Wine dinners and restaurant-hosted tastings have been popping up like tulips all over town lately. Whether you are a certified cork dork or just simply enjoy that glass of house red, you are sure to be satisfied. At one end of the spectrum are the casual after-work tastings offered by Blacksmith and Allyson's Kitchen. These events cost $10 and typically focus on a themed flight of 6 - 8 wines of similar style and origin. I attended Blacksmith's most recent event last Wednesday, hosted by sommelier Kevin Gilman, which focused on big Washington reds. No doubt about it, these were opulent, girthy wines with broad appeal and availability, and which spanned a reasonable price range. Their tasting notes were right on target, which made the experience accessible and easy.
My favorite part about this was the open, social atmosphere, where folks could mill around and talk wine, or not, at a very leisurely pace. At the other end of the spectrum are the truly remarkable dining experiences offered by Jen's Garden, Bistro Corlise, and Chow, where multiple courses are provided with paired wines. These range in price from around $65 per person to over $100, depending on the level of extravagance. I was fortunate enough to attend one at Bistro Corlise last month that left my lips smacking for days. It was themed toward southwestern France, and presented beautiful and unusual regional dishes and wines, such as a lamb tongue daube with a glass of 19-year old malbec from Cahors. This was truly stunning stuff. Jen's Garden chef T.R. McCrystal described his upcoming wine dinner: old world vs. new, comprising a six-course meal paired with white and red wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and our own Pacific Northwest. T.R. reminded me that "every night is a wine dinner" at such high-caliber restaurants. True enough, although if you are an avid foodie and can spare the quid, taking in a showcase wine dinner, when the menu has received some extra attention, is an experience not to be missed! Watch for advertisements and flyers, but I suggest calling your favorite venue to make sure you catch the good ones. - Tom Rodhouse