Editor's note: Let's face it—Taste is spectacular, but also spectacularly overwhelming. We asked Seattle Met wine guru Sean Sullivan to draw us a battle plan.
Taste Washington—the state's premier wine and food event–is coming up this Saturday and Sunday, March 29 and 30, at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle. The event, which features 226 wineries and 68 restaurants, is the single largest regional wine event held under one roof. Having attended this event for more than 10 years, below are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
1. Consider going both days
To maximize the number of wineries and restaurants you can sample, consider buying a two-day ticket to the event. This will allow you to approach the event at a more leisurely pace and sample more wineries than you could on a single day. If you’re only planning to attend one day, consider going on Sunday, which tends to be a bit less busy.
2. Attend a seminar
Each day begins with a series of educational seminars that provide a unique opportunity to learn about a particular aspect of Washington wine. Want to learn about the growing trend of Rhone-style wines in Washington? Attend the ‘Rise of the Rhones’ seminar. Want to see how some of Washington’s top wines stack up against some of the world’s best? Attend the ‘Washington vs the World 2014’ seminar. See Taste Washington's complete list of seminars.
3. Make a plan of attack
Take a look at the Taste Washington program brochure before attending the event to get a sense of who’s pouring as well as the lay of the land. Map out wineries that you are interested in sampling wines from. There are many different approaches to coming up with a plan for Taste Washington. For example, you can create a list of specific wineries you want to visit or perhaps focus in on one variety—such as Cabernet Franc—you want to explore.
4. Visit ‘must taste’ wineries first
If you have your heart set on a tasting wines from a particular winery or set of wineries, try visiting them shortly after arriving at the event. Wineries bring a limited amount of wine and sometimes the demand greatly exceeds supply and they pour out before the event ends. You don’t want to miss out on the one wine that you were most excited to taste! Early stops on my list include Gramercy Cellars, Avennia, Owen Roe, and Doubleback.
5. Don’t forget to explore new wineries
While it’s always fun to sample wines from your favorite wineries, Taste Washington also offers a unique opportunity to try wines from wineries you may not be familiar with, including many that were recently founded. Newer wineries that are well worth checking out include Ancestry Cellars, Double Canyon, Kevin White, Lauren Ashton, and Proper Wines.
6. Don’t waste time with long lines
Some tables at Taste Washington can get quite busy with lines several people deep waiting for a pour. If there’s a long line, visit a nearby winery and circle back to the one you were interested in. And don’t be a camper! After you have received a sample of wine, move off to the side to sample the wine and allow other people to move to the front.
7. Taste the Vineyards
Make sure to check out the ‘Taste the Vineyards’ area (listed separately on the brochure map). This area organizes wines by vineyard instead of by winery, allowing you to get a sense of what a particular vineyard ‘tastes’ like. This area often sees less traffic than the winery tables, allowing you to taste through a number of wines relatively quickly and efficiently. Vineyards pouring this year include top sites Sagemoor and Kiona.
8. Keep an eye out for ‘under the table’ wines
Many wineries tell their Twitter and Facebook followers about specific ‘under the table’ wines that they only pour on request. Keep an eye on social media and check out the Taste Washington hashtag (#TasteWA) before and during the event.
9. Stop by the oyster bar
Taste Washington is as much about food as it is wine. Don’t miss the AQUA by El Gaucho Oyster and Chowder Bar (shown separately on the program map) where you will find as many oysters as you can eat. I am convinced that some people come to this event each year solely for this area.
10. Drink responsibly
Even if you are only consuming very small amounts of wine it can add up quickly during the course of the event. Don’t feel like you need to drink the full sample that is poured. Use the dump buckets to discard extra wine. You can also use cups and buckets to spit wine. This is what the professionals do when tasting and, while it might seem awkward at first, it will allow you to sample a much greater number of wines at the event.
Also plan on having a designated driver, taking public transportation, or taking a cab/Uber to and from the event so you don’t have to worry about driving.
And of course, most of all, have fun.