This past Monday (January 26th) I attended the 13th annual Washington State Wine Awards held at Benaroya Hall in Seattle which focuses on Restaurants, Retail Distributors and Tourism. As with most things in Washington, it leaned more toward being the Seattle Wine Awards but a shout out did go to the Marcus Whitman Hotel (Hotel of the Year) in Walla Walla, Yakima Valley Tourism (Tourism Champion of the Year) and Visconti’s of Leavenworth (Grand Award for their focus on and commitment to Washington wines).
Regardless, it was a terrific opportunity to talk to winemakers and taste some terrific Washington wines in a glorious location. The sun shone on Benaroya Hall to the point that many attendees resisted the urge to don sunglasses in the largely glassed event space.
Sixty two wineries pouring over 220 wines in a four-hour period was a daunting, albeit enviable, task so I focused on wines I hadn’t had the opportunity to taste as of yet or were particularly recommended such as Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ keg wine, Jet Black, which had great aromatics and their club wine, Mr. Big, which won Best of Show at the Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging. The only wine Col Solare poured, a 2011 Red Blend from Red Mountain retailing for $75, was a big cabernet-based, food-friendly red with an amazing mouth-feel.
I met Neil of Forgeron Cellars, who will be pouring at Niche-a wine bar tonight (FYI). Their 2011 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth with strong leather and tobacco. Lauren Ashton Cellars’ 2012 Columbia Valley Cuvée Méline White Blend earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and has bright tropical, pineapple notes for spring time patio sipping. Mercer Estates Winery, Milbrandt Vineyards, Owen Roe—so many beautiful, luscious, well-crafted wines.
The best value-wine I tasted? I’ve seen For A Song popping up on restaurant lists all over Clark County but was hesitant. After tasting their 2013 Chardonnay and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, I’ll be ordering a glass when I’m out next. I was delighted by the taste for the price as were the other folks gathered around the table. Hey, the cab was not complex and layered but, at $10 and $12 respectively, For A Song was a pleasant surprise.
My favorite wine had to be Force Majeure Vineyards’ 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain. I was nearly finished with my tastings (and, yes, sadly I spit all my tastings so I wasn’t loopy) when the editor of a wine publication strongly encouraged me to try Force Majeure’s cab and syrah. He steered me right. If I could cast a vote, it’d go to this Woodinville winery. The cab was just elegant, true to its varietal. The tannins and acidity were a cohesive dance. Where many big wines must be paired with food to be truly appreciated, and a lot of Washington wineries are making loud reds or fruit bombs, this cab was like the confident girl in the room with the simple black dress—she is what she is and you appreciate her uncomplicated perfection or mess with the fussy, high-maintenance types in need of constant stroking. Ah, and it (the wine) will only improve with age.
For those who are curious, here are the 2015 WASHINGTON STATE WINE AWARD WINNERS.
Restaurant of the Year: Aqua by El Gaucho
Independent Restaurant of the Year: Cypress Lounge & Wine Bar @ The Westin Bellevue
Restaurant Group of the Year: Anthony’s Restaurants
Sommelier of the Year: Chris Horn (Purple Cafè & Wine Bar)
Best Event Featuring Washington State Wine: Washington Wine Extravaganza – Wine World & Spirits
Retailer of the Year: Full Pull Wines
Independent Retailer of the Year: Impulsewine.com
Retailer Chain of the Year: Costco Wholesale
Retail Steward of the Year: Carly Little (QFC, Bellevue Village)
Hotel of the Year: Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center
Tourism Champion of the Year: Yakima Valley Tourism
Touri sm Concierge of the Year: Dan Salvatora (Hotel Monaco)
Distributor of the Year: Young’s Market Company
Distributor Salesperson of the Year: Walid Akiki (Young’s Market Company)
Walter Clore Honorarium: Dan McCarthy (McCarthy & Schiering)*
*The Walter Clore Honorarium recognizes an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the Washington wine industry.
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