Food & Drink

New and Classic Wineries Collide at Taste Washington

The event, now in its third decade, showcases more than 200 Washington wineries

By Chris S. Nishiwaki March 15, 2024

Brian Carter has been participating in Taste Washington since its inception in 1998, when it was held at the historic Paramount Theatre. At the time he was teaming up with Harry Alhadeff to craft wines under the Apex Cellars, Washington Hills, and W.B. Bridgeman labels. 

“I remember very well the events at The Paramount,” recalls Carter. “It was very different than today’s event. It was on multiple levels. It was like a theater experience. It was dark. It was a more intimate event.” 

Brian Carter will join over 200 Washington winemakers at Taste Washington this weekend.

Now producing small lots at his eponymous boutique winery, Brian Carter Cellars, the veteran winemaker will be among more than 200 Washington wineries, plus more than 70 food vendors featured at this weekend’s Grand Tasting. Carter is the seminal winemaker who kickstarted iconic wineries in Washington such as Hedges Family Estate and one of the original Washington Rhone Rangers, the now defunct McCrea Cellars. 

The festivities kicked off on Thursday night with the seafood-centric “Pacific Standard” on Pier 62. The bacchanalia continues on Friday with The New Vintage, also on Pier 62, and climaxes with the two-day Grand Tasting on Saturday and Sunday at the Lumen Field Event Center. No Frills! on Monday at Within Sodo completes the five days of festivities. 

“Thank God, Washington state has grown,” Carter says. “It’s great for consumers that they get to try so many wines. The sacrifice to that is that it is less intimate. You still get to see other winemakers and you can talk to them. That has not gone away. The other great thing is that you get to share the experience with other appreciators of Washington wine. There’s more diversity in wine now.”

Robert Gomez from Hoquetus Wine Co. with his family.

Robert Gomez of Hoquetus Wine Co., on the other hand, will pour his wines at Taste Washington for only the second year. He had been on the other side of the table previously, as a Sommelier and wine trade guest. He continues to consult on the wine list at Walla Walla’s Passatempo Taverna, and will be on the opening team of The Drayman House, the multipurpose wine destination in Walla Walla with wine storage facilities, an event space and wine bar, founded by winemaker Tyler Tennyson. 

“I’ve always loved (Taste Washington),” Gomez says. “I used to go to that event. It was fun to taste through some producers I don’t get to normally taste. I went there to taste wines and talk to people I don’t get to see every day.” 

Wine professionals recommend that guests visit new wineries that are not familiar to them. 

“It is a great opportunity to try these wines you’ve never had before,” says Torrey Lewis, wine manager at Woodinville’s Willows Lodge and Barking Frog. “It’s your one opportunity to meet the producers who are there to show their best.” 

Chef Josh Delgado has been participating in Taste Washington for about 20 years since he has been cooking at various restaurants, from the Barking Frog to the Alderbrook Resort, to Le Coin last year and, now for the first time, The Garrison, the new oyster, and Champagne bar in Ballard. 

“It’s just good exposure,” Delgado said. “It’s getting in front of a couple of thousand people and getting our name out there. 

The wine choices at the Grand Tasting are many. Here are some recommendations. 

  • Versatile winemaker Peter Devison is making wines for LUKE, Goose Ridge and his own winery, Devison Vintners. The Devison Vintners Sauvignon Blanc is an “alluring expression of Washington Sauvignon Blanc,” according to the late Washington vigneron Kurt Krause. 
  • Robert Gomez’ Hoquetus will serve a Les Collines Vineyard Riesling that makes for a sublime pairing with the ahi tuna crudo dish prepared by Ben Paris, both available at Taste Washington.  
  • Baer Winery will serve its Reserve Chardonnay, which is made in tiny amounts. Try it while you can. 
  • Andrew Latta has been making wine in Washington since 2005, with a focus on vineyards and varietals that grow best in specific sites. Since 2011 he has been crafting his own wines, including a mouthwatering Roussanne with fruit sourced from Lawrence Vineyard on the Royal Slope. 
  • COR Cellars winemaker Luke Bradford, who obsesses over food/wine pairings, will pour his Cabernet Franc sourced from Horse Heaven Hills.
  • Winemaker Sally Johnson Blum will pull double duty this weekend. The veteran California winemaker made wines in Washington for the first time this past fall for Mullan Road Cellars and The Walls. Mullan Road Cellars will pour several vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, making for an interesting side-by-side comparison. The Walls will serve two red blends and a Grenache Blanc-based blend. 
  • Esja Wines by upstart winemaker Tanya Bjornsson is among one of the most exciting wineries to come on the scene of late. The Grenache from organically farmed Sonrisa Vineyard is the ideal pairing for the beef pecadillo by José Garzón’s Bad Chancla, available at Taste Washington this weekend or at its anticipated bricks-and-mortar location opening on Capitol Hill in the spring. 

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