Fall 2011

10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

When this column of things to do in Northwest wine country got off the ground in 2005, the vines could be rather light at times.

That's far from the case now. There's such a cornucopia of events to choose from there are just as many that I regret leaving out for various reasons -- even after writing up the item weeks, sometimes months, in advance. I collect ideas and news releases throughout the year, saving them either in an email file or a folder in my hard drive in hopes that a "second annual" wine event does well enough to become a "third annual."

Grab your family and/or friends and see what is out there in this world of wine. Because none of us knows if this vintage will be our last.

1. Corks and canvas. There must be reams of book clubs in the Northwest that use wine as the carrot to lure folks into joining. Then there are Lisa Cryder and Stefanie Hare, fans of Washington wine who created a business that blends tasting with painting.

"We don't offer painting classes, we offer painting parties," Hare says.

This month marks the first anniversary of Corks and Canvas, and the landscape has grown to acrylic painting seminars each month at three tasting rooms in the Puget Sound -- Apex at Alder Ridge Tasting Room in Woodinville, Urban Enoteca in Seattle and VoVina Wine and Vodka Tasting Martini Bar in Kirkland. More wineries are lining up to stage events, too.

Cost is $45, which includes instruction, supplies and "the first glass of wine for inspiration." Go to corksandcanvasevents.com for listings.

2. B.C. food meant for B.C. wine. Looking for British Columbia's version of Taste Washington? It's the seventh annual Chef Meets Grape.

One detail that sticks out to this Yank is "attendees must be 19 or older." I'm guessing most teens who go to Western Washington University are keenly aware of the drinking age in B.C. The food-and-wine pairing event Sept. 22 returns to the Vancouver Convention Centre, where chefs from 12 of the Ocean Wise partner restaurants will be serving.

This year, more than 75 wineries are offering more than 250 wines, all paired with B.C. cuisine. Among those pouring are Black Hills, Burrowing Owl, Cassini, CedarCreek, Gehringer Brothers, Gray Monk, JoieFarm, LaStella, Nk'Mip Cellars, Road 13, Stag's Hollow, Tinhorn Creek, Township 7 and Wild Goose.

Cost is $91. Go to winebc.com.

3. Stomp your way to the world title. Willamette Valley Vineyards, our 2011 Oregon Winery of the Year, would love to say they helped find this year's World Grape Stomping Champion. And on Sept. 24-25, the Turner winery plays host to the 21st Oregon Grape Stomping Competition.

Each two-person team -- a stomper and a swabber -- pays $10 per heat. Pre-registration and reservations are required. The tandem that produces the most juice wins a trip for two to beautiful Sonoma County, home of the international finals. My money would be on those two Vikings from the credit-card commercial.

Admission is $10, which comes with a free Riedel glass. The stomping is held in conjunction with the winery's Harvest Celebration, so there will be plenty of award-winning finished juice to sample.

For additional pressings, go to wvv.com/whatsnew.

4. Kickstand for Kiwanis. Few places in Northwest wine country are as well suited to serious cycling winesters as the Yakima Valley. An ideal weekend to jump into the saddle and hit the road is for the annual Kiwanis Wine Country Trek, which is Sept. 24-25.

It's a two-day, 120-mile round-trip from Yakima to Prosser and back to Yak. The ride starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday, taking in Yakima Valley vineyards, hop fields and orchards. Registration is $110 and includes a Saturday gourmet dinner, admission to the balloon glow, overnight camping in Prosser, Sunday breakfast, support vehicle and break stops. Proceeds go to the Apple Valley Kiwanis for community and youth service projects.

This event hits particularly close to home with the sudden passing of Wine Press Northwest tasting editor Bob Woehler, whose civic activities included serving as a Kiwanis lieutenant governor. Pedal over to applevalleykiwanis.com.

5. Brats and kraut in Spoke. Since 1982, Mike Conway has been posting low scores at the golf course and getting high scores with his wines at Latah Creek in Spokane.

On Oct. 1-2, he'll be giving his clubs a rest as he and his family celebrate Oktoberfest at their winery near the Spokane Valley Mall. In addition to their lineup of deliciously affordable wines, Mike will serve up bratwurst and sauerkraut for guests. Go to latahcreek.com.

6. A new meaning for Canoe wines. Confused by Canoe Ridge the winery in Walla Walla, Canoe Ridge the vineyard, Canoe Ridge the place where Chateau Ste. Michelle red wines are made and Canoe Ridge the spot overlooking the Columbia River named by the Corps of Discovery?

Here's a chance for the public to gain first-hand knowledge of Canoe Ridge Estate in Washington's Horse Heaven Hills for the first time. In 1991, Chateau Ste. Michelle and vineyard manager Mimi Nye began planting Canoe Ridge Estate. Two years later, Ste. Michelle built its red winemaking facility not in Woodinville but near this vineyard.

This year, Chateau Ste. Michelle wanted another venue for revenue so it created a seasonal public tasting gallery at its Canoe Ridge Estate Winery. No appointment is required, and tastings of CSM's single vineyard and Ethos lines are complimentary.

On Oct. 8, during harvest, there will be two tours of the facility. Admission and samples are free, and El Gaucho will sell appetizers. Want a complimentary tasting glass? Send an RSVP through ste-michelle.com. Otherwise, the gallery is open Thursdays through Sundays before it shuts down for the season Oct. 16.

7. Your passport to Idaho. Several wine regions in the Pacific Northwest have enjoyed success using "passport" programs for touring. Now the Gem State has one.

The Idaho Wine Commission has joined forces with the Idaho Statesman newspaper to encourage readers in the Treasure Valley to become drinkers and support their wine industry.

Those who visit each of the 20 participating wineries gain access to exclusive deals. Passports are sold through the Statesman for $30, and the promotions are good through April 30. The grand prize given to the lucky bearer of a full passport is a bottle from each of the 20 wineries. Go to idahostatesman.com/

contests or contact the wine commission at idahowines.org.

8. Offering a LOT of help to children. There are too many children left behind, but fortunately there are folks such as those at Olive Crest -- a West Coast organization founded in 1973 -- who provide a helping hand to Puget Sound foster children.

On Oct 12, LOT No. 3 in Bellevue plays host to Olive Crest's 10th annual Grape Expectations Wine Procurement Party. That night, each guest brings a donation of outstanding Northwest wine to be auctioned at Olive Crest's 2012 One Life at a Time Gala at the Westin Bellevue. Each donation valued at $100 or more is parlayed into a complimentary glass of wine, hors d'oeuvres and free parking. The previous nine years raised nearly $500,000. Go to olivecrest.org/pnw to get your form.

9. King Cab. Most of us won't turn down a glass of great Cabernet Sauvignon. After all, it's the wine of kings. Here's a chance to taste and judge a bunch of Cabs side-by-side.

On Oct. 26, Bell Harbor on Seattle's waterfront -- the home of several Northwest wine events -- will stage the third annual Cabernet Classic. Last year's event gathered more than 100 Cabs and Cab-based blends from 35 Washington wineries. The three-hour event serves as a fundraiser for Rotary First Harvest, a food bank program. Cost is $50. Go to firstharvest.org.

10. Dining above Timberline. Last year marked the return to Mount Hood by one of the Northwest's most accomplished and wine-minded chefs.

Jason Stoller Smith resigned from the Ponzi-owned Dundee Bistro to succeed his mentor, Leif Erickson, as executive chef at Timberline Lodge.

Each fall, Stoller Smith begins conducting arguably the most remarkable winemaker dinner series in the Northwest. These meals are not staged in the lodge, but rather the Silcox Hut -- under the chairlift on the Palmer Snowfield. The series resumes Oct. 13 and runs once a month through July. These are intimate evenings as the hut seats just 24. Cost is $175. Apparently, there are no hard feelings because Ponzi Vineyards has been featured twice. Start your climb at timberlinelodge.com/winemakers-dinner-series.

This story was originally published September 15, 2011 5:54 PM.

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