The Seattle Wine Awards Grand Tasting was on Sunday, June 13th and featured almost 400 award winning Washington wines.  Every wine poured at the event was an award winner. For me, wine is not only a beverage but it is an experience. The Grand Tasting was not only about award winning wines but a fantastic wine experience of food, conversation and connections,  and Washington wine.


Held in the beautiful Rainier Club, the Seattle Wine Awards Grand Tasting offered a great buffet prepared by the Rainier Club chef. The buffet included beautiful artisan cheeses, a fine assortment of charcuterie and sliced meats, pasta and potato side dishes and freshly carved New York strip steak with three different sauces. Each of the three tasting areas was also stocked with cheese, breads and fruits, in addition to the main buffet.  Beautifully arranged, the food was a treat for the eyes, nose and mouth. Most importantly, the foods were selected to elevate the wine drinking experience, not overwhelm or compete with the wines available.

Seattle wine awards

Conversations at Seattle Wine Awards

Conversations and Connections

What is better than enjoying a great glass of wine? For me, it is sharing my love for the wine with others that “get it”. The wine lovers who craft the wine and the wine lovers who get the “aha” wine moments. I was delighted when Nancy was licking the inside of her glass to get every last drop of the Icicle Ridge Winery Riesling. I was impressed listening to Mike Sharadin, Northwest Totem Cellars, and other wine makers talk about how high Olsen Estates Winery has raised the bar for Washington dessert wines with their Golden Berry Select Riesling. Several times through out the event, wine makers, restaurateurs, sommeliers and the Joe Q. Public were telling me, “Oh my God!, have you tried this?!?”. It didn’t matter if they knew me or not. Wine lovers love to share their finds with other wine lovers!

Rod Balsey of William Church Winery knows that I am a fan of their wines so he introduced me to viticulturist Roger Gamache of Gamache Vineyards, the man behind the  much of the grapes that go into William Church wines. Roger is a fourth generation agriculturist. Until the 1980s, his family grew hops, then his father converted to wine grapes. Now Roger grows grapes for the Gamache Vintners, where his brother Bob is the wine maker,  as well as other award-winning Washington Wineries. Meeting the “man behind the grapes” gave me an opportunity to discuss his passion for his terrior of his land and how it influences the fruit. It’s rare at a tasting event to have  a conversation with a wine maker then be able to discuss the grapes with the grower and learn about his family’s passion about wine, but the Seattle Wine Awards made it possible.

McCrea Cellars won 50% of the awards in the White Rhone Styles category but I was covering red wines that day. That didn’t stop Susan Neel and I from having a great conversation about wine experience. We had a delightful time talking about how wine and music enhance our lives and how important humor is keeping us sane. I have attended many tasting events with Susan, but this was the first time we had the opportunity to sit down and actually have a conversation. Like a great food pairing, conversations can really elevate the whole wine experience.

Award winning Washington Wines

Did I mention there were some mighty tasty wines at the Seattle Wine Awards? With almost 400 wines being poured there was a wine for almost every palate. Here are some of my stand outs and surprises. Tasting events like these are about finding discoveries, new to me. One of the biggest surprises was the number of small western Washington coast wineries making some really terrific wines. Some of these were wineries I knew but  they were pouring wines new to me. Other wineries were an introduction to me:

Paul McBride

Paul McBride and Roger discussing the Gran Reves Collaboration I

Grand Reve Vintners Collaboration 1 – Although I have enjoyed other collaborations, this was my first tasting of the first collaboration wine. This gold medal wine is a beautiful and elegant example of a Washington Bordeaux blend.

Pleasant Hills Cellars Malbec and Tempranillo- This winery was new to me and my first taste made a big impression. The double gold winning Malbec really stood out amongst a competitive group of impressive Malbecs that day. Great depth and intensity on the Malbec as well as their bronze winning Tempranillo. I didn’t even know there was a winery in Carnation!

Camaraderie Cellars Grâce –This is another example of an elegant Washington red bordeaux blend, of all five varietals. Refined, with plush layers of fruit, wood and spice, all supported with velvety smooth tannins.

Rolling Bay Winery Manitou Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot are blended together to create an intriguing red wine full of character. That might not be the description you want to hear about an upcoming blind date, but it is a very good thing when it comes to this double gold award winning red wine. Spice and fruit have married well in this blend and it shows excellent balance. You can drink  it now or hold on to it for awhile.

Whidbey Island Winery Rosato – Rosé wines tend to be ignored at events like this and I admit, I would probably have ignored it as well but Ed insisted that I give their wines a try. This was actually my last wine of the day and what a way to end my day. This Rosato really earned their double gold. Even after drinking red wines for hours, this Rosato held its own, the flavors were subtle but delicious enough to demand and hold my attention. Off dry and delicate, this Rosato was a palate refresher.

This is just a small list of the new wines that captured my attention. Watch for Ed and Nancy’s posts and their impressions coming soon. What were the surprises and stand outs for you at the Seattle Wine Awards?