In this seminar, part of the Taste Washington Education Day, wines from Col Solare, Cote Bonneville, EFESTE, Gramercy Cellars, Grand Reve Vintners, and Woodward  Canyon Winery were tasted by a panel of wine experts comprised of Doug Frost, Joshua Greene, and Michael Teer. Bruce Schoenfeld of Travel and Leisure moderated and provided comic relief in a sometimes serious discussion regarding whether these wineries deserve the attention they have received.

To begin, let’s consider the word, icon. Here is Webster’s definition:

Icon:  1.a. an image: representation. b. a simile or symbol

When Shayn Bjornholm of the Washington Wine Commission asked, “How are you defining icon?” the panel indicated that they are asking for something to be representative of a certain place. Structure is also crucial. Wines either have type-icity or they don’t. It’s not like it’s at the top of the ladder, it’s beyond. It stands for something. Which led to an interesting question:

If a Zinfandel tastes like a Syrah, can it be good?

In fact, ask Mike what people are looking for when they come into his store and ask for a Syrah, and he’ll tell you that there is some confusion. Not only that, let’s consider what grapes are likely to be icons. We’re finding Syrah impossible to sell, even though Washington Syrah is spectacular. So does that make it an unpopular icon?

Okay, so there may not be a lot of agreement here about what is meant when referring to a wine as iconic. However, the panelists and winemakers in the room all waxed poetic whenever the wines produced in Washington during the 80’s were mentioned. These wines were described as brighter and riper, offering more acidity. Marty Clubb of L’Ecole N° 41 was in the audience and pointed out that Washington’s distinguishing mark is acidity, and it helps the wines age. According to Mike, people now understand that acid in wine is part of the food and wine equation, and more consumers tolearate acidity in their wine.

Bruce wanted to guide the conversation past the term icon and talk about these wines wanting to be the next Cayuse and to be ambitious. After all, these are statement wines. That may be, but then aren’t we really talking about aspiring to be a cult wine?

While the panel wasn’t entirely in agreement about what makes a wine iconic, there is one thing everyone in the room agreed upon – that Washington is making some of the best wines in the world. Moving on, we can now discuss the specific wines presented during the seminar. That review will follow in a separate post.