I realized I had lost all sense of perspective when I surveyed the last batch of submissions for this year’s Top 100 list and was relieved to see “just” 14 cases remaining.
People often ask, how do you taste 700 wines in two weeks? My usual retort: “One wine at a time.” Of course, the reality is more complicated. Winemakers dispatched about 400 shipments this year, all stored at Full Pull Wines. That’s a lot of boxes—there’s manual labor to be done before I can even think of reaching for a corkscrew. Boxes must be opened up, broken down, and recycled, and the wines organized and inventoried—a 32-hour effort in total. (Yes, I have amazing friends.)
Next I load my car with the first of many batches of wine (turns out you can fit a lot of cases into a Civic if you are creative). I shuttle these carloads of bottles back home, where I do the tastings, hoping I won’t need to slam on the brakes. This is the fifth year I’ve scored Seattle Met’s Top 100 Washington wines; this time around I tasted an average of 60 wines a day over 13 days.
I sampled each wine several times, taking notes on a legal pad—a lesson learned after knocking a bottle of sweet riesling onto my laptop’s keyboard one year. I eat unsalted potato chips, celery, and mouth-coating Havarti to keep my palate fresh. You can gain five pounds easy in two weeks on this diet.
Of course, I spit after I sample. If I drank just half an ounce of each day’s round of 60 submissions, it would end up being more than the contents of a full bottle. Even if the tasting notes were miraculously legible after this, I can’t imagine the wine ratings would be very reliable.
I sample the wines during the day, then again at night to reconfirm my initial impressions. I also mix up the tasting order, so a wine doesn’t suffer because it followed a grippingly tannic or sour submission. This demands about eight hours each day.
So, after 13 days and 700-some-odd wines, you finally get to the last wine. What comes next?
See the results of Sean's 13-day odyssey—our annual Top 100 Washington Wines list—in our October 2014 issue, on newsstands now.