It's Called Taste Washington, Not Guzzle 'Til You Puke

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Photo by Leslie Kelly
Taste Washington might be one of the only places on the planet where it's cool to spit in public.
See that guy violently shaking his glass, then sticking his nose in it and inhaling like a tweaking crack addict? Then, after his eyes flutter in porn-like ecstasy, he spits his sip into a bucket. What? Where the hell am I?

Welcome to Taste Washington, the giantly humongous sip-fest that showcases the state's best wines. Don't be freaked by all the swirling and sniffing and spitting. You're just witnessing the Wine Geek in his natural habitat. Don't make eye contact and you'll be fine.

Seriously, though, if you give a rip about wine, you should really think about going to Taste Washington on Sunday at Qwest Field Event Center. Here are a few tips for getting the most bang for your 75 bucks:

1. Dress appropriately. By that I mean wear comfy shoes and a dark shirt that won't show all the wine stains you're going to be wearing when things get a little sloppy. The shoes are essential because this sucker is huge and it's a drag to teeter on those stilettos from one end of the football-field-sized space to the other, no matter how fabulous you look.

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Go get a taste at Taste from Greg Lill and Jay Soloff, two of the four owners of DeLille Cellars.

2. Make a drinking game plan. Look at the site map and figure out a route you want to take. (You can download a copy on the Taste Washington website.) I always hit the high-end vintners first because they often run out of wine, and when it's gone, it's gone, baby, gone. Don't miss Woodward Canyon, Andrew Will, Pepper Bridge, Betz, Col Solare, DeLille Cellars, and Long Shadows. I also have mad love for Chinook, Northstar, Barrister (their Rough Justice sounds like it should come with a spanking), L'Ecole No. 41, and Gramercy Cellars.

3. Stay focused, at least for the first hour. It's easy to get overwhelmed. This event is a sensory overload for sure. I try to start by sampling whites and then move into reds. Don't get hung up in a long line. Go to the far end of the room, where the crowds aren't so thick. And, some might find this appalling, but if you want to taste a whole bunch of wines, it's OK to spit. The least gross way to do it is to carry a cup with a lid. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's about tasting, not getting totally hammered.

4. Eat, eat! OMG, there's some great stuff on the menu this year. I can't wait to sink my chompers into the braised lamb croquette from Canlis, the crab cakes from Pike Brewing Company (hell yes, there's beer at Taste Washington, too), Ponti's lobster lumpia, and the Bristol Bay salmon confit from Steelhead Diner. I also plan to spend a lot of quality time with the friendly oyster-shuckers at Elliott's incredible seafood spread. And in case you're thinking this is all fancy snob food, head to the 2100 Bistro's booth for the corn-dog bar.

5. If you wanna take a load off, pop a squat at the Viking Stage and check out the chef demos. Mega-hot Michael Mina's on at 4:45. If you want to meet the coolest people in the room, go to the grape grower's table.

6. Finally, no shoving. This isn't a competition to see who can eat or drink the most. Over the many years I've been Tasting Washington, I've met a whole lot of very cool people and also have given the Evil Eye to pushy jerks who've barged ahead of me in line. So far, I'm happy to report, it's never come to blows. But I've been training this year (lifting lots of full glasses). Just saying: Don't get between me and my wine, Bub.

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