Wow, what an experience.  This is my first Spring in Seattle and today was my first go-round at Taste Washington – an annual trade & public exposition with over 200 participating wineries and lots of Northwest restaurants.  It was vaguely reminiscent of a livestock trade expo in the cornfields of Illinois that I attended as a ten year-old field tripper back in the days of middle school.  Wine trade show?  Way better.

I went to enjoy and mingle, but also with a mission and work responsibility.  To taste, talk, spit, listen, remember, take notes and not spill all at the same time?  Um, challenging…  Life is hard, ya know?

There is so much going on in the Washington wine scene.  I have been so wrapped up in somm classes that I haven’t had time to focus on what’s going on here and now.  I took some time away from the books this week and spent two days in Walla Walla for the first time, and then all afternoon today at Qwest for the Taste.  I had previously tasted and become quite fond of some wines from Walla Walla, but my visit there gave me a better understanding of what’s up and a deeper appreciation for many of the wines.  All in all,  it is a town and wine appellation that has a community of people working together.   Yes, they’re competing for business but even so, it’s got this air of chill cooperation and openness.  They’re like the Richard Blais of the competition; confident and cool enough to tell the opposite team the answers because he knows he can execute better anyway.

The wineries at the Taste today were from all over the state.  A lot of history is in Walla Walla (well, history in terms of Washington state wine; the 1980s aren’t historical in Bordeaux, but ya know, everything is relative).  There is a lot of prime land in Walla Walla and people who have had a relationship with their vineyards for a long time.  The same is true for Red Mountain (sub AVA of Yakima.)  Others were representing what’s hot down in the Columbia Gorge (WA side) – this is an area that I am particularly excited about.  Some wines from the Puget Sound AVA too… no comment on those.  I tasted a lot of wines today that were okay.  And just okay.  Then there were others that were awesome.  Wines that are varietally representative but also show a sense of place, are balanced and exude something special.  I never started writing this blog to start plugging or reviewing; I started it just to make myself write stuff.  I gotta mention some kick-ass WA wines though:  JB Neufeld.  Justin makes awesome Cabernet.  Especially the 2008 Dubrul Vineyard.  Hot damn, it’s good.  Tranche Cellars.  I haven’t had a wine from them that I don’t like.  My favorites today were the newly released Rosé and Cab Franc.  I’m a bad, bad wineragazza and don’t know the vintage of the Cab Franc…  Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars makes great Rhone style reds.  Domaine Pouillon from the Gorge makes a Gewurz that rocks and Katydid – also a Rhone blend.  I could go on, but I won’t.

Meeting the people and getting involved rocks.  Rajat Parr was there; I admire that guy to no end so chatting him up for a few made my day.  That, on top of tasting a few true gems made for a pretty great first Taste Washington experience.  I said it earlier today and I’ll say it again, you know you’re spoiled when a “long day” consists of tasting wine for five hours…