Fall is in the air, and grapes are being crushed
as we speak. This year has been a cooler vintage, and the grapes are coming in much later than is typical. A cooler vintage makes for more elegant wines with great structure and acids, something most winemakers love.
What would be more fun than doing winery tours at this time of year? It would be fun to watch the grapes come in and watch them go through the process of becoming wine. The winemakers are busy with sorting grapes, crushing, fermenting, punch downs, etc. Many of them are happy to show people the process of winemaking.
There are numerous options for visiting wineries from doing a day trip to Woodinville to making a weekend of it in Walla Walla.
Walla Walla (wallawallawine.com)has become a popular wine destination, with numerous restaurants, more than 100 wineries and many options for lodging, including bed-and-breakfasts.
They also have a lot of different events throughout the year. Their fall releases are coming up on the weekend of Friday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 6. Numerous wineries will open to taste their new releases, many of which are only available at the winery. A lot of wineries will serve hors d’oeuvres, and some even have entertainment.
Since harvest is so late this year, you will be able to see winemaking at its finest.
Not enough time to make it to the fall release? Another very
popular event is the Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend on Dec. 2 through 4. More then 70 of the valley’s wineries will be decorated for the holiday season to welcome people. They will be offering a variety of festivities, including locally catered food, handmade chocolates and the infamous “Battle of the Soups.” The winemakers will be on hand to taste the new releases, as well as give a preview of future wine that is now in barrel.
Woodinville is only a half-hour drive away from Seattle and offers close to 100 wineries and tasting rooms, as well as lodging and restaurants. What a great way to spend a day trip or to have a “staycation.” One of my favorite places to stay is Willows Lodge, an 84-room lodge that has the Barking Frog Restaurant next door.
If you really want to splurge, the Herbfarm is located at the Lodge, as well. It offers a nine-course dinner with matching wine pairings. The dinners are theme-oriented (currently, they are doing a mushroom dinner).
Woodinville wineries also do numerous events throughout the year. A popular event is the upcoming St. Nicolas Open House on Dec. 3 and 4. There are 36 participating wineries for this event. You will enjoy new releases, meeting the winemakers and barrel samples. In the spring, there is a Passport to Woodinville event that is similar to St . Nick’s. You can go to www.woodinvillewinecountry.comto learn about these events.
You don’t need to wait until these special event weekends to go to wineries, many offer their own special events, including cooking classes, wine-and-food pairing and special releases. You can go to your favorite winery’s website to find out what events are coming up.
Fall is such a perfect time to get out there and enjoy the harvest — have a wonderful time exploring.
JEFFREY DORGAN, the Washington Wine Commission’s 2009 Sommelier of the Year, is the wine director at Sullivan’s in Downtown Seattle. He previously worked at Willow’s Lodge/Barking Frog in Woodinville and at the Space Needle. He also co-owned Smash Wine Bar & Bistro in Wallingford and is a Capitol Hill resident.