Copyright © Martin Welch
A friend who is very knowledgeable about wine recently gave me some sage advice, "If you want to learn more about wine . . . you've got to drink more of it." Sounds like an excuse to drink more, but it really is the same principle that applies to improving your skills at anything. Want to be a better ping-pong player? Play more ping-pong. Want to speak Spanish? Practice, practice, práctica. Want to improve your wine-tasting palette and expand your knowledge of wine? Drink more of it.
Copyright © Martin Welch
The only trick is to drink with the intention of learning. Thankfully, our fair city provides plenty of opportunities. Whether you are just looking to try before you buy, or want to take a class, meet winemakers, or learn to match food and wine, there is a place for you to do it.
Shop and Sip
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to taste wine is to stop into your neighborhood wine shop. Most shops that specialize in wine, and some grocery stores (thanks to Washington Senate Bill 6329), offer free tastings one or more days a week. Some, like Esquin, Pete's Wine Shop and Pike & Western Wine Shop, rotate themes for their tastings, such as Wines Under $10 or Tuscan Red Wines. Others, like McCarthy & Schiering and Arista Wines, host winemakers or distributors to sample their wines for customers. Ask at your own neighborhood shop if and when they offer tastings. Most do, and all have knowledgeable staff who will answer questions during the tasting so you learn something from their efforts and yours. Most shops offer these tastings free of charge, in hopes that you'll become a loyal customer and make your future wine purchases with them. Seems like a fair trade-off, right?
Back to Class
If you are a better student in a classroom setting, a wine-tasting class may be worth your time and money. I recently took a great class at The Local Vine's new Capitol Hill location. Most of their classes are 90 minutes, include tastes of six wines, and cost $55. You'll get a knowledgeable instructor who guides you through the tasting and provides background on the growing region, in the case of a regional tasting, or basic wine information in their "Wine 101" class.
Wining and Dining
A big part of enjoying wine is enjoying it with food. Two monster events are coming up that highlight wine, but also have a big emphasis on food. The Seattle Food & Wine Experience on Sunday, Feb. 27, will bring together about 100 wineries from around the world and a couple dozen restaurants for an opportunity to sample wines alongside food. It's a pretty affordable event at just $49.
Taste Washington is the mother of all wine festivals, showcasing Washington wines exclusively. There are wine classes and seminars on March 26 and the Grand Tasting is held on March 27. Over 200 wineries will sample their wines at the Grand Tasting, joined by food from around 50 restaurants and food producers. It's a great opportunity to celebrate locally produced wine, and while it's nearly impossible to taste everything, they recommend that "It's hip to spit," which does help you extend your tasting time a bit. The event is a little pricey ($75 general admission, $125 VIP), but it's cheaper than a trip to Walla Walla, even if you factor in the cab ride home.