Plus One at the WA Wine Trade & Media Tasting

If there was ever a time when I felt like a total grifter, it was when I tagged along with my fiancé to the Washington Wine Trade & Media Tasting last week. This event was for industry only, and even though I do work in the industry, I certainly wasn’t on the invite list. Frank had received an invitation, and I was ecstatic to join.

Photo courtesy of the WA State Wine Commission

Climbing the stairs of the Four Seasons, I had hoped to casually saunter in like I owned the place. I was determined to take meticulous notes and have genuine well-formed opinions about the wines. Alas, when I walked through the conference doors, I was a little intimidated. By the third or fourth booth, I started to get the hang of it.

The event consisted of 75+ Washington wineries, each showcasing their best examples of Washington fruit. I started the event with whites first– because I’m not an animal. Below were some of my favs:

’20 Cairdeas Winery Nellie Mae White Blend ($36) 62% Viognier 38% Roussanne- smooth with floral and tropical notes, very easy drinking. Compliments soft cheeses, especially when enjoyed on your patio.

’17 Syncline Winery Gruner Veltliner – Bright, different, with peach and orange blossom and pleasant tropical notes. Perfect for sushi or whenever you want to try something new.

’21 Airfield Estates Sauvignon Blanc ($17) High acid with bright lime, light floral notes, and a refreshing, long-lasting finish. Drink with anything that compliments summer.

Moving onto the reds, I got to learn about a couple of new (to me) wineries. Most notably, Aquilini, the biggest owner of the land on Red Mountain. Aquilini is the parent company that umbrellas several other labels, each representing Red Mountain at different price tiers. Tasting the line-up of red blends and Cabs. from each label was like drinking a line-up of black and red berry pies. Each wine was uniquely rich, with a full body and a lingering spicy, smooth finish.

Aquilini doesn’t have a tasting room yet. In the meantime, you can find their wines on their website. I especially enjoyed the ’19 10,000 Hours Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) and the ’17 Aquilini Cabernet Sauvignon ($110.)

Themed tables, like “WA Meets Rhone” and “Unusual Suspects,” each featured a dozen or so wines that proved how dynamic and exceptional Washington wine can be. Below are some of my standouts for the themed tables:

’14 Côte Bonneville, Syrah rich flavor, integrated tannin with deep dark fruit flavor and white pepper. Perhaps too good to share.

’18 Rolling Bay Winery, Graciano ($45)– subtle tannins with perfumed notes of violets and mulberries. I had never tried a Graciano before, so I will definitely compare all future ones to this.

’18 Archibald James Wine & Ciderworks, Petit Sirah ($36) Smooth, with dark plum and dried fruits, chocolate, and warming spice notes laced throughout the palette.

By the end of the event, Frank and I were feeling pretty damn good. We had helped ourselves to a couple of laps around the attractive charcuterie display, but hunger loomed over us. For dinner, we chose the highly reputable Korean-fusion restaurant Joule.

Everything sounded delicious on the menu, and our bartender/server was very informative. I ended up ordering the Smitten cocktail, made with gin, elderflower, lime, and grapefruit. Frank ordered a glass of the ’19 Idilico Albariño.

The food menu was tapas style, so we ordered several small dishes, with each one coming out in a timely and organized fashion. We started with the kimchi trio and Chinese scallion pancake. The kimchi trio was great, featuring radish, napa, and rhubarb kimchi. The scallion pancake was served with sides of crème fraîche, salmon roe, and spicy chili.

Moving on, we shared the bone marrow and beef tartare, both ridiculously decadent. My mouth is literally watering at the thought of that buttery, savory bone marrow atop its accompanied fresh crusty bread. We then moved on to the spicy rice cake, served with chorizo and mackerel.

I don’t know what my favorite was, I guess I’ll have to go back to figure it out.

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