I had a great opportunity to taste some amazing Washington wines at an event in Anacortes on March 16.
Compass Wines co-owner Doug Charles orchestrated the event, which benefitted the College of Veterinary Medicine and Wine Business Management programs at Washington State University.
Charles must have finagled, begged, cajoled and bribed (just kidding, of course) the 16 wineries in attendance, because they truly represented the crème de la crème of Washington.
The tasting card featured Andrew Will, Bunchgrass, Cougar Crest, ded.reckoning, Doubleback, Figgins, Hightower, L'Ecole No. 41, Leonetti, Lullaby, Merry Cellars, Rulo, Seven Hills, Walla Walla Vintners, Whitestone and Woodward Canyon.
How's that for an impressive lineup?
With the small number of wineries to peruse (versus the astronomical 225 at last month's Taste Washington), the afternoon event proved to be leisurely and enjoyable with ample time to chat with winemakers and winery representatives.
It almost goes without saying that all of the wines I tried were incredible, but there were a handful of personal favorites that really stood out.
Hightower Cellars Riley Pi 2010 Cabernet Franc (about $20) - Here's a classic, true-to-the-varietal cabernet franc from Tim and Kelly Hightower that might make you think you're drinking something twice-the-price from Loire or Bordeaux. Subtle flavors of sundried cherry, black olive, herbs and white pepper make it an ideal candidate for prime rib.
Lullaby 2011 Blanc de Virginie (about $23) - Reminiscent of a fine Sancerre, this sauvignon blanc from Walla Walla winemaker Virginie Bourque is undeniably one of the finest Washington white wines I've tasted ... ever. Dazzling, steely acidity shines from the tropical pineapple and lemon zest flavors, with a trailing note of rounder stone fruits that linger endlessly on the tongue. Exceptional!
Rulo Winery Non-Vintage WCF Red (about $25) - Kurt and Vicki Schlicker have crafted a gem of a red wine at an insanely low price that demands a case purchase. Blended from their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Syrah, it opens with a highly intoxicating aroma of violets, sweet cedar and dark fruits, while flavors of black plum and berries explode on the palate along with a touch of toasted vanilla and integrated tannins.
Doubleback 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $90) - Proprietor and former WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe and winemaker Chris Figgins team up to produce an unforgettable wine at a mind-numbing price that makes me wish I had more disposable income. It's opulent and rich, with intense black cherry and cassis flavors and a finish that, despite its youth, is surprisingly velvety.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.