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I went to the Taste Washington for the first time last year, and I have to tell you, this event is something special. The wines and foods were spectacular and you get to meet the winemakers from wineries that are rarely to never open to the public.

I was able to chat with Chris Camarda (Andrew Will Winery), Bob Betz (Betz Family Winery), Marty Chubb (L'Ecole #41) and lots more of the state's best winemakers. The winemakers themselves were present, and they often poured pre-release and reserve wines for me. Yumm!

The foods were amazing- everything from really hot Tex Mex to a mind boggling oyster bar to elaborate desserts, to a whole table of very rare and expensive dessert wines, artisan cheeses, etc etc. It was almost too much to take in, be sure and go hungry!

If you want the best possible way to experience Washington's wines and cuisine, this is the event for you!

-Jean Yates, Avalon owner

"Taste Washington Showcases
140 Washington wines,
85 Regional Restaurants"

"Now That's Some Taste!"

By Christina Kelly
Avalon Editor/Writer

With Washington state emerging as one of the premiere wine growing regions in the country, the chance to taste through some of those wines is coming soon.

The Washington Wine Commission's annual Taste Washington wine and food festival arrives this year on April 6 at the Seahawks Stadium Exhibition Center in Seattle. It is the best time of the year to sample wines from 140 wineries and taste food and wine pairings from 85 regional restaurants.

Last year, this event was packed to the rafters with people from Anacortes, WA to Apple Valley, CA savoring samples of Washington Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Zinfandel and Bordeaux blends. Best of all was the opportunity to taste such wines with food paired exclusively for the wineries.

Returning from last year, the seafood bar, with oysters, shrimp and fish, will pair with Washington white and red wines. A section of gourmet cheeses pairs wines that compliment mild and strong cheeses. And the dessert bar blends confections with samples of Washington's desert wines.

Jamie Peha, event director for the Taste, said she works year-round to match restaurants with wines. A restaurant is selected to pair with a winery, and then a wine sample is sent to the chef to create a dish that blends well with the wine, she said.

"We try to rotate the wineries and restaurants, so that our wines are exposed to new flavors from different restaurants," Peha said. "This also establishes new relationships between the restaurants and wineries. We also will match a more well-known restaurant or winery with a newer winery or restaurant."

New to the Taste is Seattle's version of the Iron Chef cook-off. The Viking Culinary Cook-Off features local chefs in a competition, creating entrees from a mystery bag of Washington grown food products and a time limit to prepare the food.

"Showcasing our local chefs adds entertainment, suspense and excitement to the event and keeps the focus on Washington grown wine and food products," Peha said. "Seattle has many extremely talented chefs, (and) the cook-off puts them in the spotlight to show off their culinary skills."

For participants who want to learn why certain varietals showcase certain flavors in a wine, the event will feature a new Flavor Wheel Wine Tasting Bars to help break down the different tastes. Organizers say the flavor wheel helps event goers establish the tastes in certain varietals, like Chardonnay or Riesling.

"A person can discover all the elements of Washington Riesling, for example, and taste through all the different versions of Riesling produced in Washington," Peha said. "People can get sense of what goes into Riesling. It's an education for the palette."

The 2003 Taste will raise more money for charity and wine education endeavors, said Stacie Jacob, public affairs for the Washington Wine Commission. Wine country tour trips will be raffled off, with the proceeds marked for the viticulture and enology programs in the state.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster or at many Seattle area wine shops. For additional information, contact the Washington Wine Commission at 206 667-9463.

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