Fall 2012

10 Great Things to do in Northwest Wine Country

By the looks of it, this autumn threatens to break records for grapes harvested in Pacific Northwest.

Thankfully, we live in a corner of the planet so beautiful that talented winemakers from around the world choose to put roots here.

But as any winery owner will tell you, "Making it is easy. Selling it is not." That's where a marketing whiz steps in, and here are 10 ways they've created to help you enjoy -- and buy -- Northwest wine.

1. Women who wine along the Snake. One of the overlooked footnotes in Pacific Northwest wine history is that the Lewis Clark Valley produced our first gold medal winners prior to Prohibition.

Wine production has returned to the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, thanks in no small part to women winemakers, including Coco Umiker of Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston, Idaho. This summer, the Quality Inn & Suites in nearby Clarkston, Wash., developed a series called Women Who Wine Wednesdays. It ends Sept. 26 with Mark Holt and his banjo.

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"Every Wednesday, they have great food, wine, service, music and friendly people enjoying each other's company at their beautiful riverfront location," Umiker said. "Local winemakers, such as myself, are invited on occasion to pour tastes of their wines and chat with customers about all things wine."

Umiker will be pouring her several wines, including her 2010 Carmenere and 2010 Malbec. Drift into qualityinnclarkston.com and clearwatercanyoncellars.com.

2. Bubbles and Heels by the lake. Apparently, it's becoming more fashionable to be seen drinking wine. That's the approach taken by Jodi Cowell, owner of One Wines Inc., a new and quaint tasting room in Chelan, Wash. And the retired corporate banker and her husband, Greg, named her business for one reason.

"One Wines Inc., offers you one premium white wine, one premium red wine and one beer on tap. That's all," she said. "We want to stay focused on doing one thing but doing it exceptionally well. We believe our 2011 White Wine and our 2009 Red Wine hit that mark."

There's no reason to doubt that. Jarrod Boyle of Alexandria Nicole -- Wine Press Northwest's 2011 Washington Winery of the Year -- made both wines.

And on the first Friday of each month, Jodi stages Bubbles and Heels. Patrons are encouraged to wear a special pair of shoes. She takes photos of the footwear, and the more garish the better.

"The first B&H we only had about three men, but by the time the second event rolled around we had more than 10," she said. "The gentlemen figured out what a great place it was to be, see beautiful women having fun and looking amazing." Step into onewinesinc.com.

3. Steamboat pulls into Abacela. Abacela founders Earl and Hilda Jones know how to wine and dine in style as well and as graciously as anyone in the Northwest.

Their association with Patricia Lee and the historic Steamboat Inn on Oregon's North Umpqua Highway runs deep. Last spring, the Joneses met Portland chefs Allison Bader & Amelia Hard for a winemaker dinner at Lee's resort.

On Sept. 27, Lee will be driving past the safari park in Winston to cook at Abacela. It will mark the first in a series of "Chef-Maker" dinners at the winery. Please, make sure to hold the onions for Earl. And ask about his award-winning 2009 Port. To RSVP, dock at abacela.com.

4. A key to knowledge. Charlotte Chipperfield has spent much of her life appreciating food, wine and Oregon Pinot Noir. Her professional background includes serving as the hospitality lead at Domaine Serene.

Recently, the University of Oregon grad launched The Wine Key, a wine education program that includes e-courses available to those who thirst to learn more of wine near and far.

"I continued to come across people who were terrified to ask questions, saying, 'I feel stupid for asking this...' " Chipperfield said. "Wine is very intimidating to a lot of people."

She rips that veil away by referring to her e-courses as The Boozy Academy. Those seeking face time with Chipperfield can sign up for one of her casual and conversational Pop-up Wine Schools, which have been staged at Seven Bridges Winery in Portland.

Food and wine pairings are a point of interest for Chipperfield, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland. DePonte, Durant and Ponzi rank among her favorite producers.

"More people are starting to think wines in terms of food," said Chipperfield, who favors Pinot Noir, Syrah, Albarino and Ponzi's Arneis as food-pairing wines. "We all have to eat -- every day."

Classes in the Boozy Academy span six weeks and cost $297. To learn more, turn to the-wine-key.com.

5. Paint this block party Red. Red Mountain is the smallest American Viticultural Area in Washington, but it produces some of the biggest, most age-worthy wines in the world. And on Sept. 29, we'll see just how well their winemakers and growers can party.

The inaugural Red Mountain Block Party kicks off at 10 a.m., and they'll kick you out the doors at 6 p.m., so for eight hours and $30, you get to visit with vintners, walk the vineyards and travel from stop to stop via a trolley.

The participants include Col Solare, Corvus, Cooper, DeLille, EFESTE, Fidelitas, Goedhart, Hedges, Hightower, Kiona, Montes Scarlatto, Portrait, Tapteil and Terra Blanca. Hike over to redmountainava.com.

6. Urban development in Vancouver. The Canucks were unable to bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver this summer, but their fans now can sip at the city's first commercial winery.

Vancouver Urban Winery opened in the Railtown district, and the amenities include live music (sometimes in the barrel room), a tasting bar made of Douglas fir and 36 wines on tap. The winery operation is called FreshTAP, which focuses on transferring finished -- but unbottled -- wine from provincial producers into restaurant-friendly stainless-steel kegs.

Participating wineries include Blasted Church, Hester Creek, JoieFarm and Lake Breeze. To show the impact, when FreshTAP filled 1,200 kegs, it saved more than 31,000 bottles. Take off to vancouverurbanwinery.com.

7. A starry afternoon in the vineyard. Kestrel Vintners, one of the Yakima Valley's best wineries, has spent much of the past year making some changes. Their team, including longtime winemaker Flint Nelson and winery chef Jessica Smith, are using Sept. 29 to create a special afternoon event to celebrate their upgrades, bringing in some of the state's top culinary talents to pair their cuisine with Kestrel wines in their Prosser vineyard.

The lineup includes Seattle salumi master Armandino Batali, father of the ubiquitous Mario, Roy Breiman and Mark Bodinet of Sea-Tac's Cedarbrook Lodge and Pike Place chef Mike Easton. It's dubbed "The Big Night," even though it runs 2-6 p.m., and cost is $250. Fly to kestrelwines.com.

8. A fashionable introduction. This summer, Barnard Griffin capped off the massive restructuring of its property with a remodeled tasting room and wine bar. Those who haven't visited the Richland, Wash., winery this summer won't recognize it. The changes include an event center and Deborah Barnard's gallery/studio for her fused glass.

On Sept. 29, Barnard Griffin pairs up with local clothier Twist to present a fashion show featuring Eileen Fisher's line. Some BG staffers and wine club members will be among the models.

It spans 1-3 p.m., but lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. Head down the runway to barnardgriffin.com.

9. Farm to Fork to Applegate. Perhaps the best showcasing of passionate chefs, local food and local wine is Oregon's statewide Farm to Fork Farm Dinners.

This year, the series of five began in July in Bend, and it ends Oct. 6 in the Applegate Valley. Barking Moon Farm, home to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, serves as the closing venue.

Courtney Sproule of Portland's Din Din Supper Club is the chef in charge and will work with Folin Cellars. Pick up their trail at farmtoforkevents.com.

10. Sippin' in Idaho's capital city. Moya Shatz Dolsby, proud graduate of the University of Washington and the Washington Wine Commission, took over the Idaho Wine Commission in 2008.

She quickly and skillfully created an alfresco food-and-wine spring event for the Treasure Valley, calling it Savor Idaho.

On Nov. 8, she'll organize the second annual Sippin' in the City, an indoor production at the Linen Building that's more along the lines of Taste Washington, again featuring Idaho wines, Idaho cuisine and music via Vinyl Preservation Society Idaho. Cost is a mere $30, which includes the customer wine glass. More info is spilling out at sippininthecity.com.

This story was originally published September 15, 2012 12:00 AM.

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