Corks+Forks: Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling and Blackfish’s Scallops

The live barrel auction begins where bidders compete for who gets to take home a future barrel worth of wine.

A toast to the Auction of Washington Wine’s 25th anniversary with Chateau Ste. Michelle and Tulalip Casino’s cuisine.

25 years is a long time to do, well, anything. Not many can attest to having committed to much for the better part of two and a half decades – Washington state has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, according to the 2011 U.S. Census report, R. Patt and that whiny girl just broke up and who has time to finish a whole book these days anyway? Regardless, the Auction of Washington Wine has been making a difference in the wine community, education and for Seattle Children’s Hospital for 25 years strong.

Along with the kickoff of the auction in 1988, ground was broken in this state in the name of wine in several occurrences. Five Washington state wineries made it into Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 for the first time in 1989, while Chateau Ste. Michelle was named “American Winery of the Year” the year prior by the same publication. Now only 19 years later, the state has signed 750+ wineries and growers are harvesting nearly triple what they were in the late 1980s.

The live barrel auction begins where bidders compete for who gets to take home a future barrel worth of wine.

It only makes sense that Chateau Ste. Michelle is bestowed the distinction as the auction’s 25th anniversary honoree. “We honor the institution as a whole for its fundamental role in our event’s success and ongoing commitment to establishing Washington state as a national and international force in the wine industry,” states the auction’s website.

In 1967, Ste. Michelle produced wine from some of the first grapes in Eastern Washington and hasn’t looked back. The Chateau literally paved the way for Washington wine – from the roads themselves, to the vineyards planted to the masters of wine who helped establish the institution and open their own (Bob Betz of Betz Family Winery, Kay Simon of Chinook, Mike Januik of Novelty Hill and Januik wineries and more).

Ste. Michelle Estates, which is owned by the public company Altria (which also owns U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA), has contributed upwards of $1.5 millions to the Auction of Washington wines, from one-of-a-kind donations of lots, international partnerships and, of course, the grounds in which the event takes place on annually since the event’s inception. They are the largest producer of Riesling in the country, the oldest winery in the state and generates nearly 2,000,000 cases each year.

With the help of Chateau Ste. Michelle and many other Washington winery participants and donors, the proceeds from the auction go to Seattle Children’s Hospital, the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country for pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center, and the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program (go Cougs) which aims to strengthen the quality and reputation of the Washington wine industry.

Starting with Thursday’s picnic and barrel auction, the three day event runs Friday night with the private estate winemaker dinners, Saturday’s 5k/10k Covey Run race throughout wine country and concludes with the wine gala that evening all at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 105-acre estate in Woodinville.

Courtesy of Tulalip Resort Casino.

The Restaurant: Blackfish Wild Salmon Grill & Bar — Acclaimed for their love of Washington wine through their wine list and their food pairing, Blackfish – by way of sommelier Tommy Thompson and Chef David Buchanan – has gathered a compilation of Northwest and Native American classics as well as seasonal flair and local favorites. Through tribal techniques of salmon preparation and a devotion to regional beverage, Blackfish is one of the six exquisite dining locations within Tulalip Resort Casino, the soul culinary provider of the Auction of Washington Wines.

The Dish: Seared Scallops ($29) — Seasoned with coriander and orange zest, the local scallops are seared to tender refinement and laid aside vibrant red and golden beets, a light and seasonal cous cous salad, wilted rainbow chard to satisfy the crunch texture factor and decorated with a fruit salsa of citrus – grapefruit, mango and tart orange.

The Recommended Match: Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley ($10) —  Hands down, this Riesling is the most recognized and celebrated value wine of Washington. Playing with semantics, the marketing gurus behind the wine labeled it as “dry” to avoid any misconceptions about the sweetness levels – this bottle is delicately sprinkled with honey. The focus is more on the crisp acid Washington Riesling is known for, along with the peachy and citrusy tones that pump through the wine.

Why It Works: Other than “just because,”the fruit profile of the wine and the food match with ease – citrusy with an orange focus and flair. Rich in flavor but resounding in its dryness and stinkin’ delicious. In the name of history, tradition and honor of Washington state, just do it.

Blackfish Wild Salmon Grill & Bar | 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd, Tulalip| (360) 716-1500