This is it, folks: One more day until Taste Washington opens its doors to the imbibing masses. In the latest installment of our itineraries from local wine experts, we turn to Bottlehouse owner Henri Schock.
Schock has been a big fan of Pacific Northwest wines since before he was of legal drinking age. He gives thanks to his mom for that and apologizes for “throwing her under the bus.” But this love set him on a path to enroll in the Wine Professional Program at Central Washington University, which led to the opening of his tasting bar and shop in Madrona in 2010. A past intern at Taste, he understands the vast scale of this wine convention and his preferred survival method is to seek out the unusual blends and varietals. To try out some of the rarer finds, follow Schock’s path here (and here, on this print-friendly PDF):
A Bartholomew Winery, Aligote
Aligote is considered the "other" white burgundy varietal, and this winery focuses its attention on bringing unique varietals grown in Washington to the market. Very similar to chardonnay, this wine has lush tropical aromatics, with a nice weight on the palette that finishes clean.
B Ross Andrew Winery, Meadow Red Blend
Pinot blanc is the dominating varietal in this Washington/Oregon hybrid (84 percent of the grapes come from Washington, while 16 percent come from Oregon). All you need is sun and a patio (forget the glass!).
C Long Shadows, Julia's Dazzle
The name itself brings attention, and with its amazing light salmon color, crystal clear ornate bottle, and vibrant pink wax top, this bottle is arguably the best package in Washington. Made from pinot gris (yeah, that's right, rosé of PG), this wine is vibrant, refreshing, with just a kiss of residual sugar that keeps you drinking more.
D Tranche Cellars, Sangiovese
Tranche Cellars produces some of the best-valued wines in Washington. This estate-grown sangiovese is one of the best in the state, taking care in preserving the elegance and vibrancy this Italian varietal is best known for.
E Ott and Murphy, Petit Sirah
Half his time is spent taking people on guided tours through the worlds tallest mountains, while the other half is making wine on Whidbey Island. Winemaker Eric Murphy lives a crazy lifestyle, but when he's able to find the time to be in the winery, magic happens. Petit sirah is something you don't see often in Washington state, and when you do, you better give it a whirl.
F Kiona Vineyard & Winery, Lemberger
Lemberger (also known as Blaufrankisch) is a varietal typically grown and produced in central and eastern Europe (Germany and Austria). Kiona (the first winery in the US to ever product Lemberger, dating back in the '80s), has done an amazing job, creating a very approachable, easy-drinking wine with unique characteristics only found from this obscure varietal.
G Cor Cellars, Petit Verdot
Winemaker Luke Bradford has taken on the challenge of offering what is typically a blending varietal (in Bordeaux wines, and showcasing it by its lonesome. A job well done!
H Maison Bleue, Grenache
I'm a big fan of all wines produced under this label. However, this grenache is quite possibly one of the best wines from Washington state, year after year. What I love best, it isn't cab and it isn't syrah. Go grenache!
I Kerloo Cellars, Tempranillo
Tempranillo is definitely an up-and-comer in the Washington wine scene, but winemaker Ryan Krane is the one that does this Spanish varietal true justice. His passion and dedication to the art of winemaking is crystal clear, and is one of the geekiest (in a good way) winemakers I know.
J Tieton Cider, Wild Washington Apple Cider
After all that wine, you need something refreshing to wash it all down. This is lively and vibrant on the palate, offering flavors of fresh apples and citrus. Make a pit stop here when you feel like you can't possibly taste any more wine. You'll be glad you did.
Some parting wisdom from Henri: “The most successful attendees are those who have a plan before walking through the doors. It can be overwhelming, but if you stick to your itinerary, you're going to walk away from Taste Washington a lot more fulfilled than the ones who are trying to chug as much juice as they possibly can before the event ends. For those of us that have been, you know exactly who I'm talking about.”