Oeno Files

Going Fast: Taste of Tulalip's Wide World of Wine

Nickel slots, dueling somms, and oceans of wine: Good reasons to head to the casino this weekend.

By Julie H. Case November 5, 2012

Photo courtesy Alabastro Photography.

If you've ever wondered what an Iron Somm TV show might look like, Thomas Price and Yashar Shayan are bringing it to Taste of Tulalip this weekend. Price, the state's most newly minted master sommelier, and Shayan, sommelier and wine director at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, are competing in a rock and roll cooking (and pairing) challenge. It's part of the annual food and wine event at Tulalip Resort Casino, which boasts an increasingly impressive lineup of wineries each year. 

Taste returns Friday and Saturday, November 9 and 10, seeing Taste of Washington's statewide focus and raising it the world. Of the estimated 145 wineries pouring, 15 will be French and nine Italian. Oregon will represent with 19 wineries; California with 17. Oenophiles with a thing for the Evergreen State will get a taste of 65 Washington wineries, including some—Abeja, Betz and Leonetti—which don’t have tasting rooms typically open to the public.

Tom Thompson, Tulalip sommelier, says he chose wineries from outside Washington to give ToTers the chance to walk into the Washington room, have an amazing cabernet or chardonnay, then walk into another room, and have a cabernet or chardonnay from Napa or elsewhere and compare. "It is fun, and gets the palate kicking and the discussions going. Kind of like wow, did you try this? Did you try that?"

The rock and roll challenge—named for its rocking soundtrack—is returning for a second year. Each sommelier will be paired with his own chef team for the competition, and the chefs will be creating a menu on the fly and using a secret ingredient. The somms then have to create wine pairings, and source said wine...err...locally. As in from a select lot of 20 of the wineries—from as near as Walla Walla and as far as Gigondas—pouring at ToT.

A panel of celebrity judges, including chef Marcus Samuelsson, Thirsty Girl wine writer Leslie Sbrocco, and Ray's Boathouse chef Wayne Johnson will determine the winner. Even better, the first 30 lucky attendees who throw themselves at the mercy of this august panel get to serve on the audience judging panel. 

Get your tickets fast. Some of Taste of Tulalip has already sold out—Friday night’s celebration dinner (for 400) with Washington's Sparkman Cellars, California's Roederer Estate and Chateau de Beaucastel from France is full up, as is the $225 all-access Saturday pass which includes admission to a magnum party. However $85 tickets to Saturday's grand tasting remain, for now; this ticket also buys you access to Price and Shayan's showdown. In addition to the wineries and tasting stations with small bites (think seared furikake smoked scallops and maple panna cotta with almond brown butter cake). Craft beer will be making its first-ever appearance at Taste, and it's included in this ticket as well.

And as always, if you go, please spit.

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