Auction of Washington Wines Events Not to Miss

Upon hearing, “Auction of Washington Wines” it’s easy to conclude it is a singular event. However, it is actually the name of an organization that works year round to produce a number of programs. If you’re a wine lover, here’s a little rundown on the Auction of Washington Wines events you need to know about.

Dinner event table
Up close and personal with Winemaker Andrew Latta

Last month we had a “Latta fun” at an Auction of Washington Wines Spring Winemaker Dinner with winemaker Andrew Latta of Latta Wines (sorry/not sorry!). Initially arriving at Rider Restaurant, we were whisked away up the elevator. Then the doors opened to a penthouse suite revealing a unique setting for the multi-course extravaganza. Throughout the night wines were poured, courses followed, and conversation flowed as freely as the wine. Andrew spoke pointedly regarding his preference for single variety, single vineyard wines, native fermentation, and minimal handling leaving wines unfined and unfiltered. The array of spectacular wines included Rousanne, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Malbec. In short, the entire experience was fantastic and far exceeded my expectations.

Dinner table
Guests enjoy the evening in the penthouse suite at Theodore Hotel

If that sounds compelling, be sure to attend an upcoming event!

June Event

The Wine and Music Festival on Red Mountain features a fun day of wine, music, and food at breathtaking Col Solare winery. On top of that, more than 20 Washington winemakers will gather to share tastes of over 60 wines. The Dakota Brown Band and Jack Rothwell will be performing, and delicious food from Porter’s Real BBQ and desserts from Fat Olives will keep you fueled.

Auction of Washington Wines Picnic
Photo credit: Richard Duval

August Events

One of the most anticipated events among wine lovers is the Winemaker Picnic and Barrel Auction. The experience takes place outdoors on the lovely grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle. Most noteworthy, fans of Washington Wine get to meet winemakers, taste barrel samples, and bid on a case of a future release wine, before it’s available anywhere else. It is important to note, however, that not just any winery may participate in the barrel auction. I had the good fortune to participate as a member of the selection panel this year. Therefore, I can attest that there is a well thought out evaluation process. The 30 selected wineries include Walla Walla pioneers Woodward Canyon, cult winery Reynvaan Family Vineyards, and rising star Damsel Cellars to name a few.

wine glasses
Picnic Wine Selection

Or, to enjoy a lovely upscale evening consider one of the Private Winemaker Dinners featuring such esteemed wineries as Avennia.

For Washington Wine fans looking for a lively evening bidding generously on special one of a kind auction lots, head to The Gala.

Intrinsic Wine
Juan Munoz-Oca, Auction of Washington Wines Co-Chair, showcases a special wine at the Private Barrel Auction

Alternatively, seek out one of the special wines from the Auction of Washington Wines Private Barrel Auction. These wines are unique, and crafted by the most renowned wineries in the state. Purchased by retailers and restaurants, the wines become available to customers solely through these channels as they are released. For example, Seattle wine shop Esquin is exclusively offering Sparkman Cellars Black Dragon.

These events benefit the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program and Seattle Children’s. They also shine the light on the incredible wines of Washington State and the people who form an industry with a great spirit of camaraderie. By taking part in these events, wine lovers enjoy top tier experiences while supporting worthwhile causes.

Auction of Washington Wines Events Ticket Info

Wine and Music Festival
Location: Col Solare, Red Mountain
Saturday, June 1, 2019
6:00 pm

Winemaker Picnic and Barrel Auction
Location: Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville
Thursday, August 15, 2019
4:00 pm

Winemaker Dinners
Location: Private Estates around Puget Sound
Friday, August 16, 2019
6:30 pm

The Gala
Location: Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville
Saturday, August 17, 2019
4:00 pm

Which Auction of Washington Wines event will you attend? Head on over to Twitter or Instagram and share your favorite!


In the interest of full disclosure, this is not a paid endorsement. I do what I can to raise awareness of this great organization and the causes it supports. Avennia and Esquin Wine and Spirits – VinoSocial clients – have not paid to be mentioned here. I have long been a fan of these businesses and the work they do to support the wine industry and local community.

How to Pair Chardonnay with Food

Chardonnay is one of the most popular wine varieties in the world. In fact, it is the most widely planted white grape variety here in Washington State. This food friendly white wine also happens to complement a number of my favorite dishes! To create the ultimate match, here are some easy tips to pair chardonnay with food.

Chardonnay Food Pairing
Shrimp Risotto and Chardonnay are a great match

Flavors in Chardonnay

Match Chardonnay with food using similar or contrasting flavors.
♦ Pear ♦ Lemon ♦ Apple ♦ Pineapple ♦ Vanilla ♦ Butter

Base Ingredients

Select a base ingredient that is likely to match with the variety.
♦ Crab ♦ Shrimp ♦ Scallops ♦ Mussels ♦ Halibut ♦ Salmon
♦ Chicken ♦ Turkey ♦ Quail ♦ Lobster

Bridge Ingredients

And/or use these bridge ingredients:
Tip: select one or just a few. A dish that’s too busy competes with the wine rather than complements it.
♦ Apple ♦ Pear ♦ Fennel ♦ Citrus ♦ Corn ♦ Dijon Mustard ♦ Vanilla
♦ Dairy ♦ Roasted Garlic ♦ Parmesan ♦ Swiss Cheese

Suggested to Pair Chardonnay with Food

When we’re in a celebratory mood at our house, I make a batch of crab cakes and break out a lightly oaked chardonnay. This pairing is THE way to celebrate a special occasion! Buttered corn makes a terrific side.

Food Pairing for Chardonnay
Crab Cakes and Chardonnay are the ultimate celebratory pairing

Riff on risotto and drizzle it with truffle oil for a decadent pairing. Or, keep it classic and top that risotto with some shrimp. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Chablis. Chablis hails from the Bourgogne region in France where the Chardonnay is known for its bright acidity and minerality. Translation:  it’s the opposite of buttery California Chardonnay.

Alternatively, try dishes such as lemon chicken, corn chowder (chilled or warm), roasted salmon, or Thanksgiving fare. It is also a nice pairing for my Light Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.

Chardonnay Day

One of my early experiences on Twitter involved participating in wine chats. Initially there was Taste Live. Then, Rick Bakas founded Chardonnay day in 2010. It gave us the perfect excuse to gather with friends over food and wine. Of course, it also meant posting impressions of the wines and pairings on Twitter.

Chardonnay Day still takes place annually on the Thursday before Memorial Day. Either Twitter or Instagram are great places to share your experience. If you’re celebrating on this day, be sure to use the #ChardDay hashtag and tag me so I can see how you choose to pair Chardonnay with food!


Celebrate National Moscato Day

National Moscato Day takes place on May 9th. Will you be celebrating the bubbly beverage? If so, here’s what you need to know to make the most of the occasion.

Moscato is light, slightly fizzy (technical wine word:  frizzante), and delightful to sip! It makes a great day drinking wine if you’re looking for an adult beverage to serve with brunch. However, at our house, we enjoy uncorking a bottle at the end of a meal to enjoy with dessert or on its own. Most bottles we purchase range in 5-7% alcohol by volume as compared to 12-14% for typical still wines. So, even if we’ve had wine with dinner, a little Moscato won’t put us over the edge.

National Moscato Day

Nerd Facts

Moscato is the Italian word for the Muscat Blanc grapes from which the wine is made. This variety is one of the oldest in the world!

Delicate honeysuckle and orange blossom aromatics are trademarks of this quaffable wine.  Thankfully, it tastes as pleasant as it smells. While sweet, it is not weighty or cloying.

Pairing Moscato

Personally, I adore almost anything lavender with Moscato, such as lavender shortbread or lavender ice cream. Likely because the lavender echoes the floral characteristic of the wine.

Tiramisu, however, is hands down the penultimate pairing.

chcocolate lady fingers coffee liqueur
Tiramisu Ingredients

So, how will you celebrate National Moscato Day? As with all social media wine holidays, be sure to use the right hashtag and share on social media. Head on over to Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine and #MoscatoDay!

Other Fun Wine Holidays

International Tempranillo Day
Malbec World Day – April 17
Taste Washington Wine Month – March
Washington Wine Month – August
Zinfandel Day

This blog has been verified by Rise: R00275739e59ae38dd2b0defb3bc3a7ea

Behind the Taste NW Wine Awards

Have you ever wondered about behind the scenes details at wine awards programs? On Saturday and Sunday, April 13-14, the Taste NW Wine & Cider Awards took place at the historic Swedish Club in Seattle, Washington. Advanced Sommelier and Taste NW Executive Director, Christopher Chan, extended an invitation to be a member of the Tasting Panel. Extremely honored, I accepted, of course. The following is some insight gained as to what goes into a program of this scale.

Wine Competition Setup

The Taste NW Wine & Cider Awards encompass the Seattle Wine Awards, Oregon Wine Awards, and Idaho Wine Awards. Celebrating its twelfth anniversary this year, it is lauded as the premier Pacific Northwest wine and cider evaluation and awards program. Each entry is evaluated for aroma, flavor, typicity, balance, complexity, and overall impression. In the end, the top expressions earn Double Gold, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Grand Awards of Excellence.

Wine Professionals
2019 Wine Awards Tasting Panel (Image Courtesy of Seattle Wine Awards)

The Scene

As part of the tasting panel, I arrive suited up. The spacious room where the evaluation takes place is filled with tables covered in white cloths. Light bounces off rows and rows of glasses atop each table. In an adjacent room, the sommelier team stains their hands uncorking 600 bottles for evaluation that day. Additional glasses line the hallway. In the kitchen,  palate cleansing snacks (glory be, I smell bacon!) are plated. Meanwhile, those of us on the panel receive instructions and scoring sheets. Then, the tasting begins. Very innocently at first, mind you, with sparkling wine one day and rosé the next. The fuller bodied wines come later.

bacon nuts crackers hummus jerky
Palate Cleansing Snacks Save the Day

A prestigious wine evaluation program of this magnitude takes a lot of people, vast space, and carefully executed planning and coordination. It is truly an impressive feat! Here is a look at it by the numbers.

Wine Evaluation Shelly Fitzgerald Roy Hersh

2,400 Pieces of Stemware

The number of Riedel glasses is astonishing! Can you imagine washing all that crystal?

1,200 Entries

The 2019 Taste NW Wine & Cider Awards cover over 1,200 Pacific Northwest wines, mead, fruit wine, and North American cider and Perry submitted for evaluation. Entries are tasted single blind. In other words, panelists know the variety being tasted in each flight.

120 Glasses Per Day

Each panelist evaluates approximately 120 glass pours per day. Consequently, spitting is absolutely necessary.

24 Panelists

The 2019 Seattle Wine Awards boasts a Tasting Panel of 24 local, national and international industry professionals. The accomplished group includes Sommeliers running highly acclaimed restaurant wine programs, wine buyers for major retailers, winery founders, winemakers, and wine educators. Being in the same room with such well respected people in the industry is very humbling.

12+ Sommeliers

Executing the evaluation is no small feat. A daily team of 12+ sommeliers and volunteers pop, proof, and pour all the beverages being evaluated.

2 Days

Evaluation of entries takes place over 2 days.

1 Week Recovery

There is an unspoken side effect to tasting upwards of 100 wines a day. Sure, purple teeth and tongue are predictable. It was surprising how sensitive my teeth and gums were after the tasting evaluation, however. Careful brushing with special tooth paste and avoidance of sweet foods ensued the following week until things returned to normal.

2019 Taste NW Winners

Highlights of the experience include exceptional flights of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux blends. Of course, thank goodness for the palate refreshing Rieslings and Rosés! Follow along on Instagram and Twitter as I reveal some of the Double Gold winners and pleasant surprises in the days ahead. Share your favorites and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Taste Red Mountain Wine

Do you believe you can taste terroir? Red Mountain AVA is the smallest and warmest wine grape growing region in Washington State. Wines crafted with fruit grown here are known for their structure and concentration. Often, I sense a bit of smokiness in the wines. Whether or not you believe it’s due to the terroir, one thing is for sure – there are phenomenal wines being crafted with Red Mountain AVA grapes.

Last week the Taste Red Mountain event took place at the World Trade Center in Seattle. Read on for a few highlights from that experience.

Now you might be thinking, “There’s Nancy going on about Washington State Wine again!” However, people from all over gush about wines from Red Mountain. In fact, here’s what Texas based Kat René, Certified Specialist of Wine and author of The Corkscrew Concierge, says about her experience with the region:

Tasting wine from Red Mountain was one of those “aha” moments for me. I don’t drink a great deal of Cabernet Sauvignon and I was convinced that I would never love Syrah. Red Mountain changed that for me. I was like, “who knew?!” It does an amazing balancing act between power and elegance.

Duckhorn Wine Bottle


The Canvasback 2016 Grand Passage Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a show stopper! For those not familiar with this brand, it is part of the Duckhorn portfolio. This bottling of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot is composed of their very best lots. Admittedly, at $84 it’s not cheap but dang, it’s worth it!

White Wine


2017 Optu White Wine ($30)
Sure, many associate Red Mountain with red wine. However, for a refreshing change of pace try the 2017 Fidélitas Optu White Wine, a Bordeaux-style white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon sourced from Klipsun Vineyard. It spends time in 50% neutral oak, 25% new oak, and 25% concrete egg, making it a textural delight on the palate. I’m suddenly craving seafood!

Red Mountain Wine

Hightower Cellars

2015 Merlot ($30)
After recently hearing a local wine buyer wax poetic about this under the radar winery, I just had to have a taste. Am I glad I did! At $30 a bottle, the Hightower Cellars Merlot is a steal of a deal for the level of quality. This juicy wine offers bright fruit on the palate wrapped up in velvety tannins. Pair this wine with Friday night and Netflix.

Sangiovese Wine Bottle

Kiona Vineyards

2016 Estate Red Mountain Sangiovese ($30)
The Kiona tasting room was the first one I visited on Red Mountain way back, so the wines – and the family behind the wines – have a special place in my heart. This Sangiovese is a delectable easy drinker with characteristics of sweet tobacco along with chocolate notes. Will somebody please bring me some pasta?

Red Mountain Syrah

Muret-Gaston Winery

2013 Syrah ($50)
I have been partial to the wines of talented owner/winemaker Kyle Johnson ever since I became familiar with them as a wine buyer for a small shop. If there’s a variety that reveals a sense of place more than any other, it has to be Syrah. The Muret-Gaston Syrah showcases the intensity of the region with its rich black fruit profile. Uncork a bottle and put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door!

Do you have a favorite Red Mountain winery? Head on over to Twitter or Instagram and #letstalkaboutwine!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in exploring more wine from Washington, get to know some Walla Walla wines.

Many thanks to Laura Huston of Belle & Bottle for the invite to Taste Red Mountain. Her Bothell studio is a great place to seek out quality wines of Washington State and enjoy some fun wine events.