10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

Wine Press NorthwestMay 23, 2013 

Winemakers in the Pacific Northwest wouldn’t change too much from last year when it comes to the summer of 2013. That would add a pleasant and tasty twist to global climate change.

Over the years, wineries continue to create fun ways to get consumers out to their tasting rooms, into the vineyards and more involved with their team of employees. In some ways, that’s made it easier to develop this column. On the other hand, it’s also more difficult to prune the list to 10 things — especially for the summer edition.

Don’t forget the SPF 50 and your ID.

1. Picnic, tour the south Willamette Valley. Members of the South Willamette Wineries Association orchestrate two barrel tours each year. Their second tour, June 22, features a trip of iconic King Estate — the state’s largest winery — and Chateau Lorane, Iris Vineyards, Noble Estate and Saginaw Vineyards. Travel is done on a charter bus, and each winery offers education and serves three wines paired with an appetizer. Cost is $70, which includes the picnic lunch.

Get rolling at southwillamettewineries. com/events/barrel-tour.

2. Tweet for your poster. The Idaho Wine Commission wants your help to tell the world about Idaho wines, some of which rank among the best values in the United States. So it has created an incentive for winesters to visit wineries and tasting rooms, then post their experiences on social media.

Starting in June, it wants Tweeters to take a photo, post it to their account, hashtag it #idahowines and tag the location. Once you do that at 10 wineries, you qualify for one of five commemorative Idaho wine country posters created by Boise State University grad Ward Hooper, who operates a gallery near the state Capitol. His works are inspired by the eras of Art Nouveau and Deco.

Those who don’t do Twitter can buy one or all five posters, which are available at wineries and Idaho Wine Commission events. Retail price for each is $15. Thumb over to @idahowines.

3. Taking farm to table on the road. Matthew Domingo created Farm to Fork in 2010 and began developing unique Oregon wine country events centered on the farm-totable concept. This spring, the Oregonian newspaper described Farm to Fork as “The Best Meal in the Middle of Nowhere.”

Starting in 2010, the graduate of the University of Portland and the Oregon Culinary Institute has created events spanning from the Columbia River to the California border, Portland to Ashland. This year, farm dinners begin June 29 at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in Jacksonville and end Sept. 14 at Dancing Roots Farm in Troutdale, Ore.

This summer, he put together “The Ultimate Food & Wine Trip” — a five-night sojourn that mixes Portland chefs, Willamette Valley wines and rafting down Idaho’s Main Salmon River. That trip has been chartered, but Farm to Fork can customize events. Plant the seed at farmtoforkevents.com.

4. The boys of summer. Eola Hills Wine Cellars, one of the largest producers in Oregon, also is among the most innovative when it comes to engaging its fans. This summer, the Rickreall winery will be taking buses of wine-loving baseball fans to Safeco Field for a 15th season. On June 30, they will see the Seattle Mariners face the Chicago Cubs and Darwin Barney, the Gold Glove second baseman from Beaverton, Ore.

“We do a continental breakfast and get on the road by 7 to pick up folks at a park-and-ride lot in Portland,” said Rich Washburn, who coordinates events and handles marketing for Eola Hills. “At that point, we start out wine tasting and pass out snacks. That might sound kind of early to start wine tasting, but we’re having fun.”

Washburn is quick to point out each 55-passenger coach is comfortable and includes a lavatory. They arrive at The Safe about two hours before the opening pitch, take in batting practice, enjoy a catered lunch and then migrate to their seats along the third base line.

Cost is $149 per person and includes everything but your beer and concession items at the ballpark. Swing over to eolahillswinery.com.

5. Wine rockers. Anyone reading this publication will agree that wine rocks. Well, on July 11, Wine Rocks Seattle gets rolling for the sixth year. It gathers about 30 Northwest winemakers, brewers, distillers and local musicians at Pier 66 to support a select local charity.

Winemaking musicians include Jamie Brown (Waters), Darren Des Voigne (Des Voigne Cellars), Chip McLaughlin (Vinyl), Rob Newsom (Boudreaux), Victor Palencia (Jones of Washington) and Gordy Rawson (Chatter Creek). Two graduates of the Washington State Wine Commission, Jen Doak and Jamie Peha, are behind this event. They also arranged for tidy lodging discounts at two properties that have long supported Northwest wines — the famed Edgewater Hotel and the swanky Inn at El Gaucho. There’s also a partnership with Uber, a new towncar service, for those who don’t want to use the Bell Street parking garage. The region’s growing mobile food truck will be parked nearby to sell meals. Advance tickets run $40, and this event typically sells out. Rock on at winerocksseattle.com.

6. Kiss French, drink Northwest in Madison Valley. One of Seattle’s most established vegetarian restaurants, Cafe Flora, plays a leading role in the Madison Valley neighborhood celebration of Bastille Day. So on July 13, restaurant owner Nat Stratton-Clarke and other businesses along Madison Street embrace the mood surrounding France’s liberation with the second annual Bastille Bash by having French and Northwest wines poured.

A “wine passport” costs $20 per person, allowing the holder to taste at each business from 3 to 8 p.m. The list of Northwest wines participating includes Facelli, Forgeron, Kiona, Swiftwater and Walla Walla Vintners. Live music, street performers and burlesque dancers will add to the folly. Proceeds from Bastille Bash support the Children’s Response Center in King County. Drive down to madisonvalley.org.

7. Off and running. It makes sense because of Eugene’s track legacy and some footwear company with its headquarters in Beaverton that folks enjoy running through Oregon wine country. Here is the trail to a couple of the larger races.

First, there's the fourth annual Fueled by Fine Wine Half-Marathon in the Dundee Hills on Sunday, July 14. The field is limited to the first 1,200 runners, and the course includes unpaved trails through vineyards and hazelnut tree orchards.

“You won't run your best time, but you’ll have your best time,” race president Chris Nagy likes to say.

The course takes in vineyards belonging to Archery Summit, Four Graces, Lange and Torii Mor, and promoters are hopeful that winemaker Jesse Lange will be in the field. Race swag includes a wine glass and the after-race party. Part of the entry fee supports the Pacific Northwest Newfoundland Rescue. Enter at fueledbyfinewine.com.

On Sept. 1 of Labor Day weekend, there’s the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon. This event, also in its fourth year, starts at Stoller Vineyard in Dundee and ends on the streets of Oregon’s wine capital — Carlton. There, competitors can cool down at the Post Race Wine and Music Festival. Members of their support team can join in for $25 each. Enter at destinationraces.com/runoregon.

8. Tin Cup meets Wine Cup. The Washington Wine Industry Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, tees up the 13th annual Wine Cup at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland.

On Monday, July 15, not only do players help raise money for scholarships, but they also will be playing under pressure. Each member of the winning team receives a five-day cruise for two to the Bahamas, the Caribbean or Mexico. As Bobby Jones once said, “There are two kinds of golf. There’s golf, and there’s tournament golf.”

Last year’s best team represented Champoux Vineyards. However, for one lucky golfer, there’s a drawing for a five day stay in Cancun. Participating wineries include Champoux Vineyards, Coventry Vale, Gamache, Milbrandt, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Zirkle Fruit. Enter as an individual or put together your own foursome at washingtonwinefoundation.org.

9. The gift of life. Winemakers often think in terms of gallons. Here’s an instance when wine drinkers work by the pint. Kim Roberts, marketing maven and co-owner of Westport Winery in Westport, Wash., developed an ingenious promotion around Bella, her red blend named after the winsome vampire of the “Twilight” movie series, which is set up the coast in Forks. It’s called the Bella Blood Drive, and the next draw is Aug. 9. Donors earn a 50 percent discount on a bottle of Bella, the most prized wine made by her son, Dana.

As is custom at Westport, a portion of proceeds from sales of their wines go to a beneficiary. In this case, the proprietary blend of Barbera, Merlot, Primitivo, Refosco, Tempranillo, and Syrah is tied to the Mount Rainier Chapter of the American Red Cross and the area blood bank. Non-alcoholic refreshments will be given to donors and “Twilight”-inspired T-shirts that read “A Glass a Day Keeps the Vampires Away” will be available. Make reservations to drain at westportwinery.org.

10. Investing in Idaho. Mary Brown-Hurja, a former wine rep in California, has fallen in love with the Snake River Valley wine industry. First, she helped with the Sunnyslope Food and Wine Festival, and now she’s created Idaho Food and Wine Festival — both under her Grow Local USA company. Idaho vintner Ron Bitner, a world-renowned entomologist and president of the National Wine Grape Growers Association, sits on her advisory board.

Grow Local also partners with Music on the Water, a 15-week celebration staged each Thursday to highlight local food, wine and live music at Boise’s Waterfront on Lake Harbor. In fact, only Idaho wine, Idaho food and members of Idaho Songwriters Association will be featured.

The series will be highlighted by the inaugural Idaho Food and Wine Festival on Aug. 24-25. The Sunnyslope Food and Wine Festival is Sept. 20-22. Soon after, Brown-Hurja will follow the snowbirds to the Palm Springs area. For updates, go to idahofoodandwinefestival.com and musiconthewaterboise.com.

Eric Degerman is co-owner of Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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