Experiencing Taste Washington 2023

The excitement amongst food and wine lovers was hard to hide as Taste Washington, the largest US single-region wine and food festival, returned to Seattle during March 6-13 after a three year pause. Taste Washington is an annual food & wine event that showcases the wines of Washington along with bites from some of the best chefs in the state. The event was first held in 1997, in conjunction with Washington Wine Month and it brings together the best wineries and restaurants in Washington for a Seattle weekend of wine tastings, food pairings, and culinary demonstrations.

Numerous events and activities occur during Taste Washington Wine Month and many like the Taste Washington Food and Wine main event in Seattle, are organized by the Washington State Wine Commission, a state agency that promotes the state’s wine industry.

This year’s Taste in Seattle was truly a return celebration of Taste Washington with festivities that included:

  • A number of Washington Winemaker dinners throughout the week at locations around the Seattle area.
  • “Pacific Standard”, the seafood-centric soirée that was held at The Admiral’s House in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood on Thursday, March 9.
  • The fun and upbeat “The New Vintage”, which took place at Block 41 in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood on Friday, March 10.
  • A selection of Seminars keep conversations about Washington Wines flowing in Downtown Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel on Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12.
  • The main event, The Grand Tasting, drew in a crowd on March 12th & 13th, with participants comprised of 224 wineries, 12 associations and wineries, and 47 restaurant and chef partners. The 2023 Grand Tasting saw over 7,000 attendees, including consumers, media and trade.
  • Brunch was served at both Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi and The Lakehouse at Lincoln Square in suburban Bellevue on Sunday, March 12.
  • The week long festivities ended with the casual “No Frills” at WithinSodo in south Seattle on Monday, March 13

The main and most popular event during Taste Washington week is the two-day Grand Tasting, which this year was choreographed for the first time by SE Productions.

With so many wineries, restaurants and other businesses present this year, it is hard to share everything from the Grand Tasting, but I wanted to share as much of the overall experience as possible.

Taste Washington’s Grand Tasting is a wonderful way to discover the wines of the state of Washington, and learn about the different grape varieties and wine styles produced in the region.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet winemakers, winery owners, chefs and restaurateurs as well as mingle and chat with other wine enthusiasts while experiencing the local food and wine pairings available in Washington.

Additionally, the event helps to promote and support the local food and wine industry in Washington State.

Indulge in the Best of Washington’s Wine and Cuisine.

The Grand Tasting is a true feast for the senses, cooking demonstrations, fantastic bites, plenty of wine to taste and lively conversations with the wineries and chefs present.

With so much to recap about this year’s Taste Washington Grand Tasting weekend, let’s get things started with:

A Glass of Wine….

Winemaker, Brian Rudin pouring Canvasback wines

Washington State is the second-largest wine producer in the United States, with over 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 1,000 wineries. The state is renowned for its high-quality red wines, particularly those made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah grapes, as well as its crisp, refreshing white wines made from Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. With so many wineries in the state, Taste Washington allows you the chance to slowly wandering through the aisles and select a few (or all if you are ambitious) of the wineries that grab your attention.

Always a favorite of mine, L’Ecole N° 41. Baker and Jean Ferguson were respected pioneers of the Washington State wine industry when they founded the Walla Walla winery in 1983.

It’s also a fun way to explore the state’s diverse wine regions and learn more about the people and stories behind the wines. One of the unique aspects of Taste Washington when it comes to wine, is the opportunity to taste and experience Washington State’s lesser-known wine regions. While the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley AVAs are perhaps the best-known, Washington State is home to a number of other AVAs that are producing exceptional wines, such as the Royal Slope AVA, the Candy Mountain AVA and one of the brand new AVAs, Goose Gap.

The Grand Tasting does a great job of introducing and promoting the diversity of Washington’s wine regions. Today, Washington State is home to now 20 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with its own distinctive terroir and microclimate.

Sean Boyd, Owner and Winemaker at Rotie Cellars

Another exciting aspect of the Taste Washington Grand Tasting, is the doors it opens to connect with the winemakers and winery owners. Being able to talk with the faces behind the labels allows Washington wine enthusiasts the opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for the art and science of winemaking, ask questions to gain insights from the experts while sampling a wide array of varietals and blends.

Taste Washington is truly a celebration of the people and stories behind the wines produced in Washington. A tight knit community, the wine industry is a passionate and dedicated group of individuals who all have fascinating stories to tell. From fourth-generation winemakers to newcomers who are pushing the boundaries of winemaking, there’s a rich tapestry of history and innovation that is shaping the state’s wine industry.

Todd Bernave and Jason Fox, Co-owners and Winemakers of Lagana Cellars.

More Washington Wine Highlights….

Snoqualmie Valley’s Pearl and Stone Wine Co. and William Grassie Wine Estates

Attending a large wine tasting event like Taste Washington can be an memorable experience for novice wine lovers and experienced enthusiasts alike. One of the best things about these events is the chance that it gives you to discover small boutique local wineries that you may not have the chance to visit otherwise. For me, seeing a number of my local and hometown Snoqualmie Valley wineries such as Pearl and Stone Wine Co. and William Grassie Wine Estates pouring their wines, is always a highlight of these types of event. These wineries offer a unique and personal touch to their wines, and the opportunity to speak with the winemakers themselves and learn about their craft is an always an insightful experience.

Chatting with the winemakers themselves adds to the excitement of the wine tasting events like Taste Washington, and I was thrilled to meet Maggie Hedges, of Hedges Family Estate, in person for the first time and have her tell me more about her Domaine Magdalena wines.

I’m excited to be meeting Maggie again soon to talk more about Domaine Magdalena for my upcoming Red Mountain AVA article.

Hearing winemaker’s stories and understanding the passion they have for their craft makes the wine tasting experience much more meaningful and personal. It also allows for a deeper understanding of the winemaking process and how it differs from winery to winery.

If you are at a Washington wine tasting event and Winemaker Bobby Richards is pouring glasses of Seven Hills Winery’s Pentad Red Wine Walla Walla Valley, be sure to stop. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Seven Hills Winery‘s wines and chatting with the team from the winery is always a high point of events like Taste Washington.

Gabriel Crowell co-founder of Tirriddis

My final pour of the day was from a new winery, Tirriddis who is producing Washington State traditional method sparkling wines in Prosser, Washington. Andrew Gerow, Gabriel Crowell, and Matthew Doutney, three graduates of Washington State Universities Viticulture & Enology program, founded Tirriddis in 2021. I hope to visit and learn more about Tirriddis this summer and look forward to sharing their story here on Drink In Life.

A final note about Washington Wines….

In addition to promoting Washington’s wine industry, Taste Washington Wine Month also has a significant economic impact on the state. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, the wine industry generates over $8 billion in economic impact each year, supporting over 31,000 jobs across the state. The Washington wine industry is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world to taste and experience the unique flavors and landscapes of Washington wine country.

Unleash your inner wine connoisseur…. Taste Washington Wine Month and the Taste Washington events are a unique celebration of Washington’s rich wine culture and its commitment to producing high-quality, distinctive wines. Whether you’re a seasoned wine lover or just getting started, it’s a fantastic way to explore the state’s diverse wine regions, connect with the winemakers, and sample some truly exceptional Washington wines.

It’s Time to Grab a Plate….

Taste Washington is more than just about wine, it is also a celebration of Washington State’s thriving local food scene. Many of the state’s top restaurants participate in the month-long Taste Washington celebration, offering special menus and wine pairings that showcase the region’s exceptional local ingredient. There’s no shortage of delicious options to explore all across the state.

Washington’s diverse cuisine showcases the best of local produce, meats, seafood, and grains. The state is known for its abundance of seafood, with fresh Pacific salmon, Dungeness crab, and Geoduck clams being some of the most popular delicacies. Here in Washington we are also known for high-quality grass-fed beef, raised on the state’s many farms and ranches as well as a number of artisanal cheese producers, including Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle.

The state’s fertile soil and moderate climate make it an ideal place for growing a variety of fruits, including apples, pears, berries and cherries. Washington apples are particularly famous, with the state producing over 60% of the nation’s apples. Along with abundant produce production, Washington is also known for its onions, including Walla Walla Sweet onions, a variety of grains such as wheat, hops for beer production, and lentils. With such a wide range of delicious local products it is no wonder that Washington has some of the best restaurants in the country.

Time to dig into some of the food highlights from Taste Washington….

Restaurants, chefs and food artisans who participate in food and wine events like Taste Washington put an incredible amount of thought and effort into crafting small bites that represent themselves and showcase their culinary skills. Chefs and food artisans carefully consider the ingredients, flavor combinations, and presentation of each bite, striving to create something unique and memorable that will set them apart and leave a lasting impression on event attendees. Here are just a few of the unique and delicious small bites, amuse-bouche, appetizers and desserts that were enjoyed at this year’s Taste Washington Grand Tasting.

Taste Washington 2023 was definitely a feast for the senses. This year’s event showcased some of the best restaurants, Chefs, Caterers and food artisans in Washington who did an amazing job highlighting the region’s thriving food scene.

It is always hard to pick a favorite but I was truly impressed with Seattle restaurant 2021‘s Fois Gras Mousse. To create a small bite that represents themselves and their restaurant, chefs often draw inspiration from everything around them that is grown and made locally. I loved how restaurant 2021 used Long Shadows wine to infuse the blackberries on this bite and how it added an extra layer of flavor and brightness to the Fois Gras Mousse. Simply delicious.

While walking around and sampling the bites at Taste Washington, it was apparent how each chef paid close attention to the presentation of their small bites, using intricate plating techniques and visually appealing garnishes to create a stunning visual display that complemented the flavors of the dish or appetizer.

Cascadia Meats did a beautiful job creating these Endives filled with Chicken Liver Mousse and garnished with fermented Huckleberry and Blueberry Compote.

By putting in this level of effort, it is clear that each chef and food artisan strived to create a memorable culinary experience that would leave a lasting impression on attendees and inspires them to visit their restaurant or shops.

One of the highlights of the event this year was the incredible seafood selections.

Some of the participating restaurants offered up oysters on the half shell, along with other seafood creations, such as local Dungeness crab. Seafood is an such a big part of Pacific Northwest cuisine and the Seattle food scene, and it was great to see it take center stage at Taste Washington. The chefs’ expertly crafted dishes brought out the flavors of the region’s seafood, from the salty brine of the oysters to the sweet, succulent meat of the crab and mingled them together with their own individual flare.

A beautifully delicious offering from Surrell

One thing that really caught my attention was how The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar prepared their Dungeness Crab Melts with this clever technique. I also have to add that when they heard I couldn’t try a bite of their crab melt because I am allergic to raw tomatoes, they took the time to make me one without tomato. It was such a flavorful use of our local Dungeness crab.

The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar‘s Famous Dungeness Crab Melt served on top of Sourdough Crostini with a Tomato Slice and Melted Fontina Cheese.

In Washington, there’s no shortage of fabulous and diverse tasting menus to choose from.

Saving the Best for Last….

While there are plenty of savory options to choose from, Taste Washington also ensured there was just the right amount of sweet selections to sample, by some of the best chefs and bakeries in the state. After indulging in savory bites and sipping on wine throughout the day, there’s nothing quite like ending the experience on a sweet note.

Chefs and bakeries put their best foot forward with these desserts, creating visually stunning and mouth-watering sweet bites that leave a lasting impression on attendees.

Grand Tasting attendees were able to experience some of the best of Washington’s wines along with delicious bites that showcases the state’s top culinary talent. This balance of flavors and variety of options is what makes Taste Washington such a sought-after culinary event.

Taste Washington really outdid themselves this year by stepping up to the plate after a three year hiatus and offering wine lovers and foodies a chance to explore the diverse culinary and viticultural landscape of Washington. After attending this year I can say that Taste Washington is a must-attend event for food and wine lovers in Washington and beyond.

As always thanks for reading and I would love to hear what your thoughts where of Taste Washington 2023 if you attended. Cheers!

All images and content © copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

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