Taste Washington, which touts itself as the "nation's largest single-region wine and food event," took place at CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle on March 23 and 24.
I was able to attend the first day's four-hour tasting session, which featured about 225 Washington wineries and 60 restaurants in what some might describe as our state's version of organized food and wine overload.
Between the noshing, schmoozing and the hobnobbing with as many wine-industry people as I could manage, I also made plenty of mental notes on wines that I saw and tasted.
First, a request of the wineries: Please bring a white wine, if you make one. My goal was to spend the first hour or so sampling whites and then switch to reds, but after discovering that many wineries were only pouring red wines, I simply gave up.
Most wine enthusiasts, including me, like a little variety among their varietals and it would have been nice to see more at the event.
Second, the 2010 red wines are in full-swing release right now, and all of the wines I tried from that vintage are drinking wonderfully. Because it was a cooler growing year, 2010 is a different animal than vintages past, with more compact, understated fruits, great acidity levels and excellent food-pairing potential.
Keeping in mind that there were hundreds of wines I wasn't able to taste, here are my personal "best of the best" choices:
Best white wine: Forgeron Cellars 2011 Chardonnay (about $27) - Winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla has crafted an exquisite chardonnay with Fuji apple, pear and citrus flavors that shine with a scant blending of orange muscat. There's also a lingering creamy note with a hint of brioche on the finish.
Best rosé: Treveri Cellars Non-Vintage Sec Rosé (about $18) - I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but winemaker Juergen Grieb has produced yet another stunning, affordable wine with this sparkling rosé. Tangy strawberry and bright citrus flavors combine with perfectly balanced sweetness to create this must-try, coral-hued sparkler.
Best red wine: Gilbert Cellars 2010 Left Bank (about $20) - How winemaker Justin Neufeld was able to create this Bordeaux-blend masterpiece and get it out the door for $20 is beyond me. Intense floral aromatics may tempt you to dab it on for cologne, and the reserved dark fruits are capped with nuances of vanilla and toasted oak. Hands down, the best red wine I tasted at this price point.
Next week: More recommendations from Taste Washington.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.