Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Food Trek: Veni Vidi Vino - Conquering Pour 2012

And so it came to pass that Bellevue hosted not one, but TWO rather epic tipsy events this past weekend. As seen on Monday's post, Drinkin' With Sasquatch, there was the AHA National Homebrewers Conference, and on that same weekend, El Gaucho Bellevue had their annual Pour wine event. The wine and beer were flowing, there was a lot of joy and giggly laughter in the air, and all I can say is: I sure took photos of a lot of bottles on Saturday. Cheers to Pour 2012! 

Ready to pour for Pour Bellevue 2012 at El Gaucho - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I have to say, Washington's schizoid summer weather literally put the pour in Pour this year. I was eyeballing the weather reports for days, nervous at the rain symbol for Saturday. For the sake of responsible alcohol-imbibing, I was planning on walking from the Hyatt, where the homebrew conference was happening. It's not a far walk, maybe 10 minutes. I fit in what I could for beer seminars and despite the wind blowing the rain completely sideways, my friend and I braved the storm like stalwart soldiers in search of warm respite and yes, glasses of wine. A bit bedraggled and me feeling like a drowned rat (thanks, Washington Weather), we arrived at El Gaucho to smiling, welcoming faces and a hearty encouragement to start sipping. Bless their hearts.

I believe it's wine-o'-clock - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I've been to almost every Pour, even when it was originally called Pour on the Plaza, and they had it all outdoors on the lovely grassy lawn area. If this is the first time hearing about Pour, it's a great wine tasting event with over twenty different wineries from the West Coast area, but primarily Pacific Northwest. Several wineries have tasting rooms in Woodinville, but some don't, so it's a nice opportunity to sample new wines and discover more favorites. I was sad to miss last year's but vowed to not miss this one, and no way were gray skies going to ruin our wine parade. Several friends joined me this year, so it was like a mini party once I was done snapping photos of as much as I could before things got crowded. And crowded it got -- I recommend get your tickets before it sells out, and going with a small group so that a couple friends can stake out an empty table and use that as "home base" to sip wines, eat, and relax. Take it from the expert -- me and my Homegirls held court at a booth and were sitting pretty for most of the afternoon.

All the favorite wines, in one spot - cheers! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Pour is one of my favorite wine events and I always look forward to it. It's not a huge Tacoma Dome-sized venue where it's you and a thousand other people. It's an intimate setting, you casually wander from table to table, talking with the vintners and winery reps who can tell you everything about the wines, from the breakdown of blends or how they came up with the great names on each bottle. I know there are other wine and food events, but I know what works for me and this is the porridge that's just right -- not too big, I can bogart time chatting with the winemakers, it's an elegant experience and because the size of the event is controlled, you're not overwhelmed. Even if you don't try every type of wine from each winemaker, you can still conceivably taste one wine from each winery and not feel like you're in Bat Country and can't feel your legs.

Sticking to bold reds on a gray, rainy day - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I was extremely tempted by the welcome glass of Luxe bubbly from Chateu Ste Michelle -- I love bubbles -- but I stayed with red wines for the day. I blame the weather and my tastes in wine are very temperature-sensitive. One year at Pour, it was sunny and beautiful and I was a white wine and rosé junkie, but this year, it was hearty, flavorful reds all the way. Some of the ones I tried included Abeja's 2009 fragrant Cabernet Sauvignon, Gorman's 2008 Bully blend and refreshing 2009 Pixie Syrah, Mark Ryan's full bodied 2009 Dead Horse Cabernet Sauvignon-forward blend, Sparkman's smooth and vanilla-creamy 2009 Ruby Leigh Merlot, Dunham's signature Cabernet Sauvignon XIV, Efeste's go-big-or-go-home 2009 Final Final and Big Papa blends, Col Solare's self-titled blend full of rich berry flavor, and a spicy kick of Tempranillo from Pommum's Tinto blend. And that wasn't everything, I tried other wines and sips from my friend's glasses, just to see what they were having. Just call my liver Dustin Hoffman, because it's the Marathon Man.

More wines, more glasses, more to sample... - Photos by Wasabi Prime
One of the main reasons why this wine event is so good is that it's organized by a good restaurant, one that knows what foods to serve with wine. El Gaucho being a restaurant that specializes in steak, they of course had meaty bites like creamy steak tartare and mini tenderloin sandwiches, but they also had a lot of seafood and many platters of their addictive flatbread. I didn't want to overdose on bread, but I had one slice of a spicy barbecue flatbread that really knocked my socks off in a good way. I appreciated the vibrant colors as well as the one-handed ease of eating their little caprese salad skewers.

Have a bite or three - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Given all the wine sampling, I had a hearty food break of salmon, little amuse-bouche spoonfuls of a lobster salad and probably the table I hovered around more than the wine tables: Taylor Shellfish's fresh oysters. Don't crinkle your nose at the thought of raw oysters, they're shuckin' delicious. Briny in flavor, a creamy texture, and whether you have red or white wine, oysters go well with both. I find white wines bring out the more subtle flavors, making oysters more refreshing, and red wines enhance the savory quality of the lil' bivalve, causing me to eat them nonstop. Either way, I probably had over a dozen and given the high protein benefits of shellfish, I wouldn't be surprised if they helped stave off any hangovers the following morning. Cheers to oysters!

Wine, oysters and a quick lesson in how to shuck without impaling your hand - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And so it became the Pour 2012 that was -- fine wine, good food and great company to wait out the Saturday afternoon summer storm, which surprisingly cleared into blue skies by the event's end around 5pm. It was perfect timing, our group had a nice walk and enjoyed the sunset on the terrace of a nearby friend's condo. It's rare to say any day was truly perfect, but I have to say, this one came pretty dang close. Thanks to all the winemakers who kept our glasses full and to El Gaucho for keeping our stomachs happy for the afternoon -- see you again for Pour 2013!

Anyone who said you can't bottle happiness has never met a winemaker - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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