Originally published February 17, 2017 | Updated January 30, 2019

You’ve been waiting all year to tantalize your taste buds at Taste Washington, the nation’s largest single-region food and wine event, which spans March 28 – 31, 2019. With the festival around the corner, it’s hard to know whether to first sip that smooth and juicy 2015 Efeste Big Papa Cab Sauv or slurp freshly shucked oysters at AQUA by El Guacho’s oyster bar.

Let’s face it, with more than 235 wineries and 65 restaurants (including 14 James Beard award-winning chefs) the festival is a Northwest food and wine lover’s wonderland, which can also be a bit overwhelming. To make Taste Washington more bite-sized, we caught up with veteran festival-goer and Visit Seattle Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ali Daniels, to help us craft the perfect crib sheet for seeking out the best bites. Get ready to eat and drink to your heart’s content!

Q: Do you have a recommended “attack plan” for first-time attendees?

A: 1. Create your own festival schedule: Map out your entire festival experience so you don’t miss a minute. The Grand Tasting is the festival’s biggest event, but be sure to add in a fun soiree (the Red & White Party or The New Vintage) and an educational component too (Seminars as well as the Taste on the Farm excursions or Taste & Savor Tour). These events sell out every year, so buy your tickets in advance.

2. Come prepared: Once you’ve booked your events, look at the wineries and restaurants participating at each and make a list of the specific ones you want to visit. There are so many that it can be overwhelming – with a prioritized list, you’ll know where to go first.

3. Don’t forget about the food: While Taste Washington started as a wine event, now there’s also tons of delicious food to savor. Be sure to pair your wine pours with tasty goodies throughout the day.

4. Enjoy responsibly: This is the largest single-region wine and food event in the country, so you can sip and savor to your heart’s content. But in order to taste more wines, do like the professionals do and make good use of the spit and dump buckets.

Savor a seeming;u endless number of tastes from the region’s best wineries and restaurants. Photo: Kristen Marie Photography
Savor a seemingly endless number of tastes from Washington’s best wineries and restaurants. Credit: Kristen Marie Photography

Q: If you can only spend one day at Taste Washington, which day should you go?

A: That’s a tough decision! We give everyone four days to enjoy Taste Washington because there’s just so much wine and food to try in our region. But if you must choose one day, invest in a one-day VIP ticket to the Sunday Grand Tasting.

The Grand Tasting is the culmination of the festival, it gathers the most wineries and restaurants together in one place and features an opportunity for you to soak in the magic and skills of local and national food geniuses. Each chef whips up one of their signature dishes during rotating demonstrations on the Chef’s Stage. Crowds tend to be lighter on Sunday and with a VIP ticket, you’ll get an extra hour of tasting so you can make the most of your day.

(Inside Tip: Give your taste buds something to buzz about and swing by Sunday Brunch. Cap off a weekend of phenomenal eats with this fun-filled mashup that combines two of our favorite things – food AND baseball. In honor of the Boston Red Sox’s appearance at opening weekend in T-Mobile Park, local culinary legend Tom Douglas and his pal and power-house of New England cuisine, Ana Sortun, will be facing off for a West Coast-East Coast brunch throw down. Get an inside look at Seattle’s brunch culture as you nosh on fresh, local ingredients paired with your favorite cocktails. Cheers!)

Q: Are there new wineries to watch for this year? Conversely, any tried and true makers that can’t be missed?

A: The Walls Vineyard from Walla Walla has some really exciting wines and we are thrilled they will be at the Grand Tasting. Some other standouts are DeLille Cellars, L’Ecole No 41 and Hedges Family Estate. A few newish wineries are to keep an eye on are Adrice Wines and Truth Tellar.

Be sure to grab a glass of the popular sparkling rose during the festival. Photo: Kristen Marie Photography
Be sure to grab a glass of Taste’s popular sparkling rose. Credit: Kristen Marie Photography

Q: Is it true that some winemakers stash special blends to sample at the event? If so, do you have any tips on how to get a taste of these?

A: Yes, that is true. Many wineries will have a special “code word” to sample these under-the-table wines. Monitor the wineries’ social media before the Grand Tasting and they may hint at what they’ll be pouring and how to get a taste.

Q: Any advice on how to taste the wines?

A: The most important part of the event is to just relax and enjoy. This is supposed to be fun! Just because the person next to you is swirling, sniffing and sneering doesn’t mean you should as well. Just be open to trying new wines and new wineries, you will start to see a pattern develop around what types of wine you are attracted to.

Enjoy an array of super-exclusive wine pours. Photo: Kristen Marie Photography
Enjoy an array of exclusive local wine pours. Credit: Kristen Marie Photography

Q: What are the best bites of the festival? Are there new or notable chefs to keep an eye out for?

A: There are so many incredible eats and chefs participating in the festival. Stop by the Red & White Party held at AQUA by El Gaucho, to sample their executive chef Kevin Benner’s impressive lineup of eats.

Foodies also shouldn’t miss the opportunity to try mouth-watering treats made by celebrity chefs and local superstars: Edouardo Jordan, Ethan Stowell, Rachel Yang, Chris Cosentin, Vivian Howard and Gregory Gourdet. Meet them at The New Vintage on Friday, where they’ll be serving up exclusive bites in the intimate The Sanctuary, paired with tasty wine cocktails from the upstairs Halo Bar.

On Saturday, be sure to catch live cooking demonstrations at the Grand Tasting from leading chefs, such as Chef Brendan McGill of Café Hitchcock, Chef Jeffery Vance of Navy Strength, Chef Maximillian Petty of Eden Hill, Chef Shota Nakajima of Adana, Chef Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer from North Carolina and Chef Hugh Acheson of Five & Ten from Georgia.

Learn insider tips as they unveil secrets for preparing their favorite and answer questions from both the Chef’s Stage and Albert Lee’s Mobile Kitchen – the Culinary Experience.

El Guacho’s delicious oysters have become a perennial favorite. Photo: Kristen Marie Photography

El Guacho’s fresh oysters have become a perennial favorite at Taste Washington. Credit: Kristen Marie Photography

Q: What workshops are must-visits?

A: Washington vs. The World is always a crowd-pleaser. This seminar explores how Washington wines stack up against some of the best wines from around the world.

Sample Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignons to see how they stand up against others from around the world. Photo: Kristen Marie Photography
Sample Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignons to see how they stand up against others from around the world. Credit: Kristen Marie Photography

Q: Any other events to be sure to check out?

A: Participating restaurants, wineries and hotels often host special wine dinners leading up to Taste Washington during the month of March, in honor of Washington Wine Month. Check back to see some of those wine dinners as they are announced.

Weekends are always better when there’s Washington wine involved, so be sure to join in for four days of non-stop deliciousness. Say it with us now – eat, drink, repeat!


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Feature Photo: Kristen Marie Photography