February 21, 2009 - Washington State Wines Tasting Event
     Dozens of Central Texas restaurateurs and beverage experts descended on the Hilton Hotel Downtown ballroom on Friday afternoon for the Washington State Wine Commission tasting event.  Co-sponsored by the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas, the event brought
about four dozen wineries to Austin for an afternoon industry tasting, followed by a public event that included several of the area’s higher end restaurants serving nibbles to accompany the vino.
     Making the rounds of the tables, I learned a few things about Washington State wineries:
- Almost every label touts being “small, family owned, and using only Washington-grown grapes;”
- Only about 15 to 20 wineries are “estate" wineries” - meaning they grow their own grapes;
-  The Riesling grape was made for Washington State - as the representative of the Covey Run Winery said, Riesling wine in Washington practically “makes itself.”
    All the wineries are convinced that Washington State is the ideal place to bottle their blends.  Like John Williams, who runs Kiona Winery, one of the earliest in the state and the
first in the Red Mountain region.  His Red Mountain Lemberger is one of the highest wine exports from the state, and his estate sports 700 acres of vines and supplies many of the other operations in the region.
    And Butch Milbrandt, who grows 35 varieties on two estates - one for reds and one for whites - that bottle under his Milbrandt Winery label.  His 2007 Columbia Valley Riesling was exceptional, which explains why he supplies more than 50 other wineries with his grapes.
    And Alexis and Juliet Pouillon, the husband and wife team that launched their first vintage in 2005.  He’s a soil scientist, and she has a strong background in culinary arts, and they converted a handful of their acreage in the Columbia River Gorge into Domaine Pouillon Winery.  The wines “are our kids,” he said, and their labels are definitely worth purchasing from their website - especially the exceptional 2006 Cuvee en Amont.