The culinary component of our annual big-time wine event will look a little different this year, thanks to the team behind Feast Portland. Mike Thelin and Carrie Welch, who cofounded the Rose City's destination food festival in 2012, are working with Taste Washington to revamp a few aspects of the country’s largest single-region wine festival.
Tickets for the 22nd annual Taste went on sale today. The Washington Wine Commission founded this massive gathering and now produces Taste in partnership with Visit Seattle. Which is to say the wine logistics and destination component work very well, says Visit Seattle vice president Ali Daniels. "Where we thought we could continue to evolve was from the chef and culinary perspective. And the party aspect."
Festivities still revolve around the 200-plus winemakers and two-day Grand Tasting at CenturyLink Field’s event center, held this year on March 30 and 31. Most of the Feast team’s efforts involve the Friday night New Vintage event, which historically attracts a slightly younger crowd; this year the location moves to the Sanctuary downtown. The goal, says Daniels, is to have a little more fun with it. "It's our party, evening event," she says. "We don't want to create a mini Grand Tasting, so you're just going to the same event when it's dark outside."
Carrie Welch said her team approached this event much like they do in Portland: “Why don’t we get the best and brightest stars in Seattle, and ask them who they want to cook with?” This yielded some serious Seattle luminaries—Rachel Yang, Ethan Stowell, Edouardo Jordan, Shota Nakajima, Alex Barkley, Brian Clevenger, and Zoi Antonitsas—plus well-known chefs from other cities, like Chris Cosentino, Gregory Gourdet, and Vivian Howard. (That Edouardo Jordan after party sounds pretty cool, too.)
Many of those names will also pop up over the weekend on the Grand Tasting demo stages, says Welch, which will be loosely divided into what she calls “local stars and visiting stars.” “It constantly surprises me how people just want to come here and cook,” and explore all the region’s great ingredients, says Welch. “We kind of have that on our side when we’re approaching chefs.”
As Feast Portland sails toward its seventh year, Welch and Thelin founded a separate consulting arm for big projects like this one. Taste will be its first public-facing event, says Welch—“we’ve said no a lot"—though most of their efforts happen behind the scenes. Both the Feast and Visit Seattle folks stress that they're not creating a local satellite of Feast, especially at an event dedicated to Washington wine. "It's going to be the same Taste everyone loves," says Daniels. "With some fun unexpected moments throughout."
Taste Washington's full slate of events, from the Red and White Party to farm trips, seminars, and the roster of chefs, is now up on its website.