Seven years running, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience is a gastronomic event designed for the heartiest of imbibers. Anytime you take it upon yourself to eat and drink nonstop for hours on end, you’re not just “experiencing” anymore—you’re actually indulging in a marathon of gluttony. However, with careful pacing, my husband and I managed it with dignity.
It was slow going at first, waiting in the general-admission line that snaked far beyond the entry at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall, but once inside, around 1:30 p.m., we got our money’s worth and then some: Neatly organized throughout the room, by craft product or region, were hundreds of vendors and purveyors, from breweries, cideries, distilleries, and wineries to food trucks and (literally) hash-slinging chefs.
The wide variety equaled very little waiting, which made tasting the well-represented wines of Washington and of Woodinville, a featured wine region, extremely easy. Reds were the main attraction, and we concentrated on those, including these particularly fabulous pours: Sparkman’s heady Kingpin cabernet; Kana’s valued-price Dark Star blend; Robert Karl’s and Basel Cellars’ highly quaffable clarets; Seven Hill’s jammy petit verdot, and Owen Roe’s luscious syrah. Our favorite Woodinville sip was Bunnell’s ALX 2009 syrah, a supple, elegant, 100 percent varietal wine with nuanced berry flavors and a silky finish.
Though this is a drink column, it’s impossible not to mention the food, which gets equal billing at this event—and also serves as a booze sponge. However, for vegetarians like us, it’s a bit of a buzz-kill. Still, the findings were good, if slim—notably Biscuit Box’s wild-mushroom gravy biscuit and Andaluca’s roasted vegetable tagine. But bacon’s starring role in Kaspar’s clearly marked “vegetarian” hash showed there’s room for improvement. Understandably, these events are all about indulging, but a balancing act is needed, one inspired more by our region’s bounty of low-on-the-food-chain, vegetable-based fare—served on compostable cups, plates, and utensils, to boot.
By 3:30 p.m., the tasting hordes had been considerably culled, but there were still plenty of reserves on the horizon. That’s when we discovered the QFC Advantage Lounge, where we stationed ourselves for the final push. Tucked away in a back corner, surrounded by piles of artisanal cheese, a store rep was pouring the best, mostly Washington-based, wines of the day: Spring Valley’s austere Frederick Red Blend; Northstar’s signature merlot; 2011 Red Mountain Col Solare; and a high-elevation Napa fave, Mt. Veeder cabernet. Steadied by dairy, we crossed the finish line at closing time, 5 p.m. sharp, still standing and sure-footed, having crossed from the Puget Sound through Yakima to Walla Walla. It was a marathon of Washington terroir, all right—one you can start yourself with any bottle mentioned here.