Trending varietals seduce from across the room while new vintages of tried and true favorites beckon. It’s time again for the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event, and with more than 200 participating wineries, Taste Washington begs for a strategy to navigate the tantalizing offerings. A few years ago, my one-day plan was elegant in its simplicity: Cabernet Franc. Focusing on wineries making single varietal vintages from this traditional blending grape allowed me to compare winemakers’ styles and unique characteristics of AVAs back-to-back, grounded in a touch point. Cab Franc’s food friendliness was a plus when sampling Taste WA restaurant fare, too.
The deep dive led to abiding love and curiosity. Washington winemakers are so adept at crafting well balanced, distinctive Cab Francs, why isn’t this a ‘thing’? Back in 2013, the Seattle Times declared Washington State Cabernet Franc a “hidden treasure”. Perhaps aficionados want to keep it a dark, lovely secret, though it’s becoming harder to do. More than a dozen winemakers will be showcasing single varietal Cabernet Franc at this year’s Taste WA. If you’re playing the field, I humbly suggest seeking out a few of these under-the-radar gems first. It’ll bring an added dimension when sipping those delightfully layered Bordeaux style blends later.
This year, evangelistic fervor for Washington Carménère has sparked my interest. A focused exploration of Washington Malbec is tempting my palate, and the number of wineries highlighting Viognier demands my attention. And what’s this? At least three Albariños are on the program. Single varietal rosés are tugging at my sleeve, too, vying to be this year’s target of my affection.
The only thing I know for sure at this point is, no matter where I set my wine compass in the search for new love this year, the journey will be worth it.