The Seattle Wine Awards Grand Tasting is the penultimate event of the year to enjoy and celebrate our state’s spectacular and growing wine industry. This was an opportunity to taste the new releases of my favorite wineries as well a chance to try many wines from those vintners that I have yet to visit. In fact 100 winemakers were pouring a vast array of outstanding wines at this Washington wine tasting event. The complete list of winners can be found at Seattle Wine Awards web site.
The Rainier Club in downtown Seattle was the location of the Grand Tasting and it a treat. The Seattle Rainier Club is incredibly elegant and infused with Washington State art and history. Seattle Wine Awards took full advantage of the space available and spread the wine tasting tables through out three rooms. Needless to say, given the amount of wines and limited time one could only begin to taste a portion of the winning wines.
Initially, I limited myself to first going to those wineries that I had not tasted yet. On the top of my list was Daven Lore Winery, that was highly recommended by a coworker (thanks Tammy!). I met Adrienne Mills who is in charge of marketing and public relations as well as wine maker Gordon Taylor (who can be recognized across the room by his distinctive cowboy hat). Their 2007 Red Table wine won a silver in the 20-35 dollar range for red proprietary blends and their 2007 syrah won a double gold. I enjoyed both these wines. Their logo is very unique and is an actual petrographic design found in their area.
Across the room from Daven Lore was Gilbert Cellars. I have had some of their wine before and have enjoyed it ,but this time Sean Gilbert was pouring a wonderful new rosé, his 2009 Rosé of Mourvedre from Wahluke Slope. This Washington rosé wine won a silver and their 2007 estate Malbec won a gold.
Upon checking in with Bean and Nancy in the media room, I found Kyra Baelocher pouring her 2008 Kyra Wines Pinot Noir made solely from Washington grapes. This lovely wine won a silver. It is evident that with the wide variety of microclimes here in this state almost any variety of wine grape can be grown here with great results, with few exceptions.
Making it back to the “D” section of the wine pouring (D as in alphabet, not in rank) I tried DaMa Wines double gold 2008 Syrah. Yum! It was at this point that my plan to stay with the ‘new’ fell apart. Sheila and Jeff Jirka of Davenport Cellars plied me with their gold winning Continuity, a red Bordeaux style that I am very familiar with. Delicious. Then I spied Darren Des Voigne with my favorite syrah of the evening, the Des Voigne Cellars Montreaux from Columbia Valley. He also poured me a taste of the last of his amazing 2007 Sangiovese This wine was also a gold medal winner and according to Darren, his 2008 will be even better. I was then given a taste of “The Duke,” Des Voigne’s Red proprietary blend of Zinfandel, Cab Franc, Lemberger, Syrah and I think also petite syrah?. Darren said of this Washington Zinfandel blend,
“it tastes and smells of Walla Walla.”
At this point (as evident by my notes) I needed to extract myself from the “D” named wineries and partake in some delicious Rainier Club food.
Back in the media room with the great food in hand, I was poured a taste of the double gold winning Irlandes Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. This wine was truly wonderful and I am sure Nancy will blog about this as she liked it so much. This Washington wine tasting experience was made all the better for me by the camaraderie of the other bloggers who made an effort to share excellent wines and winemakers with each other. This is how I found out about a great Jones of Washington and met Victor Palencia who poured an amazing Double Gold winning 2009 Estate Pinot Gris. This was not your average pinot gris and at only 14 dollars a bottle I was smitten. I will be looking for this in the wine shops in Seattle this summer. This particular Pinot Gris had a higher RS then usual and was more fruit forward than most wines of this variety. Another blogger, Maureen Nolan of NW Real Estate and Wine, who turned me on to Bainbridge Island wineries in the past brought over Alphonse de Klerk from Rolling Bay Winery. This Washington red wine won the Double gold for their 2007 Manitou Red. I highly recommend making the day trip to Bainbridge Island to check out all their wineries.
And finally, I got to meet Kirsten Mitchell of Social Media Vanguard. We definitely had similar palates and she was wonderful enough to introduce me to my favorite bargain wine of the evening, Latah Creek‘s 2009 Riesling. This lovely vintage won a Double gold and is combination from their two Riesling Vineyards. Familigia Vineyards in George and Hyatt in Zillah. This is on the sweet side and retails for around nine dollars a bottle. I LOVED this wine and determined that it only came in single servings (ie. bottle for myself!). Cheers Kirsten! This winery is located in Spokane so look them up if you get out that way.
Back on the floor and still intrigued by Jones of Washington Pinot Gris, I went and tried their silver awarded Chardonnay. I really enjoyed this wine as well and asked Victor specifics about this vintage. Fifty percent is aged in stainless tanks and the other in fifty percent new Hungarian oak containers. These wooden containers that are twice the size of regular barrels and according to Victor were important in giving body and nuances to the wine without the wood overwhelming the fruit.
Another amazing wine that is at the top of my list is Upland Estates Ampeli Muscat Ice wine. With its 24.7% residual sugar it might need a diabetic coma warning label but wow what a wine. It was amazing in both it flavor and the fact that it was pulled from vines that were planted in 1917, some of the oldest grapes in the state that were planted by W.B. Bridgeman. The label is beautiful with a picture of these old vines. Gold winner for sure!
As I was into the dessert wines I took this opportunity to try another special wine: Olsen Estates‘ Golden Berry Select Riesling. This wine was made from botrycised grapes that were individually picked by hand and made into a double gold winning Washington dessert wine. Production is limited so grab this soon if you like wines like Sauternes. At this juncture I spied Mike Sharadin from Northwest Totem Cellars pouring his wonderful Salish, a white proprietary blend that is under 20 dollars and one of my favorites to have with spicy foods. I really like Northwest Totem Cellars wines as well as their awesome NW style labeling.
The last new winery for my tasting was Whidbey Island Winery . I med both Leah Waaramaki, the assistant wine maker and wine master, Gregory Osenbach. They were pouring one of my favorite varietals, a 2008 Roussanne from Horse Heaven that won a gold. It was a great pleasure to talk to these folks and I look forward to a trip to Whidbey this summer to learn more about their winery.
At this point the night was winding down and I wanted to revisit favorites of years past. Don Wood‘s Riesling from Icicle Ridge Winery is always a top performer. I love this winery as a destination and their philosophy of selling an experience rather than selling wine resonates with me. I also want to thank the Mike Andrews from Coyote Canyon Winery who had a huge variety of great wines to share. Bean and I will be doing a follow up on this winery soon. I also appreciated the wines from Walter Dacon, Delille Cellars (great Roussanne), Patterson Cellars (hi Stephanie- both great reds and whites this year), Trey Busch from Sleight of Hand and Robert Smasne from Smasne Cellars, McCrea winery, and finally Leslie and Rod Balsley from William Church Winery.
My biggest regret is that my palate gave out as did the time. So many wineries I missed, too many to mention that I hope to see at the wine bloggers conference at the end of this month.
Bean addressed the low attendance at this event which was heartbreaking as I wish to see it succeed. But as a participant at this year’s Seattle Wine Awards, I had an amazing time talking with winemakers and actually being involved with multiple dialogs between the winemakers. It is my favorite social event of the year. Just wish it lasted for a few days instead of a single afternoon.