Seattle Wine and Food Experience a global opportunity

By on January 28, 2016
Patrons enjoy the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience, which took place Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at Seattle Center. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Patrons enjoy the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

SEATTLE – Wine lovers attending the eighth annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience will not only have the opportunity to try many regional wines, but they’ll also enjoy samples of international producers, too.

“It was created to give that opportunity to other regions to taste that comparative aspect of wines from all over the world, particularly the West Coast,” said Jamie Peha, who runs the event.

Peha, a veteran of the Washington wine industry and a regular in the Seattle wine and food scene, was instrumental in starting Taste Washington nearly 20 years ago. While the Seattle Wine and Food Experience shares some similarities to Taste Washington, it is a much different event.

We recently caught up with Peha to talk about the Seattle Wine and Food Experience. Here’s the interview:

International event, international city

Master butcher Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats stages a demo for patrons at the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience, which took place Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at Seattle Center. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Master butcher Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats stages a demo for patrons at last year’s Seattle Wine and Food Experience. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Given Seattle’s position on the Pacific Rim, it is a truly international city. As such, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience mirrors that. More than 500 wines will be poured during the two-day event Feb. 20-21, and while many of them will be from Washington, patrons also will enjoy sips from Champagne, Chile, California and Oregon.

seattle-wine-food-experience-logoThe wines will be served alongside various selections from chefs throughout the greater Puget Sound region.

“The event is very food-focused,” Peha said. “During the weekend, we have almost 50 chefs participating.”

It starts on Saturday, Feb. 20, with Pop! Bubbles and Seafood, which is in its second year. It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center near the Space Needle. Tickets are $75 per person.

Pop! will feature sparkling wines from around the world, including Champagne, Prosecco, cava and domestic bubbles. Alongside them will be 16 chefs preparing Northwest seafood sourced from Alaska to Oregon. An oyster bar and caviar are among the highlights.

Sunday, Feb. 21, is the grand tasting and will run from noon to 5 p.m. It includes nearly 200 vendors, with plenty of winemakers pouring their creations for attendees. VIP tickets cost $75 and allow early access to the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, as well as a VIP lounge and a swag bag. General admission tickets are $60 and provide access from 1 to 5 p.m.

Those seeking the full weekend pass can get into both events for $140, including VIP access.

Peha’s connection to Taste Washington

Tim and Jennifer Armstrong celebrate a gold medal for their Armstrong Family Winery 2012 Celebration Series Cabernet Franc at the annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience, which took place Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at Seattle Center. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Tim and Jennifer Armstrong celebrate a gold medal for their Armstrong Family Winery 2012 Celebration Series Cabernet Franc at last year’s Seattle Wine and Food Experience. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Peha began working for the Washington State Wine Commission in the 1990s after a successful career in restaurant and hospitality management in California and Washington. One of her tasks at the wine commission was to develop Taste Washington.

Jamie Peha of Peha Promotions

Jamie Peha of the Seattle Wine & Food Experience.

The first Taste Washington took place in 1998 at the Paramount Theater and was focused on food-and-wine pairing.

“It was 40 wineries and 40 restaurants,” she said. “That has grown after all these years to what it is today: 225 wineries participating in Taste Washington.”

Peha worked with the wine commission until 2005, when she left to launch her company, which now involves the Seattle Wine and Food Experience. And just like Taste Washington, it is growing. It’s now a two-day festival that will draw about 2,500 consumers.

“It was really great to be involved in the wine industry for that 10-year period,” she said. “A lot of growth happened, a lot of grassroots marketing. When I left the wine commission, we were at about 350 wineries. I think today we’re nearing 900.”

So while similarities can be drawn between the Seattle Wine and Food Experience and Taste Washington, they are quite different events with different goals.

“We love to support the Washington wine industry, but we also like to bring those other regions in so that the consumer can understand and learn and educate their palate a little.”

Fun, education at Seattle Wine & Food Experience

Seattle Wine & Food Experience.

Chateau Ste. Michelle provides a way for wine lovers to experience different kinds of Riesling to see what they prefer. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Peha likes to build in fun and interesting “event within an event” experiences at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

For example, Chateau Ste. Michelle will have a tasting area that provides a way for consumers to understand the differences between different kinds of Riesling and to vote on what they like: dry, off-dry or sweet. Last year, this was one of the most popular features of the Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

Also this year, the Northwest Wine Academy from South Seattle Community College will play host to an area called The Wine School. In it, consumers will be able to blind taste Washington wines vs. wines from elsewhere around the globe.

“We think that really brings Washington wines up when they’re compared to wines from other places in the world,” Peha said. “It’s a great way for the consumer to get in on that.”

Bellevue-based QFC will have a lounge where it will pour only reserve-level wines, and the grocery’s wine stewards will lead patrons through that experience.

While many of those attending the Seattle Wine and Food Experience will be from the greater Seattle area, Peha noted that last year’s festival drew wine lovers from 18 states.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” she said. “You wouldn’t think to be traveling to Seattle in February, but I don’t think there’s a bad time to come to Seattle any longer.”

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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