Everybody agreed, after last years edition of Taste Washington: The annual food-and-wine extravaganza sponsored by the Washington Wine Commission couldntshouldntget any bigger. With 3,000 attendees ponying up $125 to belly up to the tables where 90 restaurants dished up delectable hors doeuvres to complement pours from 140 wineries, the Sunday afternoon event was becoming a veritable emblem of esurience, a gnomon of gluttony.
So 2004 has rolled round, and guess what? Taste Washington has gotten bigger, much bigger. Butfortunately for the waistlines and digestions of its target audienceits gotten bigger in a civilized, manageable way. This year, instead of being crammed into five frenzied hours of eating, drinking, and schmoozing, the event has ballooned to encompass the entire weekend.
Those in search of mere repletion can still achieve it without effort at Seahawks Exhibition Center on Sunday, April 18; but a more measured approach to the absorption of Washington wine is now available. On the preceding Friday, W Hotel Seattle will play host to an opening celebration partya sort of compact winter version of the Wine Commissions annual black-tie charity bash, the Auction of Washington Wine. On Saturday, things get serious, though still bibulous, with Education Day: a wine luncheon flanked by four seminars in everything from Washington wine geography to emergent grape varieties and wine matching with cheese, caviar, and chocolate.
Education Day is not just a respectable way to get discreetly swacked; the luncheon keynote speaker is perhaps the single most famous name in wine today, Jancis Robinson, whose scholarly substance (as editor of the Oxford University Press wine encyclopedias and co-author of The World Atlas of Wine) is also expressed through her lively and highly opinionated column in the Saturday edition of The Financial Times.
Attendees may find it tough to choose just four of the 13 seminars available. Sure sellouts include an opportunity to find out for yourself (though under the Svengali-like tutelage of an expert from Riedel Crystal) if the shape and size of a wine glass really make as much difference in the taste as the cognoscenti say, and the Three Cs class conducted by the legendary Fran Bigelow (chocolate), Dale Sherrow (Seattle Caviar), and California artisan cheese guru Laura Werlin.
But Sundays tasting remains the main event, this year expected to draw 3,500 participants. The main task facing those 3,500 people is to devise a plan of attack that will leave each sated and enlightened, not stuffed and bleary. Every veteran Taste Washingtonian has his or her own formula. One approach might be to concentrate attention on wineries and restaurants new to this years event. These include, among restaurants, such established venues as Sazerac, Tango, and Trattoria Mitchelli and ambitious newcomers Troiani, Fish Club, and Lark. One could make a full afternoon of it just tasting wines from some of the 25 vintners newly taking part, among them Bergevin Lane, Nicholas Cole, and Viento. However you choose to proceed, remember: No one has ever managed to Do It All. Its not humanly possible. So give the Guinness Book of Records a miss and just enjoy yourself.