Saturday, October 23, 2010

Upcoming Event: The Taste of Tulalip - Tulalip Resort - Tulalip, WA

A few weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Taste of Tulalip preview event, held at the Tulalip Resort. The event was held to provide a sneak peak to the main event, The Taste of Tulalip, which will be held November 12th and 13th, 2010. This annual event, a celebration of “wine food tradition”, combines delectable food from chefs of the resort’s many restaurants and wines from 60 Washington wineries and 20+ Napa Valley wineries. Friday the 12th, the event kicks off with a champagne reception, the Taste of Tulalip Celebration Dinner, and a VIP after party. Saturday the 13th is a full day of events, including several wine seminars and the Grand Taste, held in the 15,000 sq ft Orca Ballroom. The Grand Taste also includes several live quick-fire challenges and chef demonstrations, put on by the chefs of the Tulalip Resort. Also on site will be Marc Mondavi, who will be presenting one of the seminars, as well as signing bottles during the Grand Taste.

Our experience at just the preview event was incredible. From the moment we arrived at the resort we were treated like VIP guests, starting with complimentary valet parking at the entrance. After being greeted warmly by resort staff and the preview event organizers and being handed a glass of sparkling wine, we walked into a beautiful ballroom that had been set up specifically for us for this preview event. The table settings were incredible, with wine glasses lined up at the ready for tastings and only four settings at each table, so each attendee had ample room to tweet or take notes on the courses we tasted throughout the evening (check out #TasteTulalip on twitter for our tweets from the evening). There were also photo slideshows on large screens on the walls, showing views of the Tulalip Resort’s rooms, restaurants, and entertainment offered on-site. We had a brief talk from Tony Hatch, Youth Advocate of the Tulalip Tribes, where we learned that Tulalip customs state that “one of the most intimate things you can do is sit down and share a meal with someone.” The resort strives for this, and works to think about old traditions and customs in the way that they treat their guests; with the respect that they deserve. According to the resort’s Executive Chef Perry Mascitti, the “chefs can show their passion with everything that they put out”. This sense of tradition and respect has shaped this event into what it is today. Our preview tasting started with samples from the Celebration Dinner, which will be held on Friday the 12th. This dinner contains five courses, with an intermezzo course between courses three and four. While the wines were not necessarily “paired” with the courses, they accompanied wonderfully. As each course was served, the chef who prepared it came out and gave a short intro to what we were about to taste and how the dish came to be. Also, Tulalip Resort’s Sommelier Tom Thompson would stop at our table to tell us about each wine as it was poured. It was so great hearing his stories of these wines and seeing the passion he has for what he does at the resort. Listed below are the courses of the Celebration Dinner, with photos and notes on a few of my favorites:

First Course, prepared by Gerry Shultz, Banquet Chef and John Jadamex, Eagle’s Buffet Chef: Dungeness and Alaskan Crab Sushi with Wild Rice, Sesame Lavash, Avacado Wasabi Foam
Accompanying Wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling
Notes: For someone who doesn’t normally like sushi, I was extremely pleased with this dish. The Ste. Michelle dry Riesling paired well with the spiciness of the wasabi used in the sushi.

Second Course, prepared by Gerry Shultz, Banquet Chef and John Ponticelli, Chef Garde Manager: Chenterelle, Smoked Boar Bacon and Aged Cheddar Soup and Quail Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette, Micro Greens, Mache, Teardrop Tomatoes
Accompanying Wines: Betz Winery 2007 Besoleil Red and Tranche Cellars 2007 Roussane & Viognier
Notes: The cheese soup in this course was absolutely incredible. I was sad we only had such a small portion to try, I wanted an entire bowl of this stuff! The wines were also very nice, with the Betz having a strong bouquet and a complex finish.

Third Course, prepared by Brent Clarkson, Cedars Café Chef and David Buchanan, BlackFish Chef: White and Red Miso Salmon, Miso Rice, Lemon Butter Tamari Mushroom Medley, Inari-Nori slaw
Accompanying Wine: 2010 Taste of Tulalip Bookwalter Red (2008 vintage)
Notes: This wine will be the house wine for the resort in 2011, sold by the glass or by the bottle. The bottle was designed specifically for them by local artist Scott Schoenen from Fresh Northwest Design. In working with John Bookwalter on creating this wine, they wanted something that could sit down and age for awhile, or be enjoyed right now. This Bordeaux style blend contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Because Tulalip has a retail license, guests at the resort will be able to purchase a bottle to take with them if they enjoy it while on-site.

Intermezzo Course, prepared by Kurt Hitchman, TRC Chef de Cuisine: Pomegranate Aspic, Orange

Fourth Course, prepared by Dean Shinagawa, Tulalip Bay Chef: Waygu Beef Short Ribs and Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin, Bleu Cheese Potato, Shiitaki, Sundried Cherries, Cabernet Demi Glace
Accompanying Wines: Charles Krug 2006 Cabernet and Charles Smith Wines 2007 “Skull” Syrah.
Notes: This beef dish was fantastic! The meat was so perfectly tender and the demi glace added amazing flavors. While I had started to limit how many bites I was taking of each course (with 12 courses you really have to do that…), I most definitely ate every last bite of this delicious dish. The wines were very different and gave two very different contrasting flavors for this course.

Fifth Course, prepared by Nikol Nakamura, Pastry Chef: “A Study in Chocolate” – White Chocolate Cream, Milk Chocolate Cremosa, 55% Chocolate Ganache filled Raspberries, 72% Dark Chocolate Baby Fondant Cake
Accompanying Wine: Graham’s 6 Grapes Port
Notes: After so much food it was hard to dig into this dessert, but I was glad I did. The filled raspberries were delicious and the port had very bold flavors that accompanied all the chocolate aspects of this dessert quite well.

After the Celebration Dinner courses (but wait, there’s more?!), we moved onto a preview of some of the dishes offered at the Grand Taste, which will be held Saturday the 13th. These courses were brought out together in some cases, and the wine was all poured for us up front, so I will just list out each item and also list out the wines we enjoyed along with these tastes.

John Ponticelli, Chef Garde Manager: Spicy Wonton Cup with Seared Spiced Ahi, Wasabi, Soy, Mirin, Seasame Aioli

Gerry Shultz, Banquet Chef: Smoked Duck, Chanterelle, Olive Romano Lasagna Roll, Port and Roasted Tomato Coulis, Pesto Oregon Bleu
Notes: This was a favorite of the first three items brought out (they were brought out all at the same time). This was a great twist on a pasta dish!

John Jadamec, Eagle’s Buffet Chef: Pulled Duck Slider with Pear Glaze, Asian Slaw, Brioche Roll

David Buchamam, Blackfish Chef: Apple Lacquered Pacific Halibut over Savory Fennel-Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
Notes: I really enjoyed this dish. Being from Alaska, I can be rather picky with my seafood (I mean c’mon, I’m used to eating fish I hauled out of the ocean/river/lake myself), but this halibut was prepared perfectly. It was tender and cooked well, and the accompanying butternut squash bread pudding was an amazing pair to the fish.

Dean Shinagawa, Tulalip Bay Chef: Butter Poached Sea Scallops with Toasted Pinenuts
Notes: This was one big buttery scallop! Like the halibut, the scallop was prepared perfectly and quite delicious.

Nikol Nakamura, Pastry Chef: “A Sweet Ending” display – Passion Fruit Macaroons, Chocolate Nougat, Pistachio Bon Bons, Financier, Mouse Au Chcolat, Beignets
Notes: More dessert! At this point I was so full I couldn’t see straight, but the bites I did have off this platter were quite lovely. Loved the beignets!

Chef Kurt Hitchman, TRC Chef de Cuisine: Local and International Cheese Plate
Notes: Who doesn’t love cheese to finish a meal? We had a few bites from this plate as an excellent finish to this extraordinary tasting event.

Wines Poured for Grand Taste Preview:

ZD Wines 2008 Founder's Reserve Pinot Noir

Lachini Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris (the only OR winery featured at The Taste of Tulalip)

Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2007 Syrah

Mi Sueño Winery’s Herrera label 2006 Cabernet (This 100% Cabernet is VERY limited, with only 100 cases produced. Tulalip Resort is the only location in Washington that carries this wine. This is a big bold cab with great flavors!)

As the preview event concluded and we tried to determine how we were going to roll ourselves out of the ballroom, the amazing organizers of the event had one more surprise for us. In Tulalip custom visitors never leave empty-handed, so we were all provided a wrapped gift of beautiful glass flutes with the Tulalip symbol on each of them. I was so thankful to receive such a beautiful gift after dining on such amazing food and wine.

Don’t miss out on The Taste of Tulalip 2010. As you can see, the food and wines offered at this impressive event (awarded the Washington Wine Commission's "Best Wine Event" featuring Washington Wines in 2009), are second to none. This year’s event will no doubt sell out, so visit Ticketmaster ASAP to get your tickets to any or all of the events that make up The Taste of Tulalip. Also, when booking overnight packages for the event, present your Ticketmaster event code for a special room rate at the resort. Guests will receive a Deluxe King for $150 plus tax per night or a Double Queen for $180 plus tax per night.

I’ll be at the Grand Taste on Saturday November 13th, so I’ll see you there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grape Cup 2010 - 415 Westlake, Seattle, WA

University rivalry runs deep, and here in Washington our two largest schools are looking for bragging rights at every turn. Whether it’s a win in the Apple Cup, or raising the most money for a great cause (remember in 2005 when the Space Needle was painted crimson & gray?), the University of Washington and Washington State University have a rivalry that goes back over a century. This year, the 2nd annual Grape Cup was held as another of these contests to let each school battle it out for supremacy. The Grape Cup is no ordinary battle and while there are no sports involved (well, ask a winemaker how much physical energy goes into each vintage, they may beg to differ there), it is a contest of ability; to see who makes the best wine or beer in the state of Washington.

This year’s event, held at 415 Westlake, had a great turnout of both winemakers and fans alike. This was a great venue for this event, with an open spacious room to wander around, a kitchen to prepare food, and beautiful high ceilings. On this night, the tables were adorned with their crimson & gray or purple & gold, and there was more school spirit in that room than I’ve seen at some sporting events! It was great to see the winemakers and fans in attendance all dressed up in their respective school colors. In true sporting fashion, the judges for the event were dressed in referee uniforms as they made their rounds to sample the wines and beers. We nibbled on some tailgate snacks (macaroni and cheese?! sliders?! I was in heaven…), and made the tour around the room on our quest to determine who made the best wine: UW or WSU? It was a hard start for myself and my friend Erin (@ErinDrinksWine) as WSU alum, as we were slightly biased and seemed to be drawn first to the Cougar tables. We overcame the natural pull toward the crimson and were able to try some amazing wines (and beers!) from around the state. As mentioned in my preview post for the event, the Grape Cup benefited the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust and we had a representative in attendance to explain a little about the organization and how they work to benefit our state’s farmworkers.

Some of my favorites of the event included the Willow Crest 2009 Pinot Gris (Cougar wine!), the William Church Winery (@WmChurchwinery) 2008 Bishops Blend (38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc – another Cougar wine), the Brian Carter Cellars (@briancarterwine) Oriana (Husky wine), the Pandora Cellars (so new they don’t even have a website yet!) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Husky wine), the Tempest Sol Winery 2008 Dusk (Merlot and Syrah blend – Cougar wine), and the Mercer Estates (@MercerEstates) 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Cougar wine). While there were many many others that I enjoyed at the event, these stood out and were the ones I wrote down to remember!

Palouse Winery won my heart (and my stomach) with their addition of one of the most amazing things ever to their table: Cougar Gold Cheese. Folks, if you have never tried this little bit of heaven in a can, get yourself to Met Market or the Cougar Connections store at Westlake and get some to try for yourself. This is a constant staple in my fridge!

In the end, the Washington State Cougars prevailed, beating out the University of Washington Huskies by just ½ a point in the referee’s voting:

1st place: Smasne Cellars 2007 Carmenére (Cougar)
2nd place: Pandora Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Husky)
3rd place: Skylite Cellars 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Cougar) and Brian Carter Cellars Oriana (Husky)

The people’s choice voting went to the Huskies, who beat out the Cougs in the team competition by just ONE point. But once again Robert Smasne was on top, winning the people’s choice individual winery first place award:

1st place: Smasne Cellars (Cougar)
2nd place: Pandora Cellars (Husky) and Two Mountain Winery (Husky) (tie)
3rd place: Goose Ridge Estate Winery (Cougar)

HUGE congrats to Robert, who has now won this competition two years in a row with one of his wines. Robert is an avid WSU alum, and also participated in a WSU Alumni wine event that I helped organize a few months back. I love that such fantastic wines come from a WSU Coug!

This year’s event was a blast, and will be one that I will no doubt continue to be a part of from here on out. Both the Cougs and the Huskies will be back with a vengeance next year, whether it is to defend the title (as WSU will be) or de-throne the champs (as UW will try to). Until next year, there’s only one thing left to say:


Sunday, October 3, 2010

BLEND: "The World's Best Wine, Food & Places" - Seattle, WA

Back in September I attended an event called BLEND, a food and wine tasting featuring wines from inside and outside of Washington (all blends, no 100% varietals allowed!), as well as food from a variety of resorts and conference centers. The event, which benefited the Washington Wine Industry Foundation, was held at the beautiful waterfront Bell Harbor International Conference Center. BLEND was put on by the wonderful Jamie Peha of Peha Promotions. Some of Jamie's past events I've attended include Wine Rocks Seattle and The Seattle Food & Wine Experience, which were both fantastic food and wine events. BLEND was one of the same, offering great wine, food, and views (once that pesky cruise ship decided to get out of the way).

Our first stop at BLEND was a Bordeaux blending seminar, put on by Columbia Winery. This seminar might have been the most enjoyable parts of the whole BLEND experience and I highly recommend the seminars for anyone who will attend this event next year. We started out by learning some great facts about the Bordeaux region in France and how the blending of different grapes from this area came to be. In France, blending is most often tradition and all of the different regions have their own rules and traditional blend of grapes. In Burgundy, no blending is permitted and wine makers actually risk jail time if they are caught blending the grapes of this region. In Bordeaux, anything goes. They will blend everything. The five Bordeaux grapes used in their blends include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Carmenere is permitted, but is almost never grown. I was interested to learn also about the different blends that come from the left bank and right bank sides of the Gironde river in France. Left Bank wines are generally Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, with Malbec and Petit Verdot being added mostly to enhance the color. The soil on the Left Bank contains more gravel than the more dry soil of the Right Bank. Right Bank wines are mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc based.

For this seminar, Columbia Winery provided their bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc for us, as well as some blending "guidelines" for the blends. (Cabernet Sauvignon: 25-75%, Merlot: 15-40%, Malbec 1-20%, Cabernet Franc 1-20%, and Petit Verdot: 1-20% (we were not blending with Petit Verdot at this seminar). Also at our table were several beakers, measuring containers so we could get the exact % blend and some charts to record our sample blends. With wide and eager eyes we set off on our blending adventure (It's science!). Each table was given the task of creating their own blend, which would then be blind tasted by the entire room, with a winner chosen off the vote of the room. Our wine "dream team" included myself plus Clive Pursehouse (@clivity) of The Oregon Wine Blog; Annie Hong (@blackpearlSEA), GM of the fabulous Black Pearl restaurants; the one and only Sean Sullivan (@wawinereport) of Washington Wine Report (did you see his "100 Best WA Wines" article in Seattle Metropolitan's September issue?); and Jessica Voelker (@JessVoelker), Seattle Metropolitan's lifestyle editor. We each set about creating our own blend (basically, we just winged it) with the wines provided. My first trial was a 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 20% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Franc blend, which I thought didn't turn out half bad for my first go at it. We all tasted each others creations and determined that best in show for trial #1 was Clive's "Dark as the Night" blend, a 50% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and 10% Cab Franc combination. We set off on trial #2 (my second run was not so wonderful), and determined once again that Clive's "Dark as the Night 2.0" was indeed the best our table had created. We mixed up the big version to submit for judging, did a little field blending at the last minute (seriously, the container was already on the front table and Sean ran up there to add more Malbec in at the last minute) and crossed our fingers. It turns out that we should probably keep our day jobs, as we weren't the best blenders in the room, coming in 3rd place of four groups. Whoops. The winning table's members each took home a bottle of Columbia's 2003 Peninsula blend, a 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 6% Mablec, and 1% Petit Verdot. After hearing a lot of this wine and its recent accolades, I might have to venture out and find a bottle for myself! While we didn't come out on top, I had so much fun creating my own blends, and left the seminar inspired to go home and start ripping into my 100% varietals of each of the Bordeaux grapes to start my own home blending operation. In any event, I can't wait for next year's seminars!

After the seminar was the general tasting event, which was spread throughout the convention center in separate rooms. I liked this spread out feel, as you were able to wander around the building, as well as take a break on the large patio extending off the side of the building. While there were way too many wines to recap here (this post would be a mile long), I took plenty of photos of the different wines I enjoyed at the event. Food was also incredible, with places offering up small bite size samples of everything from BBQ brisket sandwiches to granola crunch s'mores. There was a bite of something to please every taste. It was wonderful to chat with winemakers and friends and to try so many different blends of wine.

Mike Sharadin of Northwest Totem Cellars (@NWTotemCellars) had his new 2007 Potlatch at the event, a Syrah, Tempranillo, and Grenache blend. The 2006 Potlatch was a favorite of mine, so I was delighted to try the 2007 vintage. This bottle will open up even more in the future, very nice.

I always love trying new wineries and wines I have never had in the past, so I was excited to come across Arbor Crest Wine Cellars (@arborcrestwine), a winery based in Spokane, WA. They were pouring their 2003 Dionysus, a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec blend. I really enjoyed this wine, which has won several awards and is a 90+ point rated wine in Wine Spectator & Wine Enthusiast.

Another favorite was the 2008 Helix Aspersa, by Reininger Winery, based in Walla Walla, WA. This 82% Chardonnay and 18% Viognier blend was a refreshing palate pleaser. I think my first quote after tasting this wine was "I want to be on a beach in a bikini with this wine", which got quite the laugh out of Mr. Sullivan.

An additional white blend I enjoyed was the Page Cellars 2009 Sentimental Blonde, a Klipsun Vineyard 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon combination. Light and refreshing, this is another one of those "summer wines" that I love on a hot day (too bad we don't get any more of those days until next summer!).

I'm so happy to have attended BLEND Seattle 2010. In addition to learning some great facts about Bordeaux blending and what types of wines come out of that French region, I was able to work my own magic to create my own Bordeaux blend! This is a must attend for any wine lover and I look forward to next year's event!