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Washington uncorks its best at Taste Washington!
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Washington uncorks its best at Taste Washington!

by John Griffin - SGN Contributing Writer

Taste of Washington
March 27-28
Qwest Field Events Center


Once again, Taste Washington! provided ample evidence that Washington wines are leaving other domestic products in the dust. Nearly all wines will need to learn to stand in the shadow of Washington wines, in my opinion. Hosted by the Washington Wine Commission in the cavernous Qwest Field Events Center, the event showcases not only the excellent result of flowering viticulture in our state, but a wide variety of foods as well, provided by area producers and restaurants. The major drawback of the event was that I was only able to sample a very small number of the available offerings.

While it was my sincere desire to ask for only the best of the best, instead I requested the best value from each exhibitor before indulging myself with their finest. The disappointment was that few of the tables could offer anything for under $20, but several varieties did give quality without completely sacrificing economy. All of these folks have websites that will give notes on their wines. I feel that imagination plays too big a role in many of those compositions. To put much stock in terms more specific than spicy, musky, tangy, etc., may leave you with false expectations. Form your own opinions.

Covey Run was the winery that I felt was an easy choice for a best value. At nine dollars a bottle across the board, the examples they offered are all bargains. I thought the best at their table was the 2007 Chardonnay, a tasty blend. Covey Run's '08 100% Riesling is another low-price, high-quality wine.

Tagaris Winery's Eliseo Silva line got my top marks for quality while still being within the realm of affordability, for special occasions at least. These wines can hold their own against the most prestigious vintages. The 2007 Merlot is among the best wines it has ever been my pleasure to taste. Its inviting bouquet and full, warm, fruity flavor would make a beautiful companion for any good meat dish, but it's almost a shame not to enjoy it alone. Their '07 Syrah is another treat not to be missed. The third variety offered was their Arete vineyard Riesling, also a 2007 vintage. The characteristic mineral quality one expects from a Riesling is subdued in this wine, not dominating nor distracting from the taste of the fruit, as is so often the case. In the 10-20 dollar range, these wines had to be mentioned in the best value category.

I made a special effort to drop in at South Seattle Community College's table again this year. Their Oenology Department continues to shine with the amazing wine produced from grapes that were passed over by commercial wineries, and this year the Culinary Arts Department's delicious teriyaki was served as a perfect companion. If wine appeals to you as a profession, you can be confident that this area offers some of the best in that, too.

I was lured into KIRO's charity ring toss. Proceeds benefit a program that gives people a chance to get on track in the wine and restaurant industry. My five dollars netted me one of my favorites from the wines I sampled at this year's event: a $20 bottle of Davenport Cellars' 2007 Syrah. All of Davenport's exhibition selections were at least as good.

There's no point in listing every wine I sampled, but I want to mention the ones that made the best impressions, without regard to cost. Cougar Crest Winery's multiple-award-winning 2007 Dedication Three is a complex blend Cabernet that offers everything the wine lover looks for at $20 a bottle. Eleganté cellars' 2007 Sangiovese has a complex fruity flavor and a fresh finish at $28 a bottle. Finally, my highest rating this year goes to Esther Bricques Winery's 2006 Ice Syrah, a rare, refreshing treat at $35 a bottle. It's a little sweeter than my usual picks, but this variety is the exception that proves the rule.

I suggest that everyone visit the Commission's website at www.washingtonwine.org to learn more and to watch for wine tasting events and festivals. Also, visit Woodinville Wine Country in person and on the web (www.woodinvillewinecountry.com) and tour the vineyards' and wineries' tasting rooms to achieve a delightful education on this pleasant subject. Control your love of wine, don't let it control you, and remember that organic wines don't age well. As for economy, you can save a little on even the very best by remembering the wine clubs, wine passports, and mix and match discounts on case purchases.

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