I’m not quite sure how this happened, but over the course of two days I tasted through a few hundred wines. I know, I know — you can’t do that. You burn your palate out. You’ll shoot your eye out. You’re now the vegetable monster. I get it. I wasn’t “tasting” these wines the way a highly credentialed sommelier would be. I know. Please reserve your snarky comments for things I don’t understand. Here’s what I do understand: I had fun.
Taste of Washington was an amazing event. Of course, the wines were killer. In talking with Jay, Gordon, and Scott, we agreed that none of us, who all use the five-star rating system on Vivino, tasted anything we’d give less than three-point-five stars to. I also tasted more five-star wines, what Jay calls “goose bump wines,” than perhaps ever before in one sitting. That’s ridiculous. Hundreds of wines and nothing that was a disappointment? Nothing? Unreal. But maybe even more fun for me than the great wine, a luxury I’ve come to take for granted in life, were the people.
This was where my tasting so many wines came in. I bounced from booth to booth, looking for smiling people and short lines. I talked to winemakers. I asked them questions, shook their hands, learned about what they do. I talked to owners who had gambled life’s savings on winery dreams. Some had made it big with a 100-point score, while others continued to struggle, perhaps happily. All seemed pleased to be there. All took the time to talk to me. All were fun to chat with. The wine in my glass, while excellent and fun to sip in the presence of its creator, was as it should be: a compliment to a greater experience. In all of my years traveling and writing about wine, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun than I did this weekend. It was just that great.
The day had begun with “A Rhone of our Own,” a master-somm lead seminar in which I learned a ton about Syrah (and tasted some great ones as well). I learned a lot about why most Syrah producers leave the stems on, lots about Rhone Valley and also the Columbia Valley and sub-AVA’s were Syrah is grown. I learned more about natural yeast, and I met the man who in the 1980’s brought Syrah to the state of Washington to begin with. Pretty cool stuff.
From there, I spent the day walking around, tasting wine and talking to the artists who created it, or the people who had left corporate jobs and other pursuits in the hopes of being a part of the Washington wine movement. It was an honor to be around them, to hear their stories, and to share with them mine. I talked to many about distribution in Nebraska, and I hope to review wines from all of them in the years to come, including them in my Great American Sab Sauv Review and potentially even doing a focus on Washington in the near future. I also managed to collect a stack of business cards three inches thick and, from those kind enough to indulge my eccentricities, a heavy pocket full of branded wine keys to add to my collection. Their number was increased by one, the Chateau Ste. Michelle corkscrew Jay picked up for me on his visit the day before being one more addition to my cherished if heterodox collection. When I got home I spread them out on the kitchen counter to admire them, and I was flooded with memories.
The day ended with a crew of Vivino reviewers, freelance wine writers, and other assorted members of what Christine titled our “motley crew” headed over to Ivars for a view of the sound and some dinner. I needed a beer by then. We sat around, talking shop but also life, meeting one another for the first time or catching up with old friends. Of course, over time and after a second order of fish n’ chips, we started to get a little silly. You know how sometimes there’s a joke or television show or reference that you’ve known for so long it’s just part of you, and then you realize at some point that you’re in the company of a person who is entirely unaware of it? Well, that happened last night, and at the dinner table of a semi-swanky seafood place, I may have shown everyone this video, not on mute:
Sorry, not sorry? I wonder if that kid taking selfies with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl has ever seen this. Sure has come a long way from New Kids on the Block. (Again, please spare me your hate mail. I know JT was in the Backstreet Boys. Duh.) Anyway, our patient waitress dealt with our unbridled laughter as together we decided that #DIBs would be our new thing. Watch for it on Twitter. Again, this weekend was a ton of fun. I can’t thank Jay, Gordon, or Scott enough, nor could I ever repay Taste of Washington for having me. That said, I plan to try. Most of all, the winemakers deserve my gratitude — they give us all a reason to come together, and in times like these, that’s no small thing.
It had been an amazing day, an amazing event, and a ton of fun. Scanning back through my photos, I cringed at the though of how long they’re going to take to upload into Vivino. So for now, and for my readers, a quick hitter: Below are an assortment of labels from the very best wines I tasted on the second day. Let me know if you’ve loved any of them as much as I did.
We rode home on the ferry late at night, the bright lights of Seattle shimmering across the water in the wake of our mighty boat. It was, like so many of my trips to California’s wine country, such an outstanding experience that before I had left I was busy planning my return. My appreciation for and understanding of what Washington is doing with wine, and what makes their terroir, their winemakers, and their product special, had been heightened exponentially by this terrific exposure and glimpse into a truly special and beautiful world. I remember loving Washington State as a kid. Now, as an adult, I think I love it more profoundly. This weekend sure did help.
Photo courtesy of Gordon Thorne.
Cheers to having fun with great people, and to the role that wine plays in bringing us together,