With more than 235 wineries and 65 restaurants represented, Taste Washington is the largest, single-region wine tasting event in the country. It's coming up March 28–31, kicking off with a Red and White Party on Thursday and culminating with the capstone Grand Tasting both Saturday and Sunday. Also on the agenda: an on the farm dining experience, Canlis wine dinner, the culinary star-studded New Vintage soiree, an after-party with James Beard Award–winning chef Edouardo Jordan, a Sunday brunch, and seminars. And with the Feast Portland team providing an assist, expect a lot of culinary excellence from the likes of Rachel Yang, Ethan Stowell, and Edouardo Jordan—plus well-known chefs from other cities.
As for the wine, here are a few choice tips and recommendations:
Have a Battle Plan in Hand
Taste Washington can be overwhelming—it's best to arrive with a strategy. Visit Seattle, which sponsors Taste, provides a list of the wineries that will be pouring as well as the specific wines. Review this in advance. I recommend creating a three-tiered list: wineries/wines you definitely want to taste (the A list); wineries you really want to taste, but you’ll survive if you don’t (the B list); and a list of wineries you are hoping to taste if you can get to them (the C list). I make my A list quite modest, my B list slightly larger, and then my C list more generous. Make sure to leave some time for new discoveries as well.
Hit the A-List Wineries First
With your lineup in hand, plan to visit your A-list wineries right off, your B-list wineries next, then your C-list wineries. That way, you won’t be disappointed if there is a winery that you really wanted to taste but didn’t get to. Also keep in mind that some wineries pour out quickly, so if there’s a wine you really have your heart set on tasting, go there straight off.
Here’s a veteran trick: Everyone enters the event through the same set of doors. This means wineries near the entrance tend to get swamped early. When you arrive, instead of joining the fray, go to the far side of the event hall away from where people come in and work your way back. You’re guaranteed to see fewer people at tables early on and have more time to talk and taste.
Stick to Alphabetical Order (Yes, Really)
There are many different ways to work your way through Taste Washington, such as starting with white/sparkling wines and then moving to rosés and reds. Personally, as the wineries are arranged alphabetically, I like to work off my battle plan and then go in alphabetical order. This saves times zig-zagging around the crowded space.
Given the arrangement of the tables, it’s possible that a winery that is next in alphabetical order might be all the way across the building at the start of the next row. My advice: once you come up with your list of planned wineries, use the brochure provided upon entrance to identify the location of each winery on your list. Better still, keep your eye on the Taste Washington website where they publish a PDF brochure in advance of the event.
It's Not Called Drink Washington for a Reason
Remember that this is Taste Washington, not Drink Washington. If you drink all of the wine that wineries pour for you, your afternoon will end quickly. Instead, swirl, smell, and take a small sip of the wine. Pour the rest into a dump bucket. Can’t bring yourself to pour out great wine? Get over it. You will thank yourself later.
Want to taste wine like a professional? Use the cups provided throughout the event, and spit out the wine rather than swallow it. You can still get a good sense of how a wine tastes, but will not feel as much effect from the alcohol. It can seem strange spitting at a public event, but you will see many people doing it. Consider joining them.
Grab an Uber and Get There Early
I recommend arriving at the Grand Tasting early, as people queue up before the start time and the line can get quite long. If you are attending Sunday’s event, note that there is a Mariners game that starts at 1:10pm, so plan for additional travel time. If you are attending Saturday, there is a game at 6:10pm, right after the Grand Tasting ends.
Make sure to take advantage of the more than 65 restaurants providing food. You’ll discover some great new places to visit. Note if you’re a vegetarian, offerings are scarce. I recommend packing snacks.
Finally, use public transportation or ride share. Even if you spit out all of the wine that you sample, you will still feel some effects from the alcohol.
Sean's Top 10 Wines to Try at This Year's Taste:
- Avennia Sestina Columbia Valley 2016
- Col Solare red blend Columbia Valley 2001 (this will pour out early)
- Elephant Seven syrah Yellowbird Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2016
- Kevin White Winery Blue Label Rhone blend Yakima Valley 2017
- Latta Wines roussanne Lawrence Vineyard 2015
- Quilceda Creek CVR red blend Columbia Valley 2016
- Seven Hills Winery Rose of cabernet franc Columbia Valley 2018
- Syncline rosé Horse Heaven Hills 2018
- Two Vintners Some Days Are Diamonds syrah Horse Heaven Hills 2016
- WT Vintners grenache boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2015