Gearing up for this weekend's Taste Washington event - an annual culinary binge where Washington wineries pair with Seattle restaurants for a truly gluttonous eat-around event - the Washington Wine Commission on Monday announced its annual wine awards for restaurants. The awards are given to eateries with wine programs that promote the Washington wine industry. While the bulk of the awards always seem to go to restaurants in Seattle and a few in Washington's wine country, one Pierce County restaurant was recognized this year - Adriatic Grill, a restaurant I reviewed with glowing praise last December.
Anthony Anton, head of the Washington Restaurant Association, said via Facebook yesterday that his association nominated Adriatic Grill for a wine award because, "We chose Adriatic based on their impressive selection of Washington wines, and their efforts to promote the state's wine industry through the Washington Tourism Alliance."
The official award Adriatic won is called a Washington Wine Award of Distinction - restaurants in that category are described as having "shown dedication and commitment to the Washington wine industry." Adriatic Grill is among impressive company in the award category- the restaurant joins John Howie Steak, Rover's, Salty's, Palisade Waterfront Restaurant, Purple Cafe & Wine Bar, Bin on the Lake and more.
Adriatic Grill owners Bill and Monique Trudnowski said by phone today that they were surprised by the award, something they've always wanted to win. Previously, they've been awarded certificates from the wine commission, but this was their first real designation. And they almost didn't attend the ceremony Monday to collect it. "I was on my way back from the airport in my sweatpants when I got a call from one of the WRA girls," said Monique. "It was inventory day and I was dressed to climb boxes." When the WRA rep told Monique "she really would want to be there," Monique said she knew there was a possibility Adriatic had won something beyond a certificate. "We cleaned up, finished up with inventory and drove to Seattle," she said. When introduced, they were referred to as a "Seattle restaurant," which Monique joked, "broke her heart into 253 pieces."
While Chef Bill is the man at the grill and wood-fired oven at Adriatic Grill, Monique is the woman behind the wine list. More than 60 percent of their wine sales are from Washington bottles - a statistic they proudly share. They're true ambassadors of Washington wine and can prattle off detail after detail about wineries small and large producing food-friendly wines. Monique said that her favorite bottles "change daily," but at the moment, her Washington favorites on the Adriatic Grill wine list:
Syzygy Saros: This Walla Walla red from Syzygy Wines is a full-bodied blend of malbec, tempranillo and cab. "It’s like hide and seek, all those grapes play hide and seek - you get the full tilt with the subtle hit after it." Winery website here.
Kyra Chenin Blanc: This Columbia Valley white from Kyra Wines is an award-winning chenin blanc. "It's an amazing white wine and a bargain," said Monique. By the glass, it's priced at $7.50 now. Winery website here.
The Keeper: This is the wine that Monique is most looking forward to adding to Adriatic Grill's wine list this week. They just debuted the wine at Adriatic's private chef's dinner. From Corvidae Wine Company, The Keeper is a 2010 cab-franc. "We had this with a grilled lamb salad. I needed something that was strong but not too strong and it was amazing. It will go on the wine list on Friday. Corvidae is based in Oregon, but this is one of their Washington wines, it’s bottled and juiced in Washington." Winery website here.
It is rare for Pierce County restaurants to win a commission award, although in the past, occasional winners have come from the South Sound. The most notable win was when Brix 25 in Gig Harbor won the highest state award in 2008 - the Washington Wine Restaurant of the Year.
The Washington Wine Commission, a trade organization that promotes the Washington wine industry, designates the awards every spring just before the Taste Washington event. The commission is the sponsor the Taste, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday at Centurylink Field Event Center. It's a weekend of eating and quaffing, complete with seminars from the region's top toques and sommeliers. Years ago when I was a food writer at a different newspaper, I attended three consecutive Taste Washington events and lived to tell about each one, although it took a few days to recover after all that eating. If you're planning on going, a few recommendations: Wear your stretchy pants, drink a lot of water, consider employing the not-so-classy-but-smart-sip-and-spit wine maneuver and be sure to pace yourself on the overwhelming selection of nibbles. It also helps to bring a dining partner who can help you juggle the plates and the glasses. Also: Designated driver. Get one. Click here for ticket and other details.