Taste Washington Day One in Brief

I’m up here in (yes, rainy) Seattle for Taste Washington, the annual festival and celebration of Washington State wine. It’s been five years since I attended this event, and that’s about four years too long.

I came up here to lead a seminar for the event, which we carried off without a hitch this morning to a packed room of enthusiastic tasters. The seminar carried the title, The Allure of the Exotic, and featured off-the-beaten-path grape varieties from a selection of vintners from the tiny White Heron Cellars to the well known likes of Woodward Canyon and Leonetti.

I chose the seminar topic about 60 days before Robert Parker posted his polemic online about obscure grape varieties, and provided the perfect introduction to the conversation and tasting. Sadly, the programs were already being printed before I could change the title of this morning’s session to “Deranged Neo-intellectual Extreme Cyber-group Goose-stepping in Washington State.”



Here’s the list of wines we tasted this morning:

2012 San Juan Vineyards Madeline Angevine, San Juan Island ( buy)
2012 White Heron Cellars “Mariposa Vineyard” Arvine, Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley ( buy)
2012 Two Vintners Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley ( buy)
2012 Waitsburg Cellars “Chevray” Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ( buy)
2011 Leonetti Cellars Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley ( buy)
2012 Syncline Cellars “Mckinley Springs” Cunoise, Horse Heaven Hills ( buy)
2012 Woodward Canyon “Estate” Dolcetto, Walla Walla Valley ( buy)
2011 Dusted Valley “Stone Tree Vineyard” Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope ( buy)

My panelists were:

Paul Gregutt, wine writer and Wine Director of Waitsburg Cellars
Chris Figgins, proprietor of Leonetti Cellars
Morgan Lee, owner and winemaker at Two Vintners
Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste
Cameron Fries, owner and winemaker at White Heron Cellars

We had a great discussion about the value of exploring new and unknown grape varieties, and everyone had a lot of fun tasting the wines. I think the session was videotaped, so if I can get a video to post online I will.

Following the session everyone went downstairs to dive into what the organizers describe as the world’s largest single region wine tasting event.

Taste Washington remains a truly extraordinary wine tasting event, for several reasons, the first of which is a basically unlimited supply of oysters on the half shell.


A dozen or so freshly shucked Northwest oysters are my favorite way to start lunch.

The food remains one of this tasting event’s greatest strengths. Scores of Seattle’s top restaurants turn out to offer tasty mouthfuls, interspersed with hundreds of wineries pouring close to 1000 wines in total.

Like many such massive tastings, I use the opportunity to visit and check in on the current releases from favorite producers, but also to discover brand new wineries.

Today I was thrilled to be introduced to the wines of COR winery, Pomum Cellars, Bartholemew Cellars, CAVU cellars, Avennia, and Balboa winery, all of whom are making really excellent wines.

I’ll provide a complete rundown of the wines I’m tasting in the near future, but to get started, here are a few tasting notes from some of these newer producers.

2011 Avennia “Arnaut” Syrah, Yakima Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cassis and blackberry fruit. In the mouth the wine offers wonderfully lean and stony blackberry and cassis flavors with a deep mineral undercurrent and nicely floral overtones that linger through a long finish. Fantastic acidity and faint tannins. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2010 Bartholemew Winery “Reciprocity” Red Blend, Columbia Valley
This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere is a medium to dark garnet in the glass and smells of cherry, earth, and green bell pepper. In the mouth gorgeously herbal flavors of cherry and wet earth have a lean, stony quality to them. Taut tannins are stretched tightly around the wine, and have a smooth sheen to them. Great acidity and balance. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2011 CAVU Cellars “Alder Ridge Vineyard” Barbera, Horse Heaven Hills
Medium purple in the glass, this wine has a juicy and grapey nose of cassis and blackberry fruit. In the mouth juicy, even tangy blackberry fruit flavors takes on this grape’s characteristic orange peel citrus zip, along with fantastically bright acidity. Smooth, with the faintest of tannins, this is a very easy wine to gulp. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2011 Pomum Cellars Graciano, Snipes Mountain
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of spicy cedar and dried herbs mixed with red fruit. In the mouth, cherry, blackberry and wonderfully aromatic dried herbs turn decidedly spicy towards the finish. Super juicy acidity makes the mouth water, and faint tannins add structure and density to the wine. Lovely length. One of the best domestic renditions of this grape I’ve ever had. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost $30.

That’s all for now, more to come!