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Taste Washington 2017: Food and Wine Pairing Glimpse

Taste Washington, is THE EVENT to attend if you are a “foodie” and enjoy wine. Like I mean as soon as the Taste Washington tickets go on sale in December buy them! Participants have a giant selection of some of the best Washington wines to taste.  In addition, spectacular cuisine is showcased by some of the region’s best caterers and restaurants.  For general admission you have three hours to indulge in this event that also includes beer, chocolates and coffee.  For VIP admission, tack on an extra, less crowded hour to sip and savor some of Washington’s finest like Figgins, Betz, Doubleback, Tom Douglas, AQUA and more.

In years past, I have found the Taste Washington experience to be overwhelming:  too much good food, too many choices of exquisite wine, and oh,  so little amount of time to sample and enjoy in a single afternoon!  My previous media assignments of trying  Washington white wines was challenging but I felt that I met my goal.  I tried 60+ Washington white wines but as I did not swallow most of what I was tasting, doing the standard sip and spit routine the whole time. This year my goal was to look for exceptional food and wine pairings.  A big hurdle to the afternoon was that I would not be spitting wine while trying to assess the food pairing nuances. I found some extraordinary examples of Washington wine and food pairing but only went through about 25% of the rows. Luckily Bean got food

pictures of the other rows.

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 I randomly selected food vendors and then tried to find the ultimate Washington wine pairing in the vicinity for their dish. Here are some of my favorite wine pairings of the afternoon:

Scout at Thompson Hotel (Seattle)

Scout Chicken Liver Terrine

Scout Chicken Liver Terrine

Anlemma Blanc de Noir

Anlemma Blanc de Noir

A complex treat consisting of Chicken liver terrine with citrus ash, compressed berries and almond crumble.  The predominant flavor of the chicken liver, savory and salty, was well balanced with the tart berry and slightly sweet crumble.  I spotted one of my favorite AVAs, the Columbia Gorge, pouring a selection of their wines and found two that were great with this dish.  The first was The Analemma 2012 Blanc de Noir Sparkling that, to be honest, probably paired with everything in greater Seattle.

Food pairing rule #1: When in doubt with what to pair with your food, you can almost never go wrong with a sparkling wine.
There was also a wonderful Analemma Gewurztraminer that was off dry and went great with the slight sweetness of the berries in Scout’s Chicken liver terrine as well as subsequent crab and shrimp pairings.

El Gaucho’s Aqua

AQUA - El Gaucho provided 5 different varieties of Pacific oysters on the half shell

AQUA – El Gaucho Pacific oysters on the half shell

Array Cellars 2012 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay

Array Cellars 2012 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay

El Gaucho’s Aqua provided a great selection of five different delicious Pacific oysters on the half shell and a savory New England clam chowder.  I did not attempt to pair the chowder but I did get a plate full of oysters to do my taste comparison for pairing.  While waiting in line the wine pourer at Array Cellars called out to me that she had heard that her  Washington Chardonnay wines were great to pair with the oysters.  She was pouring a 2013 Washington State Chardonnay, a 2013 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay and a 2013 Dijon Clone Chardonnay from Otis Harlan Vineyard from Array Cellars. All were superior Chardonnay wines but the best pairing with the oysters was the Array Cellars Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay had refreshing lemon notes, great acidity and was grounded with a minerality that complemented the fresh and briny oysters.

Abbe Vineyard 2014 Reserve Chardonnay

Abbe Vineyard 2014 Reserve Chardonnay

I also tried pairing with several Sauvignon blancs and Pinot Gris but they were disappointing. One of the main keys to wine pairing  with oysters is high acidity. The Sauvignon blancs and Pinot Gris that I tried, just didn’t have the acidity or minerality to make the kind of pairing that elevated the wine nor the oysters.With my last oyster I was delighted to find another great wine that paired well; the 2014 Reserve Chardonnay from Abbe Vineyard and Winery.

In hindsight, I wish I had tried pairing the oysters with Bainbridge Wineries Madeline Angevine. It was the winery’s 20th year at Taste Washington and Madeleine Angevine is grown in the Puget Sound AVA.

Food Pairing Rule #2: What grows together, goes together.
  Madeleine Angevine wines are known to be excellent wines to pair with oysters.

 La Petit Cochon

Arbor Crest Avansino Red Blend

Arbor Crest Avansino Red Blend

Le Petit Cochon Chefs serving Lamb Head Fritters

Le Petit Cochon Chefs serving Lamb Head Fritters

My favorite food pairing of the day started with La Petit Cochon’s Snoqualmie Valley Lamb Head Fritter served with apricot jam, spiced pecan vin, harissa yogurt and punjabi cabbage.  Lamb is not usually my favorite food but this was a morsel of scrumptiousness. Fortunately, Arbor Crest Cellars was right next to them and they had three Washington red wines that paired well with with the Lamb Head Fritter.  The Avansino Columbia Valley Red Blend and the 2014 Five Vineyards Cab Sauvignon were good with the fritters but what I really thought was fantastic was the Arbor Crest Cellars 2014 Four Vineyards Merlot.

The richness of the lamb meat paired best a wine with some tannins to cut some of the fattiness of the dish, which all of these wines had. It was the fruit forwardness of the Merlot that enhanced the Lamb Fritter. Blueberry, raspberry, currant and plum notes in the Merlot all enhanced and complemented the apricot jam and spiced pecan vin while contrasting the slight gaminess of the lamb.

Uli’s Famous Sausage

This is Uli's Famous Sausage stand. They had a hard time keeping up with demand

Uli’s Famous Sausage stand. Couldn’t keep up with demand

El Corazon Tiger's Blood Carmenére

Tiger’s Blood Carmenére

I am generally not a big sausage fan, but this next food and wine pairing ended up being another of my favorites of the day.   Uli’s Sausage stand were serving several types of his sausage but was having a hard time keeping up with the demand! 

His Butifarra, a sweet chorizo sausage made with red wine and cinnamon, and served with a marinara sauce, was excellent in and of itself. However, when paired with El Corazon Winery‘s 2014 Tigers Blood Carmenére from Walla Walla Valley it was truly elevated to another level. Although Carmenére is a Spanish wine, this peppery wine was a great accompaniment to the Italian spices of the marinara sauce and the sweet sausage.  The sweetness of the sausage tamed the heat that some find too much in a Carmenére to drink by itself.

Anthony’s Pier 66

This last favorite pairing, I did opposite from the others,  I found the wine and looked for the food choice to match up to it. There is much controversy over the correct order to do food and wine pairing: food first or wine first. The answer usually depends on whom you ask, a chef or a sommelier 😛 

Anthony's Pier 66 Shrimp and Grits

Anthony’s Pier 66 Shrimp and Grits

Emily Parsons, Eagle Harbor Reserve Viognier

Emily Parsons, Eagle Harbor Reserve Viognier

This time I started with Eagle Harbor Wine Companys 2015 Viognier.  I loved this Washington wine just in the glass and fully intend to stock some in my wine cellar. Heavily aromatic and full of citrus and tropical fruit flavors, I knew I loved it alone but I was curious how it would pair with food.

So, I took a second taste and paired it with Anthony’s Pier 66 Shrimp and Grits: Excellent! The plump shrimp were slight sweet and spiced. The grits were nice and creamy, a great texture contrast to the crunch of the shrimp coating. The Eagle Harbor Viognier was a natural pairing with the shrimp. How many times have you had tropical fruits and citrus served with your shrimp? What really made the Viognier work with the whole dish was its rich mouth feel to complement the creamy grits.

Food Pairing Rule #3: Find flavors and textures that either match or contrast.
  A very crisp and citrusy Pinot Gris may have worked here that really cleared the palate for that next taste for oh so creamy grits and sweet, succulent shrimp.

Chateau Ste Michelle food wine pairing menu

Chateau Ste Michelle menu

Chateau Ste Michelle food wine pairing Taste Washington 2017

Chateau Ste Michelle food wine pairing

Chateau Ste. Michelle

Several smart Washington wineries provided the food and wine pairing for you. I thought it would be kind of cheating of me to use them as examples, but I made an exception for Chateau Ste. Michelle. They were celebrating their 50th anniversary so went all out. In a special section, set aside for them Chateau Ste Michelle provided the opportunity to taste their collaboration wines: Col Solare, Eroica and Tenet. In addition, they had prepared a wonderful food and wine pairing experience.  Chateau Ste Michelle poured four of their wines; two whites and two reds. The four foods they paired with them were exquisite and the pairings were spot on.

Conclusion

Were my pairing choices the best pairings of the event? No, I did pairings by proximity. There was no way I could taste every probable wine match in the row that I located a dish, much less 10 rows. These are just some of my favorite pairings that I did come across. I was severely limited by time and capacity. I only was able to cover a few rows. If you are wondering why I didn’t pair any desserts, I never made it to that end of the event center, silly me!

At the very end of the event I scrambled to try a few wines of interest still left and those of persistent winemakers. I want to say I appreciated AniChe Cellar‘s Bombadil, all of the wines of J. Bookwalter especially the 2014 Suspense Blend, Eagle Creek’s Adler Weiss, Silvara‘s Malbec, Wilridge‘s Nebbiolo, Pontin del Roza Winery‘s 2015 Chenin Blanc and Eye of the Needle‘s Moment Rose.  There were so many wine I wanted to try but for lack of time I was unable.  

All in all it is the best Washington wine event of the year for me and it is so worth every penny. I know what I want for Christmas next year when Taste Washington tickets go on sale. Tickets to the Grand Tasting truly is the perfect gift for the hedonist in your life.

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