Taste Washington

What could be better than a day sipping the best Washington wines and nibbling on delicious local treats? Last Sunday, Taste Washington offered both and more, in an excellent, well-organized event that offers the largest selection of Washington wine at one function.

I like to call it the Super Bowl of Washington wine happenings!

To make the most of Taste Washington – with more than 200 wineries and 60 restaurants – you had to go in with a plan. Ours was simple – try pours from wineries that were new to us, in addition to new releases, plus visit as many of our wine industry friends as possible to say hi. Could we help it if our friends insisted on pouring their favorites for us too?

As a result, we have a list of our winners of the day. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that we think they are the best of Taste Washington  – every winery poured up to three wines and there was no way – even with spitting or spilling – we could have gone through the entire lineup!

You can find that list of our favorite wines and restaurant treats in my article in Seattleite Magazine. No point in duplicating efforts, eh?

And our parting words – mark your calendars now for Taste Washington 2012. This is the best event of the year in Seattle!


Annual Washington Wine Restaurant Awards

It’s not often that I dedicate an entire blog post to a press release that I received in email. (I get hit with at least 100 emails every day!) But today’s press release from the Washington Wine Commission seems worthy of a placement. So let’s hear the applause for the recipients of the 2011 Washington Wine Restaurant Awards, sponsored by Seattle Business magazine.

Canlis Restaurant (Seattle) received the Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year award, which includes a unique custom blown glass sculpture designed by local artist James Mongrain. (Pictured: Nelson Daquip, Wine Director at Canlis)

“Canlis Restaurant has been an incredible supporter of Washington State wines since our industry’s inception,” said Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington State Wine Commission.  “We are proud to honor such an iconic establishment for their dedication and commitment to providing truly unforgettable experiences for their guests.”

“I am honored to call Washington State my home, and I am honored to consider myself part of the Canlis family,” said Nelson Daquip, Wine Director at Canlis Restaurant.  “We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, and we are honored to carry the mantle for Washington State wines on behalf of our state’s growers and winemakers.”

Over the past 60 years, the Canlis family has defined and redefined fine dining in Seattle.  With more than 300 Washington State wines on their list of 2,000 world-class bottlings, 25% of their wine sales coming from Washington State, a custom wine produced from harvest to bottling between their wine team and Buty Winery, amazing wine dinners featuring the best the state has to offer and their unerring dedication to helping the Washington State wine industry continue to grow, Canlis Restaurant was chosen as the Restaurant of the Year.

  • Mo Shaw from Ray’s Café (Seattle) won the Walter Clore Honorarium award for demonstrating dedication to the advancement of the Washington State wine industry. 
  • Kristen Young, Wine Director at Waterfront Seafood Grill (Seattle), was honored as Sommelier of the Year for her outstanding wine knowledge and unbridled professionalism. 
  • Sommelier Lars Ryssdal received the first-ever Washington State Wine Ambassador award for a lifetime of unerring service to the industry.
  • The Winemaker’s Choice award went to Picazo 7Seventeen (Prosser).  This award is determined by an anonymous group of Washington State winemakers who select the restaurant they feel is most supportive of the industry.
  • The Washington Restaurant Association award, recognizing an outstanding member of the association, was presented to Cafe Flora (Seattle). 
  • The Seattle Business magazine award for restaurant leadership in the business community was presented to Daniel’s Broiler (Seattle).

  Other distinguished awards included:

  •  Most Improved Wine Program of the Year – Pearl Bar & Dining (Bellevue)
  • Best Restaurant Event Featuring Washington Wines –”Iron Vintners” at Barking Frog (Woodinville)
  • Best Out-of-State Washington Wine Program – Bridgewater Bistro (Astoria, OR)

The Washington Wine Grand Award – These restaurants are considered the true industry leaders in support of the Washington State wine industry: Anthony’s Columbia Point, Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill, Anthony’s Pier 66, Barking Frog, Brix 25° Restaurant, Canlis Restaurant, Daniel’s Broiler Prime Steaks and Chops, El Gaucho Bellevue, El Gaucho Seattle, John Howie Steak, Ocean Crest Resort, Pearl Bar & Dining, Picazo 7Seventeen Restaurant & Wine Bar, Ray’s Boathouse, Ray’s Café, Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar – Bellevue, Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar – Seattle, SkyCity at the Needle, Sun Mountain Lodge, The Grape Adventure, The Marc Restaurant and Vineyard Lounge, The Metropolitan Grill, The Rainier Club, The Triple Door, Tulalip Bay Exceptional Dining, Valley Café of Ellensburg, Visconti’s Italian Restaurant, Visconti’s of Leavenworth, Washington Athletic Club, Waterfront Seafood Grill, Waterstreet Cafe + Bar, Wild Ginger at the Bravern, Wild Ginger Seattle

Washington Wine Award of Distinction – These restaurants have shown dedication and commitment to the Washington wine industry: Andaluca, Bella Italia, bin on the lake, Bistro San Martin, Bridgewater Bistro, Burgundy’s Restaurant / The Spokane Club, Cafe Flora, Daily Grill, Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, Luna, Masselow’s, Matt’s in the Market, Nordstom Seattle Grill, Nordstrom Bellevue Grill, Pike Brewing Company, Ponti Seafood Grill, Ristorante Italianissimo, Rover’s Restaurant, Salty’s On Alki, Salty’s on Redondo, Steelhead Diner, Sullivan’s Steak House, Swing Wine Bar, Terra Vista at Snoqualmie Casino, The Local Vine, The Spokane Melting Pot, Washington State Convention Center

Washington Wine Certificate of Recognition – These are restaurants that are building support of the Washington State wine industry: Café Veloce, Chandler’s Crabhouse, Earth & Ocean, Gray’s at the Park, LUC, Sip at the wine bar & restaurant, Smash wine bar & Bistro, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, The Adriatic Grill – Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar

Congratulations to all! Additional details are availalbe on the Washington Wine Restaurant Awards website.


Seminars at Taste Washington-Educational & Fun

The Grand Tasting at Taste Washington is bound to be an amazing experience on March 27.

There also are some incredible seminars on March 26. You can choose from four seminars that run simultaneously from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., a lunch session, and four sessions from 1:45 to 3 p.m. They sound so educational and fun that I’d like to attend all of them.

Here are the details, taken directly from the Taste Washington website, and ticket information. For more on the Grand Tasting, Taste Washington, see my Feb. 17 blog post

Session I: 11am to 12:15pm

A Sort of Homecoming:
Food and Wine Pairing with Michael Mina $50
A Washington State native hailing from Ellensburg, Michael Mina has emerged as a leader of culinary brilliance in the world.  He returns to his roots with a Seattle outpost of his famed RN74 concept, looking to pair his cuisine with the world-class wines of his upbringing.  How do sommeliers and chefs work together to create great wine and food marriages?   Find out for yourself as Bruce Schoenfeld guides three nationally recognized sommeliers – and you! – to help decide which wines go best with Chef Mina’s dishes…and which will end up on the RN74 Seattle’s wine list.

Common Ground:
A Seven Hills Vineyard Investigation $45
Seven Hills Vineyard has been a leading world-class wine grape growing site for decades – not just for Washington, but the United States. As our region now finds itself with vine age that allows the true complexity of a site to show completely, it is high time to look to a spot that continues to prove that its lauded status is deserved. Named one of the Top Ten vineyards on the planet by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Seven Hills Vineyard and the people who manage it offers a special glimpse into a unique place and typicity which translates into wines of uncommon complexity. This special seminar allows attendees to taste barrel samples and wines no longer available.

Ladies First:
Women In Washington Wine $45
A joyous, lighthearted but meaningful celebration of the roles women play in continuing to better the wine world in our state.  Join this knowledgeable, influential and fun-loving group – they may indeed be powerful, shaping the vineyards, wines, restaurants and store shelves of our region, but they aren’t above wondering what wine goes with chocolate or comparing a Sauvignon Blanc to a crisp white shirt.  Leslie Sbrocco always brightens a room with wisdom and wit…ladies, take it away!

Washington’s Emerging Varieties:
Grenache Panache
Presented by Seattle Magazine $40
The rising popularity of this new-to-the-Washington-scene grape variety in recent times is a boon for wine drinkers.  Seattle Magazine recognizes that Washington State’s offerings with this amazing grape are truly delicious, having awarded it Best Emerging Varietal in their 2010 Best of Washington Wine Awards. Bob Betz MW, an admitted Grenache fiend, will join Seattle Mag’s wine columnist Shannon Borg and an esteemed panel as they help you discover why our region’s Grenache offerings are fast becoming some of the New World’s most distinctive and respected.

Lunch Session: 12:15 – 1:45
Lunch by Michael Mina is included in your ticket price for any morning or afternoon seminar.

Session II: 1:45pm to 3pm

In Search Of:
Washington’s Singular Style $50

As Washington State fast becomes acknowledged for its deserved place in the pantheon of world-class wine, Bruce Schoenfeld wonders if it has (or needs) a singular style of wine that can be pointed to. Italy has Barolo, Spain has Ribera del Duero, France has Grand Cru Burgundy – all wines which can’t be made anywhere else. What, if anything, does Washington have? Has a sense of “Washington-ness” arisen orwill it as we continue to mature? Or, is it even necessary? Might it be enough in this new age of worldly wine lovers just to make delicious wine?

Washington State Syrah:
Yes, We Can! $45

A savory, smoky, spicy, powerful, complex, long finishing…seminar! In the various winemaking and grape growing corners of our state, Syrah has arisen as one of our greatest wines in a very short period of time. Washington State will continue to make it despite its relative obscurity in general wine drinking public conscious because it is just too delicious. Investigate what Washington State’s emerging typicity is as compared to other regions of the world alongside super sommeliers Rajat Parr and Jason Smith MS as lead by wine writer extraordinaire Jordan MacKay.

What’s the Point(s)?
Rating Washington State Wines $45

As the wine world absolutely explodes with options, more wine lovers turn to the experts to help them decide which bottles are worth their money. How should we rate our Washington State wines?  Is there a way to quantify the quality (which continues to receive very highly positive press from wine writers around the country)?  Some utilize the highly popular 100 point score.  Some utilize star systems.  Some hold wine competitions.  Some just write about what the wine tastes like.  Learn from the sources which system works for them by tasting some of their highest rated wines from our region…and decide what works for you!

With A Rebel Yell:
Washington’s Rock-n-Roll Winemakers $45

Rebellious, iconoclast, jammin’, hip, cool, juiced up…and these are just the wines!  Meet and play with some of the rock-n-roll winemakers and wines of Washington State.  Their labels, tasting rooms, websites, personas and wines all push the traditional wine world envelope, forcing you to try them.  In doing so, these fantastic winemakers are expanding the boundaries of what our region can do. And the ever-bursting Leslie Sbrocco is the only one we know with enough energy to corral this sordid crew…this will be no ordinary tasting!


It’s a Good Year for William Church Winery

We’ve  been fans of William Church Winery for years  – in fact, we hung around their tasting room in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse so frequently that we became good friends with co-owners Leslie and Rod Balsley.

So we were very happy to hear about several accolades recently given to winemaker Rod and his assistant, Marcus Rafanelli.

Most recently, on March 12, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt raved in the Seattle Times about William Church 2008 Bishop’s Blend Red:

“The best ever, seductive and smoky, with sweet fruit and toasty barrel spices ($20)”

Gregutt’s review comes on the heels of many awards given to William Church’s lineup. 

  • 2008 Bishop’s Blend received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast, along with “Editor’s Choice” from the same publication.
  • 2008 Syrah, 100% Syrah from Red Willow, Dineen Family and Stillwater Creek Vineyards, also was awarded 90 points from Wine Enthusiast. ($25)
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon also received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast. ($29)
  • 2007 Sur La Mer, a classic Bordeaux Blend, was awarded 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. ($28)
  • 2009 Viognier, which is not surprisingly sold out, received 90 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

We’ve enjoyed each of these William Church wines alone and paired with good food; on special occasions and on days “just because.”

We’ve always said Rod makes good wine at a decent price point. But these days, I think we can simply say Rod makes good wine, period.