This year, Taste Washington celebrates its 20th Anniversary in Seattle on March 23-26. What was once a one-day wine event has grown into a four-day festival filled with evening parties, farm excursions, VIP food tours and sommelier-led wine seminars. All of this culminates with the Grand Tasting—a two-day mega event with a lineup of 235 wineries pouring tastes and more than 65 restaurants serving up bites.
If it sounds just a little overwhelming, it definitely can be for newbies. Below are our top tips to making the most out of your Grand Tasting experience.
Choose wineries ahead of time
Going from wineries A-Z or from Z-A is not a strategy. Even a kid in a candy store won’t try every single candy bar (or will they?). You’re in the ultimate adult candy store, so take advantage. Pick your favorites, but mix it up: research who’s up and coming in Washington wines, or has released something new or notable, or maybe choose an unfamiliar wine varietal to explore.
Talk to the winemakers
There is always more to learn about wine, and the artisans that create it have nothing but passion and knowledge to share. And they’re at Taste Washington to share that with you. This is your chance to study up and be a good wine student. Ask them what they’re most proud of this season, what their most underrated wines are, or what they’d pair with food. You’ll thank yourself later when ordering wine for the group at a restaurant.
Pick a strategic wardrobe
Dress smart. You’ll be holding a wine glass, eating a few noshes, referencing your event program, etc. The bracelets that always get in the way may be better swapped out for a watch (and so you can keep to that game plan schedule!). It may go without saying that your dogs might be barking by the end of the event, so wear your most sensible, stylish shoes.
Visit the chef’s stage
A squad of Top Chef alumni will descend upon Seattle for the festival. The Alaska Mileage Plan Chef’s Stage is where you’ll see the likes of Stephanie Izard, Kristen Kish, Chad White, Gregory Gourdet and local chef Jason Stratton work their culinary magic. Get there early so you can score a seat and give said dogs a break. Bonus: samples of what’s cooking on stage will be passed.
I missed the chef’s stage demo, now what?
The Albert Lee Culinary Experience is your chance to catch more celebrity chef demos, including East vs. West: Washington State Style, pitting Chad White (Spokane) and Jason Stratton (Seattle) against one another. There’ll also be other demos including a Shellfish 101 lesson outlining everything you need to know about selecting, handling and cooking with local bivalves.
Don’t forget the Oyster and Chowder Bar
All that Shellfish 101 has made you hungry for oysters. The teams from AQUA by El Gaucho and Taylor Shellfish will be shucking fresh oysters and serving up warm cups of clam chowder. Oh, and they’ll be pouring a selection of chilled white wines for a perfect pairing. Chin chin!
Take a beer break
New this year is a beer garden where you can take a seat, enjoy a beer and plan your next winery and restaurant stops. It’s a mini beer event, and Dogfish Head, Gordon Biersch, Lagunitas and Pike Brewing will all be there.
Use your wine passport
Attention procrastinators: do you plan to not make a plan for the event? Not to worry. All attendees will receive a Grand Tasting Passport upon arrival that highlights can’t-miss spots including wineries that appeared at the very first Grand Tasting 20 years ago, wine tasting tips, and the chance to win a prize if all stamps are collected.
20 Years of Taste
Make it count. This year has lots of extra special touches you’ll want to experience. Check out tastewashington.org for more game plan inspiration, tickets, the complete list of events, wineries and their featured pours, and restaurants. Happy Tasting.