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Taste Washington Report

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This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend Taste Washington, an extravaganza of Washington State wines put on in a few places around the country every year. I was at the mothership incarnation of the thing, in Seattle, a mighty cool town (like you need me to tell you). For me, festivities started off with a seminar I led, in which three of our former F&W Best New Chefs—Johnathan Sundstrom of Lark, Jason Wilson of Crush, and Ethan Stowell of Union (and Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, and the new Anchovies & Olives)—chose some of their favorite Washington wines to pair with recipes made with some of their favorite Washington foodstuffs. 

I left it to the chefs to do most of the talking, meanwhile enjoying the heck out of the pairings they'd come up with. First up, Ethan Stowell produced a local mussels-fennel-citrus salad—details forthcoming, as I was too busy moderating to take notes—to go with the 2007 Mark Ryan Klipsun Vineyard Viognier ($29) from Red Mountain. Along with the other Viogniers I tasted throughout the weekend, it made a strong case for Washington as an impressive source for New World Viogniers that can balance the grape's natural lushness against a good spine of acidity.

Wilson, next up, brought an intensely luscious stinging nettle vichyssoise with grilled shigoku oysters—I'm going to see if he'd be game to run the recipe for this here, because it was pretty insanely delicious—to go along with a 2007 O’Shea Scarborough Klipsun Vignoble Semillon ($20), also from the Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain. It was a sort of oddball but appealing wine whose floral-herbal notes went strangely well with the chlorophyll-herby taste of the nettles.

Finally, Sundstrom paired his pork rillettes with fleur de sel butter—no sadness there—with a dry Riesling from the Lake Chelan region (headed toward an AVA designation later this year, apparently). The wine, the 2006 Vin du Lac Lehm Dry Riesling ($45), was flinty and focused, its crisp acidity and green apple fruit an ideal foil to the rillettes' porky richness. The ultra-local butter, by the way, came from a two-cow dairy on Vashon Island, whose young proprietor cooks a couple of days a week at Lark. 

I'll mention a few other highlights from the event in my next blog, along with the red wines that we poured at the seminar just for the fun of it, but this was a mighty nice way to start the weekend. 

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.