardons and pickled beets is an inspired dish. For the match, go with a Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima’s Chinook Winery or Novelty Hill’s Stillwater Creek. http://www.andaluca.com/

Anthony’s Pier 66 served up pan seared scallops with bacon jam and bib lettuce on a toasted bruschetta. This is the one for Chinook’s 2012 Chardonnay or Challenger Ridge Winery’s 2011 Columbia Valley dry Riesling. http://www.anthonys.com/

AQUA by El Gaucho was shucking Taylor Shellfish oysters faster than a speeding bullet but still could not keep up with demand. I love oysters with Champagne but my second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc. Try the White Bordeaux blend from L’Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla 2012 or Cave B 2012 Ancient Lakes White Bordeaux blend. http://www.elgaucho.com/Aqua-by-El-Gaucho.html

Barking Frog’s Sweet potato and lamb chorizo croquette red pepper rouille begs for  a Syrah or a Sirah! One of my favs, Gordon Winery Pixie Syrah or the Laurelhurst Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills El Humidor Petite Sirah. http://www.willowslodge.com/barking_frog/

Boom Noodle restaurant is named after a popular Japanese term, meaning the thing one is currently obsessed with. These guys are obsessed with Japanese cuisine and their Seared Albacore rice noodle salad is delightful. Try this with Facelli’s Columbia Valley 2012 unoaked Chardonnay or the appropriately named COR Cellars 2013 AlbaCOR Columbia George 2013 White. http://www.boomnoodle.com/v2/

Cheeseland Inc. Now we’re talking! Wine and Cheese have a natural affinity to each other. I really loved the Honeybee goat cheese, and Ewephoria sheep milk cheese. Long Shadows Vintners Columbia Valley 2010 Chester Kidder Red Blend or Mark Ryan’s 2011 Red Mountain Dead Horse Cab, despite the name is delicious. http://cheeselandinc.com/

Evolve Chocolate Truffles  This was a lovely treat in two ways, it was a passed hors d’ouvres and it was delicious.  “The Colombian” is a rich chocolate coffee flavored truffle that paired nicely with the Three Rivers 2009 Walla Walla Cab. http://www.evolvetruffles.com/

Far-Eats  Love the Name! This is an Indian restaurant with a wine list with over 50 Washington wines on the list. The bite served was Chana Chaat – Chana is Indian for garbanzo beans. These beans were dressed with green chili, onion and tomatoes and sprinkled with cumin seeds, red chili powder, lime juice and coriander leaves. Easy, nutritious and delicious! The Kana Winery 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Old Vines Lemberger has the depth and fruit and Kyra Wines 2011 Wahluke Slope Dolcetto would be another great match for this dish. http://www.geogychacko.com/far-eats.html

Kalaloch Lodge  Smoked salmon artichoke dip and rosemary crisp, loved the way this was served, the dip was on one part of the cracker, and the empty side hung over the side of an elevated tray. Easy to grab and delicious to snack on. W.T. Vintners 2013 Columbia Gorge Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape with the right amount of acidity is just the ticket. Or try Whidbey Island Vineyard and Winery 2013 Yakima Valley Sangiovese Rosato.  http://www.thekalalochlodge.com/

La Panzanella  Founded in 1990, La Panzanella, known for its hearty peasant bread and homey cafe, quickly grew into one of the most popular bakeries in Seattle’s Capital Hill area. They offered their original and rosemary croccantini crackers with a truffle-infused cheese. Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Wahluke Slope Barbera, or staying with the Italian grapes, Leone Italian Cellars 2009 Walla Walla Dolcetto or 2009 Wahluke Slope Nebbiolo.  http://lapanzanella.com/

Margaux  This French themed restaurant is in the Warwick Seattle Hotel. Chef Chris Zarkades, attended South Seattle Community College’s nationally renowned and accredited culinary program to learn the craft. His red wine poached figs with Roquefort cheese crostinis demand a Bordeaux styled wine like for a big bodied red with some maturity, Brian Carter Cellars 2008 Le Coursier Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend.  http://www.margauxseattle.com/

Paella Seattle Dished up the classic paella recipes of Valencia, Spain, which means chicken, pork and Bomba rice with green and red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, sweet peas and artichoke hearts. Gotta go with the Tempranillo grape here. Michael Florentino Cellars, Naches Heights Vineyard, Camaraderie Cellars, Cave B Estate Winery, Fall Line Winery, Kana Winery or Stottle Winery all do a rendition of Rioja, the Spanish classic red with paella.

Palisade Waterfront Restaurant  Assorted cured and smoked tartares – cured salmon with Meyer lemon crème fraiche, caper, dill, and a ‘everything bagel crumble, apple wood smoked scallops with pineapple, Fresno chili and micro cilantro, Hamachi apple with ginger, jalapeño, Ahi tuna sesame with tamarind, soy and green onion, and mesquite grilled avocado smoked chili salt, minis sweet pepper, and cilantro. My favorite wine of the day: Kyra Wines 2013 Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc with any one of these wonderful tastes.   http://www.palisaderestaurant.com/

SkyCity at the Needle   Stinging nettle soup with crispy razor clams was delightful with JM Winery’s 2013 Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc and another match would be Davenport’s 2012 Columbia Valley White Bordeaux blend. http://www.spaceneedle.com/home/

Tablas Woodstone Taverna is part of a family of Mediterranean restaurants, Is located in Mill Creek. Their gazpacho is best paired with the Cote de Ciel 2012 Red Mountain Viognier. http://www.tablaswt.com/

Trace Seattle Restaurant and Bar offers a dining experience led by Executive Chef Steven Ariel, who sports a menu filled with contemporary, inventive dishes with a 10-seat sushi bar.  Highlighting their inventiveness was the smoked baby octopus veggie was a bit on the spicy side and there for a perfect pair with Hogue’s Columbia Valley 2011 Gewürztraminer. http://www.traceseattle.com/

The Washington State Wine Commission launched Taste Washington in 1998 and is now produced by Visit Seattle. For more information, visit www.tastewashington.org.

What we’re drinking: Washington wines

Mary writes:

At Taste Washington, we took advantage of a couple of the seminars that were available. Not only could we sit and sip fabulous wines at eleven in the morning but the panelists are industry giants.

Saturday I attended the Intro to the World of Wine seminar because Washington vs. the World was sold out. And amazingly after 27 years in the industry, I learned more about what makes Washington wines so special.

Dr. Kevin Pogue, geology professor at Whitman College has written a few papers regarding the soils of eastern Washington from a different perspective. He thinks Washington has a unique place in the world of wine. And the terrior, which includes soil, has everything to do with that uniqueness.

There are very few vineyards in the world planted on loess with basalt bedrock.  Pronounced luss, and loosely translated means loose. This is silt-sized sediment, which is the accumulation of wind-blown dust left over from the Missoula Floods. Basalt is heavy and creates a warmer climate. This is what makes Washington wines so special. And so resistant to phylloxera, the dreaded root louse.

Benches of basalt are now covered in vineyards. Great examples would be the Wallula Gap or Horse Heaven Hills.

Thomas Price, Master Sommelier at The Metropolitan Grill and Linda Murphy, author of “American Wine, An Honest Drink” talked about the deductive process of tasting wine.

“You have to build up the card catalogue in your memory,” Price said. And to each their own card catalogue.

This was emphasized when they both described the flavors of the Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2012 hailing from Ancient Lakes AVA’s Evergreen Vineyards. It’s composed of calcium carbonate that adds limestone to the soil. That limestone element results in more mineral than fruit flavors in a wine. It’s also important to note that the lime flavors Price was describing, Murphy described as tangerine.

Panelist Thomas Henick-Kling, Washington State University by way of Australia and Germany, explained how Syrah is the most expressive grape and the best at revealing the vineyard terrior. As a result, the flavor range varies by terrior.

Black fruits, smoky, bacon fat, violets, licorice, earth and black pepper are some of the typical flavor profiles found in a Syrah depending on the soil and whether it’s a hot or cool vineyard. The Proper Wines 2010 Syrah had the black fruits and smoky bacon flavors of the warmer Walla Walla region.

Other wines tasted with panel comments:

Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek 2011 Chardonnay is from a higher elevation in the Frenchman Hills and a cooler site.

Obelisco 2009 Merlot was sourced from Red Mountain AVA where the Missoula Flood cobblestone gravels produce wines with elevated tannins. Red Mountain is a small AVA with 15 different soil types.

Chateau Ste Michelle Canoe Ridge 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was luscious with black fruits, black olive, baking spices and clove and vanilla from the oak barrels. Canoe Ridge produces succulent texture to Cabernets accessible when young, planted in 1992 200 yards from the Columbia River. With 30 to 40 mph winds there, the vines don’t get very big.

Syncline Columbia Valley 2011 Subduction Red is a blend with a base of Grenache. Grenache in cooler vintages is all white pepper nose and raspberry with a brilliant purple rim.

The final round was an interesting question about what varietal the panelists would like to see more of in Washington State. Murphy had consulted in Washington in the early years when Hogue had four Chenin Blancs available. Now this grape is hard to find.

Price thought the Picpoul grape has a place in the dry warm regions of the state. McCrea vineyards Picpoul was mentioned.

Henick-Kling, having spent time in Australia, would like to see more Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon planted here.

Curious, isn’t it?  With total wine production in 2012 at 12 million cases, the ratio of reds to whites is 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent. They all mentioned white grapes. Maybe to even things up?

What we’re drinking: Taste Washington wines

J&M

This post really should be titled “What we hope to be drinking” because it’s our short list of wineries we hope to visit while attending the Taste Washington event at the end of this month. (If you want more details on the event or how to get tickets, see our previous post here.)

How is it time for Taste Washington again, you might ask? Good question — we’re asking ourselves the same thing. It seems like only yesterday I was 8 months pregnant, waddling around the CenturyLink Event Center with Mary and Jeff taking tiny sips (and spitting) some great wines.

Thank goodness this year I’m free and clear to do as much wine tasting as my palate will allow (the baby is being dropped off at Grandma’s so mom and dad can get some good wine tasting quality time).

Rotie

Before attending these large-scale tastings we always create a game plan — review the list of wineries and what they expect to pour, and then decide who we just can’t miss. Last year Jeff’s plan was to taste all of the most expensive wines being poured. That was a lot of fun.

While we create a plan, we almost never stick to it — winery ADD takes over when we get into the building. Nevertheless, we still like to pretend we have a plan.

This is who we’re excited to visit this year:

Mary’s list:

  • Doubleback: Only time I’ll get to taste the most expensive wine at this event.
  • Desert Wind: Love their wines and want to see what they’re up too.
  • Two Mountain: Really love the wines, the guys who run it and just tasted a homemade port made from Two Mountain grapes.
  • Buty Winery: Love their wine and they are sooo affordable.
  • Powers Winery: Here’s a winery that has been around forever and still produces quality, affordable wines.
  • Smasne: Tough to find in Kitsap so here’s my chance to see what they’ve been up to.
  • Robert Ramsey: Ditto.
  • Rotie: Have to try these as they produced our favorite wine last year.

Brynn’s list:

  • Canoe Ridge Vineyard: After recently drinking a cab from this winery I’d like to see what else they have.
  • Cave B: At our first Taste WA experience I tried their chardonnay and fell in love, it’s time to rekindle that romance.
  • Efeste: I see their label everywhere but have never given then a try, now’s my chance.
  • Maison Bleue Winery: Tried the wines a couple years ago at the Rhone Rangers tasting in Seattle, loved everything he poured.
  • Rotie: Tops my list because I have a few bottles of their Northern Red(which was my all-time favorite wine tasted at last year’s Taste Washington).
  • Woodward Canyon: Last on the Taste WA list, but certainly at the top of my list, especially because one of the winery owners has Bremerton roots.

 

Tom Douglas at Taste Washington 2012
Tom Douglas at Taste Washington 2012

Get your tickets, Taste WA is March 23-24

Brynn writes:

It’s March, do you know what that means? Beyond our days staying light a little longer and the daffodils starting to push through the soggy ground, it also means that it’s Washington Wine Month.

And what happens during Washington Wine Month? Taste Washington, of course!

This year the event is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 23-24. It will be at the CenturyLink Field Event Center — walking distance from the Colman ferry dock.

If you choose to go for two days, the ticket price for general admission is $125, or $80 for one day. Hours are 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Last year we loved that they expanded the event to two days. It gives you a chance to taste more wineries without overloading your tastebuds.

If you want to go all out, there’s a VIP package which includes an extra hour — 1 to 5 p.m. admission — and access to the barrel room, a VIP lounge; a “swag bag” and special giveaways during the VIP hour.

There’s also the chance to attend seminars on Saturday and Sunday, where you can learn about Washington’s wine industry from some of the state’s leaders. Seminars are 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day, and require an additional admission, which varies depending on topic. Visit the seminar page here for more information.

To buy tickets, or to see a complete list of wineries planning to pour at Taste Washington, visit the event website.

Our Taste Washington review

Brynn writes:

Well it took us long enough, but almost a month after attending the state’s largest wine tasting event we have finally transferred our thoughts from scribbles on pieces of paper to a coherent blog post. (Well at least we hope it’s coherent).

Going into Taste Washington we had quite the ambitious list of wineries we wanted to visit while attending the four-hour event at the CenturyLink event center.

Unlike last year, this year’s event was held over two days. We didn’t find out though until we received our press credentials the week of the event that we could attend both days. Unfortunately I had already scheduled myself for something Saturday afternoon, but Mary took advantage of the access and went Saturday and Sunday.

You better believe if they hold it over two days next year (which we’ve heard rumors they will) that I’ll be right there beside Mary maximizing my sips Saturday and Sunday.

Like last year we made sure to pace ourselves as we cruised through the aisles, stopping to nibble some of the delicious bites prepared by area restaurants. We also carried bottles of water with us to stay hydrated.

And while we had a list of where we planned to go, like any good wine taster with ADD, we often found ourselves sidetracked by a winery that caught our eye — sending us in crisscrossing through the event center. The good thing is we still had a blast, even if we didn’t hit every winery on our list.

One thing we did make sure to do was visit as many of the tables that we could that were pouring the most expensive wines of the day.

Seeing as I was eight months pregnant at the time of the event, my husband Jeff went as my designated taster. Before the event he read through the list and marked some of the most expensive bottles, figuring it might be the only time we’d get the chance to taste that many high quality wines at one time.

I was in charge of photography, but I did taste at almost every stop, followed by a lot of spitting. The reviews though are largely from Mary’s and Jeff’s comments and my summations of their responses to what we tried. Since my palate was still off from pregnancy, and because I was taking micro sips, I let them take the lead.

Without further ado, here are our thoughts on the day:

We’ll start with the most expensive wine we tasted.

It was the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Boudreaux Cellars out of Leavenworth and it was $100. The cab comes from Champoux Vineyards (75 percent) and Loess Vineyard (25 percent) in Walla Walla. An interesting side note about this winery: it’s completely off the power grid, meaning winemaker Rob Newsom relies heavily on nature to get things done. My palate isn’t fine tuned enough to know whether I’m drinking a $100 bottle of wine or a $50 bottle of wine, but between this and the Bordeaux blend the winery was pouring the reserve was our favorite.

Speaking of favorites, the absolute favorite wine of the day for Brynn and Jeff came from Rotie Cellars. It was the winery’s Northern Blend, made up of 95 percent syrah and 5 percent viognier. The deep purple color exemplified what we’d expect from Rhone-style syrah and its meaty nose had a beautiful aroma. The midpalate was complex with a lot of flavors. This wine was reminiscent of France’s Rhone Valley syrah — something winemaker Sean Boyd was aiming to replicate. The finish is long lasting, leaving you time to think about how much you want a second sip.

Another favorite from Rotie was the winery’s Southern White, composed of 50 percent viognier, 30 percent roussane and 20 percent marsanne. It is a perfectly balanced, full-bodied wine with peachy fruit flavors and stony minerals. V.G.

Here are some other highlights from the weekend:

Robert Ramsey Cellars, 2009 McKinley Springs Mourvedre. We tried this at the Kitsap Wine Festival and really liked it then — tasting it a second time confirmed our first impression: it’s a great wine. It’s rare to see this grape without its partners in wine, Syrah and Grenache but that didn’t stop us. The color was dark purple red and stained the glass. Lots of complexity with leather, dark fruits and a pleasant earthiness.

Doubleback 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon This Walla Walla cab was one of the most expensive and therefore a must try.  At $89 it was probably the second most expensive wine we had all day. This wine reminded Brynn of a Napa Cab, with its in your face flavors. Winemaker Chris Figgins has created a complex wine that we wish we could have tried as it opened up over time — as recommended by winery owner Drew Bledsoe in his tasting notes. It was a little too up front for Brynn, but would be one we’d try again after letting it breathe for a couple hours.

Figgins Estate Red Bordeaux this 2008 estate blend came in at $85. It’s a mix of cab, merlot and petit verdot. The cab is heavy upfront, yet the nose hints at its merlot subtleties. It’s a wine that could be drunk now, or laid down for a little more time to age.

Brian Carter Cellars always has interesting blends. His Corrida is a Spanish style blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Garnacha and Cab. An unusual blend with the Cab and Merlot in there, but these grapes added a little more body and flavor to the Tempranillo.

Castillo de Feliciana’s Columbia Valley Micalato, another Spanish style from Red Mountain grapes is a blend of 68 percent Garnacha, 13 percent Tempranillo, 10 percent Syrah and 9 percent Counoise. Wine had ripe red fruit and herbal flavors and a really nice and round, smooth finish. Right next-door was bin on the lake with Pork belly tart tatin coins. Darn! Those were tasty!

Cave B’s Barbera was nice but what truly impressed us was the 2010 unoaked Columbia Valley Chardonnay. If you want to taste Chardonnay, no oak ageing, no barrel fermentation, no sur lies, this is it pure unadulterated Chardonnay.

Cascade Cliffs Barbera was awesome. Bob Lorkowski planted Piedmont grapes along the Columbia River in 1997. Mary likes to think she set him off on the Piedmont path when she tasted him on what she thought was the best Barbera on the planet at her Grape Expectations wine shop. Cigluitti Barbera d’Alba. He also has a very good Zinfandel.

Chandler Reach Vineyards from Benton City has a rich, smooth Cab called Parris. The wine was aged in American, French and Hungarian oak before blending and bottling. The complexity comes from the different blends of oak rather than the grapes. Another impressive wine.

Januik Winery 2009 Ciel du Cheval Petite Verdot is a rich with black fruits with hints of minerals, great balance and a weighty mouthfeel. The finish is smooth but will improve with some cellaring.

Kana Cellars 2008 Dark Star is a luscious blend of mostly Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache that is barrel aged for 3 years. V.G.

Long Shadows Vintners 2007 Columbia Valley Pedestal Merlot is a concentrated dark cherry, toasty oak-kissed wine made by Michel Rolland from Pomerol.

Marcus Sophia Winery is located in Graham. Winemaker Laela Cramer sources her grapes from Alder Ridge and Horse Heaven Hills, two very well known vineyards. Her 2009 Yakima Valley Merlot is a blend of 85 percent syrah and 15 percent cab franc aged in American oak. Well worth seeking out. She also makes a syrah in the traditional way, cold soaking to extract flavor and color and then co-fermenting with a bit of viognier. It’s earthier then most syrahs but impressive.

Michael Florentino 2008 Columbia Valley Monastrell. It’s rare to see this grape without its partners in wine, syrah and grenache. monastrell is the Spanish way for saying mourvèdre. It’s thick-skinned grape is the reason these wines are so inky purple and tannic. This monastrell has lots of black fruit flavors with spice, leather, and herbal nuances. A really good lamb sausage from the Hook & Plow restaurant was perfect with this wine.

Pondera Winery out of Woodinville 2008 Columbia Valley Consensio is a Bordeaux blend of 58 percent cab, 27 percent merlot, 10 percent cab franc and 5 percent malbec. This full-bodied wine is richly colored with flavors of cherries plums and hints of spice and mocha. The finish is long and smooth.

Saviah Cellars 2008 Walla Walla Petit Verdot is a rich, glass-staining-black red wine with black fruits with hints of leather and minerals, balanced, smooth and velvety. What a mouthful!

Sparkman Cellars 2009 Red Mountain Kingpin Cab. There’s a mouthful of wine. Rich with black currant and plum, tobacco, leather and spice. Smooth, rich with a long, long finish. Nicely paired with Assagio Ristorante’s Penne with wild boar ragu. Yum!

Syncline James and Poppy Mantone’s 2009 Blanc de Blanc has a fine bead and citrus flavors that paired very nicely with the chicken liver pate from RN74.

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Mueller-Thurgau. This grape is a cross of riesling and silvaner grapes. The citrus and mineral flavors balanced by 3 percent residual sugar paired very nicely with the shrimp seviche with dry cured chorizo and cucumbers from the Purple Café and Wine Bar.

Waters Winery out Walla Walla way has a fabulous 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet. With dark fruits, leather and spice, it has depth and complexity. Sourced from Cold Creek and Pepper Bridge Vineyards.

What we’re tasting at Taste Washington

Taste Washington is upon us and is always the case with these large-scale tastings, it’s best to arrive prepared.

Clearly with more than 200 wineries pouring multiple wines this weekend at the CenturyLink event center there is no way anyone will be able to taste everything. Heck, even if you attend both days of the event, you probably wouldn’t even get close to visiting half of the wineries.

And that’s OK. Before heading into an event like Taste Washington it’s best to be prepared. If you’re not, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed, and while you’ll probably still have a great time you could miss out on some great wines.

That’s why we pour over the list of attendees to whittle down our “must taste list” before heading into the event.

Our lists may be overly ambitious, but it’s also good to have some fall back wineries you want to visit, in case the tables are packed and you can’t get to your preferred destination right away.

Beyond attending these events with lists in hand, we also make sure we’re properly hydrated and ready to spit whenever we can to keep our taste buds from hitting the wall too early. Not to mention we want to be able to walk out of there on a relatively straight line.

So who are we looking at visiting this year? Here’s our list:

  • BalboaWinery
  • Basel Cellars
  • Brian Carter
  • Castillo de Feliciana
  • Cave B’s Barbera
  • Cascade Cliffs
  • Columbia Crest’s Dr. Walter Clore Red Blend
  • Domaine Pouillon
  • Efeste
  • Doubleback’s Walla Walla Cab
  • Eaglemout Wine and Cider
  • Elsom Cellars’ Malbec
  • Gorman
  • Gramercy Cellars
  • Hightower
  • Januick
  • Jones of Washington
  • K Vintners
  • Kana Cellars Dark Star
  • Long Shadows Vintners
  • Maison Bleue
  • Mark Ryan’s Long Haul and Dead Horse
  • Mercer Estate’s Petite Verdot
  • O S Winery
  • Pepperbridge Winery
  • Powers Winery’s 2008 Cab
  • Rotie Cellars
  • St. Laurant Winery
  • Saviah Cellars
  • SmasneCellars
  • Sparkman Cellars
  • Syncline
  • Tertulia H3 Carmenere
  • Tranche Cellars slice of Pape Rhones

Taste Washington winery list released

Brynn writes:

Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Washington Wine Commission released the list of the 200 wineries that will be pouring at this year’s Taste Washington event. In most cases the wineries list the wines they’ll be pouring.

Like last year, the selection is overwhelming. I’ve read about many of the wineries that will be there, but haven’t tasted half of them. There’s also some favorites on the list that I’d like to visit, largely because I know I won’t be disappointed.

But when facing a daunting task of trying to decide which wine will make it into my mouth for a quick swirl before being discarded in a strategically placed spittoon, I try to remind myself my “must taste” list should be dominated by wineries I’ve never tired before, mainly so I get the chance to expand my wine experience.

While perusing the list two wineries caught my eye. That’s because they’re Kitsap County wineries. Eagle Harbor Wine Company and Eleven Winery will each have tables at the event. Last year we saw Eagle Harbor winemaker Hugh Remash at the event, but I don’t remember if he was pouring, or there as an attendee. Regardless, it’s great to see at least two of the Bainbridge Island-based wineries represented at this big event.

According to the list, Eagle Harbor will be pouring its 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($33); 2008 Red Blend, Walla Walla ($30); and 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla ($40).

Eleven will be pouring its 2009 La Ronde Red Blend, Washington State ($33); 2010 Viognier, Yakima Valley ($24); and 2010 Port Pinot Gris, Washington State ($15).

What we’re drinking: Sparkman Cellars Wilderness

Brynn writes:

Continuing with our highlights of Washington wine in honor of March being Washington Wine Month, this week we’re taking a look at Sparkman Cellars.

Voted a Top 100 Winery in the World by Wine and Spirits Magazine, Sparkman is a must-visit for anyone headed to Woodinville for a day of wine tasting. (Or if you’re headed to Taste Washington at the end of the month, it’s a winery that should make your “must taste” list).

Sparkman was the last stop on our Woodinville tour last month and what a great place to end the day. My friend Kyle’s husband Wes loves Sparkman’s chardonnay — so much so he bought a case while we were there.

While I enjoyed the Lumière Chardonnay — it had a nice balance of acidity with a slight hint of oak, giving some weight to the mouth — it was the Wilderness Red Blend that had my full attention.

I was already familiar with Sparkman’s Stella Mae and Ruby Leigh — named after winemaker Chris Sparkman’s daughters — which we tasted at last year’s Taste Washington event (Ruby Leigh made our “top sips list”).  Stella Mae is Sparkman’s take on a left-bank Bordeaux, while Ruby Leigh is his take on the right-bank blend. They have become signature wines for the winery.

I don’t recall tasting the Wilderness last year, so it either wasn’t offered, or after tasting so many wines I just didn’t remember it by the end of the day.

Regardless, I had my chance to enjoy the wine last month at the Sparkman Cellars tasting room in Woodinville. My notes from the time included this about the wine: “smooth, approachable, oak noticeable.”

After reading the grapes that go into of this blended red wine, it’s easy to see why I loved it so much. The two dominant grape varieties are cab franc and syrah — two of my favorite grapes.

The cab added some spice and hints of black licorice to the wine, while the syrah added hints of dark berries and contributed with the cab to the darker side of this wine — think leather or cigar box.

Time spent on oak — 18 months — left the finish slightly sweet with hints of toasted vanilla. Seeing that I’m an oak lover, I found the finish especially pleasing.

Here’s what winemaker Chris Sparkman says about the wine (note: a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Wilderness Society):

Tasting notes:

A rich supple blend full of chocolately black fruit on the nose layered with licorice, violets, vanilla bean, cassis and cigar box. The palate is loaded with black cherry, Asian spices and sweet toasty oak.

Appellation: Columbia Valley

Varietal Composition:

  • 29 percent Cabernet Franc
  • 27 percent Syrah
  • 22 percent Merlot
  • 13 percent Petit Verdot
  • 9 percent Malbec

Vineyards:

  • Klipsun
  • Boushey
  • Hedges
  • La Coye
  • DuBrul
  • Double Canyon

Barrel Aging: 18 months

Oak Composition: 45 percent new French Quintessence, Saury, LeGrand and Vicard

Alcohol: 14.8 percent

Production: 645 cases

Price: $28

Seattle Wine and Food Expo coming up

Brynn writes:

February and March are great months for wine and food in Seattle. That’s when the Seattle Wine and Food Experience and Taste Washington events are planned.

The Seattle Wine and Food Experience is Sunday, Feb. 26 from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. More than 100 wineries are expected to be there pouring, and many of Seattle’s top chefs and restaurants will be serving up some of their best dishes.

While Washington’s wines will be featured, it looks like Oregon wine will be the focus of the day. Oh and for those of you who like more than just wine, beer and ciders and distilled spirits will also be showcased. For more information on the event, check out Wino Magazine’s online article. Tickets are $49 in advance.

Taste Washington will be held over two days this year, Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1. General admittance both days will be from 2 to 5 p.m.

After spending almost 7 hours there last year, we love the decision to spread the event over two days. This allows visitors to map out what wineries they want to visit and not feel rushed, or as we experienced, frazzled by the end of the day after trying so many wonderful wines.

Like last year there will be more than 200 Washington wineries showcasing their wines inside the Centurylink Field Event Center at this year’s event. Tickets for general admission start at $99 for the weekend, or $75 for single day admittance. There’s also VIP packages, $125 for one day, $150 for the weekend. Visit the event website for more information on the wineries, restaurants and other offerings.

Our wine list for Taste Washington event

With more than 200 wineries to choose from at this weekend’s Taste Washington event, it’s a bit daunting to look at the list and try to decide who to go see, and who to pass up.

Some wineries we knew immediately were “must taste”, others we had to think about and some we chose because frankly we either liked what they were pouring or, even more subjective, we liked their name.

We’ve got our “first priority” wineries that we’ll make sure not to miss, our “second priority” wineries that we hope not to miss and another wish list of wineries that we want to stop by.

We won’t be drinking everything at every stop, but this list will help us focus as we walk through the doors of the Qwest Events Center on Sunday for the Grand Tasting. If you’ve tried any of the wineries on our first and second list, we’d love to hear your thoughts or recommendations. (For a full list of wineries scheduled to be at Sunday’s event, or for ticket info, visit the Taste Washington website linked above).

First priority:

  • Andrew Will
  • Betz Family Winery
  • Brian Carter Cellars
  • Cave B Estate Winery
  • DeLille Cellars, Grand Ciel & Doyenne
  • Januik
  • L’Ecole No 41
  • Long Shadows Vintners
  • Reininger Winery
  • Swiftwater Cellars

Second Priority:

  • Buty
  • Desert Wind Winery
  • Martinez & Martinez Winery
  • Rotie Cellars
  • Ryan Patrick Vineyards
  • Sinclair Estate
  • Smasne Cellars
  • Sparkman Cellars
  • Spring Valley Vineyard
  • Terra Blanca Winery