Summer 2011

10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

The more vintages I put behind me, the more importance I place on quality food and where it comes from.

Perhaps that notion is the byproduct of living in wine country and drinking the fruit of my neighbors' labor.

At the same time, I need to be better about trying to make sure I live long enough to enjoy the bottles I've squirreled away. Something akin to "I work out to eat."

Those who read this presumably enjoy the empty calories that delicious Northwest wines add to our diet. Here are some of summertime touring tips that address adding and removing calories.

1. Tickling the ivories. Winemakers do a lot of orchestrating when it comes to harvest, but at Tunnel Hill Winery in Chelan, Wash., they make some rather beautiful music in addition to the wines.

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Every Thursday in June and July, winemaker Guy Evans will play the piano during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. at his family's winery. Glass pours are $5, and cheese plates are available.

Evans is quite a Renaissance man. Nearly 10 years ago, he was a videographer who produced the award-winning documentary Broken Limbs: Searching for the New American Farmer. The transition from apple orchards to wine grapes goes a long way in explaining why Tunnel Winery exists. So don't be afraid to drop a couple of bucks in this piano man's tip glass at tunnelhillwinery.com.

2. Outstanding in their field. One of the Northwest's top producers of cheese is Monteillet Fromagerie in Dayton, Wash., and Pierre-Louis and Joan have become as famous as some of the winemakers in the Walla Walla Valley.

They get to write another chapter in their history July 13 by playing host to an event for Outstanding in the Field, a renowned organization based in Santa Cruz, Calif., that stages farm dinners around the country out of their red and white bus.

The Northwest leg of their tour begins July 2 in Gaston, Ore., and ends in Dayton, Wash., with Whitehouse-Crawford's Jamie Guerin as guest chef. Two days later, the bus hits Jackson Hole.

A seat at the table in Dayton, which comes with a farm tour and wine, is $200. Slice into monteilletcheese.com.

3. The dog days of summer. A growing number of Northwest wineries dedicate one event to man's best friend and their wine-loving owners.

This year, Northwest Cellars in Kirkland goes beyond that. Bob Delf turns over each Saturday and Sunday in July and August to tailwaggers and their owners for some sniffing and lapping. Door prizes and treats are offered. Last year, the winery supported Homeward Pet, which finds homes for orphaned canines.

What's in the doggie dish this summer? The trail begins at northwestcellars.com.

4. Wilde times at Township 7. Folks on British Columbia's Naramata Bench don't live on an island. They do have a knack for breaking ground at their wineries, though. Mike Raffan and wife Lori Pike-Raffan not only sell wines that have earned Platinum awards two years in a row, but they also produce live theater at their wineries in Naramata and Langley.

It's billed as "Wilde at the Winery," and Twisted Tree Theatre/Barebones Theatre Productions will put on Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. The connection? An actress, Jen Viens, works at their Naramata tasting room. The performance runs July 29-31 in Naramata and Aug. 12 in Langley. Guests may bring their own picnic but are expected to buy T7 wines.

Cost is $20. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Rotary Okanagan International Children's Festival. Raise the curtain at township7.com.

5. The cycle continues. According to Bicycling magazine, Northwest wine country is home to two of the nation's most bike-friendly cities -- Corvallis, Ore., (No. 2) and Bellingham, Wash. (No. 3).

Davis, Calif., where many top winemakers attended college, ranks No. 1.

For years, several wineries around Corvallis staged Bicyclette de Vin about when the Oregon State University football team reported for training camp. Now, Corvallis Tourism helps coordinate cycling tours to the wineries.

Call 541-757-1544 or clip into visitcorvallis.com or the Mid Valley Bicycle Club at www.mvbc.com.

6. Run or walk in The Covey Run. One of the best jobs of branding an event has been pulled off by Covey Run Winery.

On Aug. 20, they help as title sponsor for The Covey Run, a 10K race and 5K run/walk that benefits Seattle Children's Hospital. The race starts nearby at Redhook Ale Brewery, and Covey Run Winery winemaker Kate Michaud gets rather pumped about the event.

"I wanted to make headbands with a black feather stuck in it to give out -- like a black plumage," she said. "I thought it would look cool en masse -- a bunch of bobbing feathers."

The race does attract some world-class runners. Evan Riggs, who finished the 2007 Boston Marathon, won the Covey Run 10K last year with a time of 34 minutes, 22 seconds.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia and Novelty Hill/Januik assist by allowing racers to use their parking lots. Cost to enter on race day is $40.

Trot to runforchildrens.org or coveyrun. com.

7. Sip of Kitsap. The third annual Kitsap Wine Festival is especially appealing to Seattle winesters because there's no need to drive to Bremerton.

Just walk on the ferry. Harborside Fountain Park is a stone's throw from the Bremerton terminal.

The Aug. 20 event features more than 30 wineries from Washington and Oregon, and nearby Anthony's at Sinclair Inlet is among the restaurants participating at this event, which benefits the Harrison Medical Center Foundation. Cost is $60 if you wait to buy at the door. Drift over to kitsapwinefestival.com.

8. More good exposure for Roslyn. Until a few years ago, Roslyn, Wash., was best known as the set for the hit TV series Northern Exposure.

Thanks to Suncadia Resort and now Swiftwater Cellars, there's a wine vibe to the area. And Vintage Vine, one of the Northwest's best little wine shops, is just up the block from The Brick Tavern.

On Aug. 26-28, Swiftwater Cellars holds the fourth annual Wine in the Pines. The first night is an open house at the winery's Hoist House restaurant. Dress code is jeans and boots.

The Grand Gala on Saturday afternoon brings together 50 West Coast wineries and a handful of restaurants that provide small bites among live music.

Later, 10 winemakers and the creations of chef Paul Cotta will be the focus of a dinner party in the Swiftwater Room.

Go mining at swiftwatercellars.com.

9. Will run for wine. The second annual Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon winds its way through Carlton and Yamhill County on Sept. 4.

There are requirements to enter either as an individual or a two-person relay. You must finish in 3 hours, 30 minutes. That means your pace must be 15 minutes, 30 seconds per mile.

Prep includes a Thursday packet wine reception at the Avalon in Portland and a Saturday pre-race dinner at the retirement home for the monstrous Spruce Goose -- Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum near McMinnville.

The race starts and finishes Sunday at Stoller Vineyards in Dayton. However, fans can watch parts of the race and catch breakfast at the remarkable Abbey Road Farm.

There's a wine and music festival in Carlton, then the post-race party is at Stoller. Cost is $150. Lace up at run4oregonwine.com.

10. A young trail in the Snake River Valley. Grape harvest in Idaho typically begins a bit later than in Washington, but the budding Sunnyslope Wine & Food Trail of Caldwell celebrates grape and produce harvest Sept. 9-11 with Festa!

This second annual event in Canyon County has expanded and embraces wine tasting, local food and music. Last year, Bitner Vineyards played host to a concert. The nearby Orchard House, a past Match Maker, spotlighted peach harvest by offering peach pie, cobbler and pancakes. Williamson Orchards & Vineyards built specials around its tree fruit and estate wines. Greg Koenig, who makes wines for Williamson and Bitner, offered a special release. Davis Creek Cellars, Fujishin Family Cellars and Huston Vineyards -- with wines made by Cinder's Melanie Krause -- participated, too.

This year, the folks at Huston are staging a Facebook photo contest for folks who take Chicken Dinner wines with them on their world travels. Winners will be announced during Festa!

Go to each winery's site for information.

This story was originally published June 15, 2011 12:00 AM.

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