Whether you like wine, food or Iron Chef-style cooking competitions among folks who don’t actually cook professionally, the Iron Vintner Challenge at Willows Lodge in Woodinville is where it's at. And if you’ve never been, this is your last chance to check it out, which you should, because it’s sort of a spectacle.
Launched in June 2010, IVC pits two local winemakers against each other in a culinary battle that is 100% entertaining to watch. There are two battles that take place during the first two Wednesdays in June, with each battle requiring the winemakers to create one appetizer and one entrée using a “secret ingredient” all under an hour. Tickets are $75 and proceeds go to the Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, a non-profit that aims to help kids and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities through therapeutic horseback riding.
This year—the final year—the victorious winemakers of the last four years will be back for an encore that will see just one winner. The lineup:
- June 4: Darby English, Darby Winery – winner 2010 vs. Lisa Baer, Baer Winery – winner 2013
- June 11: Chris Gorman, Gorman Winery – winner 2011 vs. Morgan Lee, Covington Cellars – winner 2012
- June 18: Championship Round – Ultimate Iron Vintner Crowned
The event, emceed by Barking Frog's affable chef Bobby Moore, culminates with an After Party & Live Auction June 25 — a big celebration where the winemakers mingle with revelers and it’s all catered by Barking Frog's food truck, Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen.
I’ve had the pleasure of judging two of these events (there are three judges each round), and they are incredibly fun to attend. Everyone is eating and drinking and the winemakers are usually just the right amount of goofy and charming to keep the crowd entertained. Plus, they're often a little drunk (just a little).
This year, I’ll get to be a judge when Gorman and Lee face-off. And being privy to the fact that both know their way around a Viking grill, I am pretty psyched to see who wins. In addition to being talented cooks in their own right, both men are pretty rad.
“I love this event for many reasons,” Gorman tells me. “We have raised a ton of money for a local and very cool charity, plus I have had a chance to compete, talk smack, learn and beat our rival wineries in a fun competition, while becoming a better cook. If I lose, no big deal, I make wine. If I win, my competitors won't hear the end of it.”
And that pretty much sums up the competitive spirit of this annual event.
Tickets to both IVC and the After Party are $75 and if you want to make a night of it, Willows Lodge is offering a 15% discount on their best available room rate.
You can find more photos and smack talking on the IVC Facebook page.