Blind Tasting Seminar: Washington vs. the World

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UFC fanatics thrill when two top contenders have a highly anticipated match. With similar fervor, oenophiles get excited over blind wine tastings. Which Sauvignon Blanc will come out on top… the Chilean or the Washingtonian? Should Bordeaux from France hold the keys to the chateau, or does victory belong to another rival? There’s nothing quite like squaring off two anonymous glasses of vino to see what they’re really made of.

I had the great fortune to attend a blind tasting seminar in Seattle at Taste Washington, the state’s premier food and wine festival. For those unfamiliar with blind tasting, it simply means being able to see, smell, and drink a glass of wine but not knowing any details at all about the identity of the wine until the very end of the tasting. In this seminar, called “Washington vs. the World: The Ultimate Blind Tasting,” several of the best Washington wines were pitted against several of the best wines of other famous world regions. Here was the course description:

“Washington wine continues to captivate a global audience. From incredibly high scores from critics, and growing international investment in our state, this has become THE place to make wine. The number of those considered ‘legends’ in Washington wine is increasing at a rapid clip, and the wines they produce continue to cannonball onto the world stage. This is your chance to get into the heart of the action with the winemakers, themselves, and take a deep dive into some of our state’s most chart-topping wines. We’ll even take it one step further by putting some of them up against the best from around the world so you can decide for yourself where Washington stands.”

Taste Washington 2023 Blind Tasting Seminar Panel

Members of the panel for the Taste Washington 2023 seminar, “Washington vs. the World: The Ultimate Blind Tasting”

The seminar was moderated by Doug Charles, owner of award-winning wine shop Compass Wines in Anacortes, WA (on my list to visit!). The rest of the panel included Washington winemakers and a wine educator/writer, all of whom were also tasting the wines blind:

  • Peter Devison | Devison Vintners
  • Jason Gorski | DeLille Cellars
  • Devyani Gupta | Valdemar Estates
  • Justin Neufeld | JB Neufeld
  • Alex Stewart | Matthews
  • Elaine Chukan Brown | Award-Winning Global Wine Educator & Writer

We went through each wine one by one, with plenty of time to swirl/sniff/sip/savor/spit (if needed), jot down notes, and listen to the panel share their thoughts on the wines. It was also open to audience participation, so we were able to ask questions and share feedback. The whole event ran for an hour and a half.

Here were the wines we tried (order in picture: 1-5 is bottom row left to right, then 6-10 is top row left to right):

  1. Château Picque Caillou, Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2017, $42
  2. DeLille, Chaleur Blanc, Columbia Valley, 2021, $42
  3. Devison, Above the Flood, GSM, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, 2020, $54
  4. Sadie Family, Soldaat, Piekenierskloof, 2021, $92
  5. Matthews, Reserve, Columbia Valley, 2013, $55
  6. Château La Fleur, Grand Cru, Saint-Émilion, 2019, $146
  7. Grgich Family, Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2018, $75
  8. JB Neufeld, Old Goat Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, 2016, $55
  9. Valdemar, Syrah, Blue Mountain Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, 2020, $75
  10. Porseleinberg, Syrah, Swartland, 2016, $102
Wines used in Taste Washington 2023 seminar, "Washington vs. the World: The Ultimate Blind Tasting"

Wines used in Taste Washington 2023 seminar, “Washington vs. the World: The Ultimate Blind Tasting”

I enjoyed each wine for different reasons, but if I had to pick a couple that really stood out to me, I’d pick #3 and #9. These are wines I would pour a nice big glass of and relax with on the couch, or pour for company to savor together. Both featured wonderful Washington Syrah (from Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley, respectively), and I appreciated getting to try a couple different producers I’d never had before.

Thanks to all my studious drinking, I did happen to guess all of the Washington and other origin wines correctly (not the other locations specifically, just that they were clearly not Washington). It has definitely helped that I have been trying wines from around the world through The Everyday Guide to Wine course (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases) so some of these flavor profiles and styles were not completely out of left field. I also know my own backyard Washington wines well enough by now to be confident in my assessment. This was a really great exercise for me to do and it was worth the investment ($95 for the event). Considering several of the bottles sampled were very costly, it was a small price to pay for the chance to try these wines and others, and to hear experts discuss them simultaneously. I hope to attend another seminar next year.

A few things I learned from this experience:

  • A couple wines reeked on the nose but tasted amazing on the palate. That was surprising. I’ve had wines with Brett (Brettanomyces yeast) – the funky barnyard/Band-Aid smell – and I usually appreciate it, but not everyone does. I did not mind it in the #7. The other unusual trait I hadn’t encountered before was volatile acidity (I think – I am not 100% certain on this – my notes failed me). All I know was that one of the wines had a highly unusual, pungent note on the nose, but on the palate was delicious. Funny how that works.
  • Washington wine is insanely brilliant and is perhaps my all-time favorite wine region. So many fantastic iterations and interpretations. So good it’s scary.
  • I will never learn everything there is to learn about wine… it is endless. Perfect material for a blog! ❤

Have any of you ever participated in blind wine tastings? Or did anyone attend Taste Washington this year (2023)? Comment below!

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2 thoughts on “Blind Tasting Seminar: Washington vs. the World

  1. Pingback: Willows Lodge Secret Supper Series at Barking Frog with Côte Bonneville Wines | The Rambling Vine

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