Sweet excess

For dedicated Seattle followers of food and wine fashion, the Washington Wine Commission's annual Taste Washington event is New York's Bryant Park couture shows, L.A.'s Academy Awards, and the Detroit Auto Show rolled into one. Food from over 70 gourmet establishments! Nearly 120 wines to sample! Shellfish and caviar! Cheeses and desserts! Paradise!

There's a downside, of course: With all this in one place at one time, just where does gourmandise turn into gluttony? But the Wine Commission feels your unease. For this fifth annual event, it's come up with something to focus on for four hours beyond mangia, beve, mangia, beve! This year is educational.

Education that still involves chewing and swallowing, of course: This year's raw and seafood bar, courtesy of Ray's Boathouse and Chandler's Crabhouse, is flanked by a veritable Wall of Wines—60 different ones!--to help you learn what's especially seafood-friendly. Another educational area that doesn't require taking a break from ingestion is the tent devoted to comparison tasting of the very different wines made in California, Australia, and Washington from the syrah grape. Those in need of soothing from severe sommelier shock should certainly visit the area where P.F. Chang's wine guru, Tim Hanni, holds forth on the gospel of drinking any wine with any food, beholden to no rule but pleasure to the palate.

Attendees who enjoy a little gamble but aren't about to bid on case lots of Quilceda cabernet at the WWC's summer Auction of Washington Wines will appreciate a new raffle: Five bucks buys a chance at one of 40 megabottles contributed by state winemakers. Go ahead, buy a few; all proceeds go to benefit the culinary education program FareStart.

I know veterans of Taste Washington reading this have bitter smiles on their faces—if they haven't already tossed the paper aside in scorn. They know what it is to walk into Taste Washington with the firm resolve that this time it's going to be different: This time there will be no need for a midnight run to 7-Eleven for Pepto- Bismol, no creeping to work hungover on Monday. Taste Washington should probably be illegal, or at least forced to display a warning label. All I know is: I'll be there, and I'll be leaving the car at home.

Taste Washington 2002, Sun., April 21, 5-9 p.m. $85. Stadium Exhibition Center, 1000 Occidental S. Tickets: Ticketmaster (628-0888) and many area wineshops.

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