Held at the Marina Park and supporting the Hope Heart Institute, Kirkland Uncorked is a cluster of experiences – a private tasting garden and demonstration area and a separate, open-to-all arts and food vendor area. The arts and food vendor area was intimate, focusing on small artist groups and vendors, with room for a few larger chains like Qdoba and the nearly requisite booth serving massive blocks of french fries. (I want to see a booth where I can get piles of thinly sliced vegetables, butter or spreads, and baguettes. Kirkland, I know you can make this happen.)
Wandering through the art area, I found painters working on pieces in progress, a booth for kids to try their hands at fine arts, dog grooming supplies, jewelry, and even Patch, a local Eastside publication.
Upon entering the tasting garden and after your age was verified, you were given a small wine glass and ten tokens for sampling wines. There was a small vendor area inside the garden, with Zagat/Google+ and Seattle Weekly dominating a corner, and Weber grills on the other end.
There were two main wine tasting pavilions, one with food tastings from restaurants like Anthony’s HomePort and SEAR. A Stoli booth, offering cocktails, served as the lone spirits booth. Samples for a half fill of the glass were 1-2 tokens, so I wandered from booth to booth, trying a riesling here or a rosé there.
I had two observations, which apparently are normal things for wine events that are open to the public. First, they need more spit/tasting buckets at the booths. While I don’t expect attendees to want to spit, the buckets are super useful for cleaning glasses and switching between red and white wines.
Second, I’d love to see a flight sampling option. While most wine vendors were present with ambassadors, including the ever-wonderful Mike of NW Totem Cellars, many of the tables were run by volunteers left without tasting notes. As they weren’t allowed to taste until the end of the day, they couldn’t tell me the flavor profiles. This rule makes sense for volunteer policy, so maybe Kirkland Uncorked could allow a 1-2 token ‘flight’ to try small amounts of each wine at a table. That way, if no tasting notes are present for the volunteers, it’s a way to sample the wines before asking someone to commit to a full glass.
As an overall experience, it was lovely. The recent rainstorms had broken for full sun, so people were lounging with their glasses on the grass. Ducks were on the shoreline, a vendor was handing out pots of herbs, and the water looked ridiculously inviting for paddle board rentals. I’d love to go with a group next year to compare more samplings, and maybe buy a bottle or two at their wine shop. And I’m sad I missed the grill-off; it looked fantastic. That’s just another reason to return for 2013.