Last weekend, Taste Washington! 2012 had its way with our collective palates in Seattle, bringing together a few hundred of the state’s wineries, along with dozens of restaurants offering tasty morsels as teasers to their styles and wares. We chose for the two-day “regular” ticket option, as three hours a day for two days certainly seemed like a solid way to do things, and provided a good “pace” that didn’t seem rushed.

On Saturday our arrival was easy (read: we didn’t have to fight a line, really), and we headed towards the “back” of the room as to avoid the crowds towards the doorway, which worked out fairly solidly. The room was just the right mix of alphabetically-placed brands mixed together with Washington’s AVAs, making for a fairly easily navigated experience. If you haven’t been to Taste before, you could probably compare it to a business trade show, with a bit more queueing up at each table.

Our first day started off with the Betz Family Winery table, where we had the 2009 Clos de Betz, a Bordeaux blend built with 65% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. That should have told us something, as we ended up sticking with a bit more red on day one than originally intended, but that wasn’t a downer by any means. Saturday was full of a fairly smart crowd that handled themselves well in a room chock full of really fantastic wine at the group’s beck and call, I must add.

More thoughts on Day One as follows:

    • 2010 Syncline Mourvedre. Worth finding for yourself. A standout from both days.
    • 2008 Bartholomew Cabernet Franc. A fairly unheralded winery that the locals in Seattle should probably spend more time with. Bart has done a great job at trying to find out what works, IMO, and has made a solid run at a number of varietals. Definitely into the Viognier as well.
    • Palisade Restaurant Alaskan halibut ceviche. Served on endive with pepper confetti, cilantro and popcorn. Probably our favorite seafood at the show, and it was consistent both days.
    • Hook & Plow served up some locally-”grown” bites, and definitely stood out to us as unique and well-planned.
    • Maybe I’m crazy, but it didn’t feel like there was enough food, though the coconut cupcakes from PinkaBella were INSANE.

The evening continued for us with an “afterparty” that included Greg & Stacy Lill pouring DeLille Cellars and O Wines for an enthusiastic crowd of visitors at the building we happen to live at, which made for exactly zero excuse not to attend. But that’s another blog post…

On Sunday, we began the day with a leisurely morning and a lunch at Purple Cafe in downtown Seattle. One Starbucks visit and a downpour later, our Uber delivered us safely to SoDo, and we promptly piled onto the line forming outside of Day Two at Taste.

At a minimum, Day Two seemed far more crowded than Day One, but who’s to say. We beelined to Syncline, as we had heard grand things about the Blanc de Blanc, and contemplated doing a bit more of the white varietals than Saturday, and were not disappointed. The Rose was solid too, and the Mourvedre was worth returning for. Being the in the vicinity of the letters R-S-T had its advantages, too, as we visited with RN74‘s pastry chef, Kim Mahar, who was whipping up miniature beignets (a signature dessert if you haven’t stopped by) that hit the spot, to say the least.

Much like a Sunday in Woodinville, it felt like the day when a lot of the locals and Seattle’s awesome servers and somms were out and about. We spent some great chat time with folks from DeLille, Canlis, RN74, Waterfr…AQUA by El Gaucho, and more. We also scored some super helpful recommendations in the last hour of the event from the always superb and on-point Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly, which you need to be subscribing to if you’re not already.

More thoughts on Day Two as follows:

    • Barrister Winery‘s Rough Justice. A non-vintage red (something that Bookwalter‘s Bookmark is blowing away right now, IMO) recommended by Puckette was certainly a nice surprise.
    • Bunnell Family Cellar was pouring an ’07 Syrah ($44) that might have been a favorite for that varietal at the event for me.
    • A couple of the bites from the casino restaurants stood out to me from a food perspective. Muckleshoot stood out with a great-looking booth and some innovative service methods, while Tulalip Resort brought the heat with the one item I’ll mention that we didn’t try, but saw nothing but raves about in the room – a fried chocolate bread pudding, served with a Bourbon carmel-vanilla milkshake. Not much else looked more decadent.
    • A few heavy hitters ran out of inventory. Both the aforementioned Betz and Mark Ryan Winery (whose HTML title tags needs to remove the “boutique” verbiage, IMO) were tapped out by mid-event, and AQUA actually finished its weekend’s-worth supply of oysters on Saturday alone, and completely restocked with what it could for Sunday, and was tapped out before Sunday was complete. On one hand, never a bad thing. On the other hand, kind of a bummer for the Sunday-only crowd.
    • El Gaucho‘s beef skewers at the booth featuring Realogics | Sotheby’s and JZ&F was, for lack of a better way to put it, perfect. A solid portion, a good way to feature what the restaurant was all about, served in a super formal – yet fun, on skewers – manner in the middle of the event floor.

All in all, a pretty well-planned event. The two-day format was something I was genuinely surprised about, as there was a lot less unfortunate overdoing it than I’d expected to see. That’s not to say that Sunday wasn’t without a few folks who somehow made it past 4pm on their feet, but it was pretty contained all around. It was a great opportunity to be exposed to some wineries and restaurants that we’ve not had a chance to make it to, given the wide range of them available in Seattle, Woodinville and points East. Would definitely do the two-day ticket again next year, and am looking forward to checking off a few more spots from my event program that we didn’t make it to.

I’d love to hear what some of you thought of the event. In the meantime, check out what Sean Sullivan (whose comments about the vineyard/AVA tables I can’t echo enough) and Taryn Miller (who had a bit more Rose than I managed to try) had to say about this year’s event.

Tom Biro is a thirty-something public relations guy with a slight addiction to digital media and Washington wine. He resides in Seattle, Washington with his girlfriend, Brittany, and can be frequently caught in the wild chanting loudly Seattle Sounders FC matches or at tasting rooms in Woodinville, central and eastern Washington, and other parts of the New and Old Worlds. While generally preferring full-bodied reds, he's a sucker for a smart Chardonnay and great Champagne. He also really enjoys Chicken Nuggets and French Toast at Ma'Ono, the brunch at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, and at least two stops at Tacon de Marlin in Puerto Vallarta. Email him at tom@sevenhundredfifty.com, find him on Twitter @7hundredfifty or @tombiro, or look him up on Google Plus.

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