Last weekend (Saturday, April 16th and Sunday, the 17th) I participated in the Seattle Wine Awards judging. This event has been conducted by Master Sommelier Christopher Chan, and is one of the most prestigious wine award competitions in the country. Out of hundreds of wines entered, only a fraction receive awards of Bronze, Silver, Gold and Double Gold. This year, I was asked to participate in the judging, all done by respected wine experts. These included Lenny Rede (Esquin), Emile Ninaud (Champion Cellars), Reggie Daignault (Washington Wine Academy), Dan Corson (Camaraderie Cellars), Chris Nishiwaki (Sip Magazine), Mark Tagaki (Metropolitan Market) and others, including some Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers.
On the morning of April 16, I took the 6 a.m. flight from Walla Walla to Seattle and took a taxi to the Downtown Sheraton Hotel. At 8:30, I and four other participants were picked up by Greg Chan, Christopher's dad, and also a judging panelist, who chauffered us to the Swedish Club on Dexter Avenue North. There, 24 judges were divided up among six tables of four, and the wined divided among the tables. There were 1376 wines entered, so that was the only practical way to have the wines evaluated. My foursome evaluated 3 flights of Merlots, 3 of Rhone-style res, 3 of proprietary reds, one of proprietary whites, one of Oregon Chardonnays. We went through 10 to 15 wines at a time, moving from one table to the next. Score sheets were collected and passed on to a panel, led by Peggy Reddy, which compiled the scores from a modified 20 point system. That day, with a lunch break and a group photo in between, we each went through about 200 wines. The Saturday evaluation ended at about 3:00.
That evening, I and other out of town panelists and a few others, joined Christopher and scorekeeper Peggy Reddy, for dinner at Blueacre Seafood. It was a superb meal, with all kinds of perfectly fresh seafood, raw oysters, octopus, black cod, mussels, salmon, scallops and more. Memorable wines included a 2014 Eitelsbacher Trocken Riesling from the Ruwer in a 1500 ml. bottle, a 2011 La Forest Premier Cru Chablis from Dauvisat Camus (compliments of Chris Nishiwaki), a Bouzy Rouge still Pinot Noir from Champage (a natural red for seafood). Also bubbly, Gruet Brut Sauvage and Bollinger Champage, and more.
The next morning, Greg Chan picked up me and the other out of towners at the Sheraton for the remainder of the judging. Christopher Chan encouraged us to use fractional points to add precision to our evaluations. I did so, and was faulted for scores that did not add up correctly. I replied that I never was very good at arithmetic, but was making an honest effort. The tables were redistributed, and mine evaluated 3 flights of Syrah, one of Oregon Pinot Noir, two of Riesling, two of BDX blends, and we finished off with 13 ciders, not an area of my expertise, but I did my best. After farewells, I left with Dan Corson, who kindly dropped me off back downtown to catch a cab to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Walla Walla.
It was a memorable tasting, extremely well orchestrated by Christopher and his crew of pourers and score compilers. Our score sheets and wine keys will be sent in a couple of weeks, and the awards will be announced at a later date. Thanks to all for a great job. More later!