Winter 2011

10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

If we help you make a pleasing selection for a great bottle of wine to open at dinner or take to a holiday occasion at a friend's house, then we've done our job.

Looking for a restaurant that supports Northwest wines? What about lodging that partners with a nearby winery?

Here is a list of ideas to help you enjoy the holiday season and fight the winter doldrums.

1. Classy, yet cheesy. A great way for wine-loving Yanks to cap off a tour of the Okanagan Valley is to swing into the Super Duper grocery/gas station in border town of Oroville, Wash.

Why? It doesn't look like much from the outside, yet it features a remarkable little selection of cheese at rather low prices.

PlaceTile Designs offers an ideal way to help you share these delectables with family and friends. This Atlanta company was launched in 1999 by Kristin Bowen, who created erasable ceramic place cards to use at her wedding reception.

She found a niche, and she's since rolled out a variety of stylish reusable products, including items for wine bottles and cheese displays. A set of four Scroll CheeseTiles ($30) allows you to write the cheese info on the marker and gently push the pointed end into the wedge. Upon further review, the wine lover likely would prefer the Vine CheeseTiles set in egg white (as shown). The box includes a pen and will slip into the drawer of your china hutch. Go to placetile.com.

2. Yo ho ho and a bottle of wine. Leave it to Westport Winery in Aberdeen -- our 2011 Washington Winery to Watch -- to create another adventure into the world of wine.

The Roberts family restaurant is open for lunch daily, and on New Year's Eve, will play host to its latest mystery dinner theater, titled "Dead Man's Chest."

Cost is $35, with reservations required. Volunteer actors are needed, and dressing for dinner in costume is encouraged. Weigh in at westportwines.com.

3. Grenache and ganache. February has become more than just Valentines Day for wine lovers. It's more and more about chocolate.

On Feb. 3-4, the Mount Rainier gateway town of Enumclaw, also home to the King County Fair, will celebrate its fourth annual Enumclaw Wine & Chocolate Festival.

More than a handful of Puget Sound chocolatiers and about 30 wineries -- most from east of the Cascades -- are expected to pour. A ticket costs $20, and that's good for both days.

Go to enumclawchocolatefestival.com.

4. Valentines Day treasured. As the Idaho wine industry matures, special weekends in the Treasure Valley and Snake River Valley such as Valentines Day are becoming more popular.

Last year saw a record-setting number of wineries open their doors for the weekend of roses and sweets.

Attractions included the Cupid's Barrel of Love photo booth at Indian Creek Winery, chocolate tastings at Sawtooth Winery, live music and a dessert bar at Syringa, and Woodriver Cellars offered dinner, live music, a winery tour and tastings with the winemaker.

And down in Glenns Ferry at Carmela Vineyards, their on-premise restaurant served Valentines Day dinner specials, including fresh Alaskan King Crab legs and prime rib.

For updates, go to idahowines.org.

5. Catch the cam. Looking to learn more about the inner workings at a winery?

Earlier this year, owner Robb Bell and his team at Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, Ore., launched their Real Winery Webcam.

The broadcast goes live on alternating Wednesdays, starting at 11 a.m. Email your question, and winemaker Michael Sebastiani will address it during the broadcast.

This season, the sessions included bud break, bottling, fermentations and barrel tastings.

See for yourself at

cathedralridgewinery.com/LiveCam.php.

6. Gain some Experience. The Seattle Food and Wine Experience began in the fall of 2008 near the home of the Seahawks (CenturyLink Field Pavilion).

Now, it's held Feb. 26 at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, near where the SuperSonics played. The event gathers up more than 30 Northwest wineries, 20 area chefs, beer, cider, distilleries and live music. The chefs will be offering demonstrations and providing small bites throughout the afternoon.

This year, Oregon is the featured wine region. A to Z Wineworks,

R. Stuart and Rex Hill are among the Willamette Valley wineries scheduled to pour.

Ste. Chapelle will be representing Idaho. The Washington wineries include Airfield Estates, Badger Mountain, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Chinook, Covey Run, Desert Wind, DiStefano, Forgeron, Hightower, Kiona, Milbrandt, Treveri, Trust, Waterbrook and Woodinville Wine Cellars.

Cost is $49, and proceeds go to The Giving Grapes Foundation, which offers financial help to those in the service industry. Go to seattlefoodandwineexperience.com.

7. Wine, art and sand. One of the Northwest's most romantic spots -- Cannon Beach, Ore., -- ties many attractions during a five-day period just before spring.

The Savor Cannon Beach Wine & Culinary Arts Festival runs March 8-13, and among the highlights is the Oregon vs. Washington Wine Throwdown.

Participating chefs include those from Ecola Seafood Restaurant and Market, Newmans at 988 and EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School.

Another supporter is Dean Reiman, who will sponsor tastings and celebrating the 35th anniversary of The Wine Shack -- one of the Northwest's oldest and most supportive wine retailers.

Hank Sauer, Wine Press Northwest's master facilitator, hopes to avoid a tsunami evacuation this time around. And I hope he makes a return trip into Bruce's Candy Kitchen for me.

Wade into savorcannonbeach.com.

8. More than apples and apricots. The Wenatchee Valley continues to trade orchards for grape vines, and the growing number of wineries prompted Foothills Magazine to create the North Central Washington Wine Awards.

For example, the Wenatchee Wine Week is back for 2012, and it will run March 18-24. Last year's events included a cheese pairing seminar.

The final day starts downtown with the March Madness Wine Walk. For $20, you get a souvenir glass and 15 tastes of wine while shopping downtown stores. (That's a $5 savings from the 2011 event.)

That evening will feature seminars, pourings at two wine shops and winemaker dinners at downtown restaurants.

Go to wenatchee.org to harvest more updates on participating wineries, shops and restaurants.

9. Have wine, will tote in style. Leaving the office with a sample or two or three has been handled more discreetly the past few months, thanks to the Sachi Vino Insulated Wine Tote.

They come in three colors and two sizes -- two- and three-bottle bags -- and the sleeves are wide enough for one shapely vessel of cool bubbly to snuggle in and retain enough chill for the ride home. The nifty zippered pocket will hold a wine key and other accoutrements.

The Sachi ($29) can be carried using its adjustable shoulder strap. And if I get teased about modeling "a wine purse," that jokester's glass stays empty.

Zip over to sachi-bags.com.

10. Passing the bar. The Local Vine in Seattle caters to wine devotees with a coffee shop approach at its two wine bars -- Capitol Hill and University Village.

Among the amenities are a fireplace, free Wi-Fi, small plates and more than 100 wines by the glass -- many of them from Northwest icons. It's interesting to note that co-owners Sarah Munson and Allison Nelson both have MBAs from Harvard, and the former is a Master of Wine candidate.

Continuing education is important to most folks, and TLV offers classes year-around at the Capitol Hill branch. Their Cheese and Wine Pairing (March 10) and Wines of the Pacific Northwest (March 24) should be most interesting. Classes cost about $65 with reservations required. Go to thelocalvine.com.

This story was originally published December 15, 2011 11:43 AM.

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