Friday, April 22, 2011

Taste Washington's Dirty Little Secret: The Vineyards

This year was my first Taste Washington! experience, well, primarily because it's my first year back in Washington after five years in Oregon.  Makes sense, eh?  Clive was well-versed in the wonderfulness of this particular event, so I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to attend and see what the hub-bub was all about.  I spent many days agonizing over my approach to the event.  With over 200 wineries and 60 restaurants, there was no way I could come even close to tackling them all lest I stumble out the door never to be seen again.  Should I take the Disneyland approach and start in the back corner of the room, opposite the crowds?  Should I only visit wineries that I had never tried before?  Should I connect with old winery cronies such as Heather from Terra Blanca, Neil from Cooper, Frank, from Picazo 7Seventeen, and Wendi from Col Solare?  Halfway through my deliberation, my friend Paul agreed to attend with me so my mission was clear:  show him the best that Washington wine has to offer.  It certainly wouldn't be hard with the cast of characters at the event.

Gametime came...and Paul couldn't make it.  Don't worry, friends, he wasn't just blowing me off for booze and hookers; he legitimately couldn't make it so it was time to rethink the strategy.  As I flipped through the brochure, a section caught my eye:  TASTE! The Vineyards.

Hmm, tell me more oh magical brochure of wine.

"Try a new approach to wine tasting.  This area is organized by vineyard, so you can compare and contrast the wines that several different wineries have produced from a single source," it whispered seductively into my ear.

Klipsun, Sagemoor, Tapteil, Upland...damn, these jokers weren't fooling around.

A new game plan was solidified; taste a variety of wines from the best vineyards in the state.  Swirl, sniff, sip, spit, and move on to the next.  Maybe swallow a little every second or third taste.  Have I mentioned how tough of a life it is to be a wine blogger?

Why is this Taste Washington's dirty little secret?  It's actually not dirty at all, but the secret is that there were no lines whatsoever in the vineyard area of the event, despite being near the front of the room.  While every Tom, Dick, and Sally were elbowing their way to get a sip of the awesome Betz Syrah, I sashayed right on up to the Klipsun table and had the place to myself.

Klipsun, Chinook Indian Jargon for Sunset, is one of the preeminent vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA.  You may know it as one of the primary sources of fruit for Quilceda Creek's run of 100-point Cabs back in the early 2000's.  From my count, at least 37 wineries used their fruit for the 2009 vintage, all of them notable in one way or another.  I had the opportunity to taste 5 different Klipsun wines at this event, all were amazing in different ways.  Don't ask me what they were, I didn't take notes and swallowed more than I should have.  Point being...awesome interaction with the pourer, awesome wine...no crowd.  Next I saddled over to Sagemoor, then Tapteil.  Same experience.

Interested in another protip for Taste Washington 2012?  Winery Association Tables.  Again, smaller crowds, more wine.  I spent more than my fair share of the event at the Red Mountain AVA Alliance and Horse Heaven Hills Wine Growers tables.  That was when I wasn't chowing down on some great food with Picazo7Seventeen or these awesome little mini-cupcakes from The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co.  The Pancakes n' Bacon cupcake is to die for, no joke.  

By the end of the event, I was well satiated and did have the opportunity to connect with Heather, Neil, Frank, and Wendi.  I even got to skulk around with Clive a bit, and friends of the Blog - Andrea and Craig - showed up before I left.  I'd had my fill of wine by that time, as you can tell by my wine lips.  After reading this are you sad that you missed Taste Washington?  Well, don't fret Oregon friends, because I have a deal for you!  Taste Washington is coming to you...Portland style.  Sunday, May 1.  Do it.

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