2011 marks Spokane’s 26th annual Holiday Wine Fest. One of four major events sponsored by the Spokane Winery Association, Holiday Wine Fest takes place the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. During the three-day event, a record 25 official wineries in Spokane will open their doors to the public (with Nectar Tasting Room housing five wineries and a satellite tasting room for Cougar Crest Estate Winery opening earlier in the year). What better way to shake off the cold and kick-start the holiday season than by sampling the wide variety of world-class wines that Spokane has to offer (and perhaps take care of a little holiday shopping, as well)? Here, a few wineries whet your appetite…
Mike Conway, Owner/Winemaker at Latah Creek Winery, says that the spirit of Holiday Wine Fest really hasn’t changed, as it has always centered around gift-giving and exciting new food-and-wine pairings. Now President of the Spokane Winery Association, Mike Conway incorporated Latah Creek in 1982 (the same year as another mainstay, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars), and was part of the original HWF event in 1986. Each year, his wife, Ellena, creates a special 4-5-course meal, a different course to be featured at each pouring station. Latah Creek also boasts one of Spokane’s best winery gift shops, which Ellena will stock with brand new holiday items.
One of the main attractions to HWF is that winemakers are typically on-site to pour wine and answer questions. Steve Trabun, Owner/Winemaker of Barili Cellars, says “It’s important that people really understand (the winemaking process). We like to educate and we like to do it with a real personal touch.” It’s that personal touch that Barili, one of a few micro-boutique wineries in Spokane, feels fortunate to be able to provide year-round. Since joining the Spokane Winery Association in January of 2010, Steve and fellow Owners/Winemakers Dana Trabun and Russ and Marlene Feist, have been able to grow the operation from just over 150 cases per year to 400 cases. They believe that part of their success is their low price point of $15-$22/bottle, which customers can most certainly take advantage of during HWF weekend. Barili invites you to join in the season’s camaraderie and fun.
Perhaps a great thrill to the 1,000-plus crowd expected on HWF weekend is the prospect of discovering a hidden gem. Tucked away in the depths of the Freeman Center on 2nd and Lincoln, a spot almost as elusive as Barrister Winery’s Railroad Avenue, is just such a gem: Grande Ronde Cellars (though not to fear, as HWF tour maps will be available at all participating locations!). Owner/Winemaker, Dave Westfall, owned a wine import business for 17 years prior to starting Grande Ronde in 1997, and in 2009 published a book he co-wrote with Sam Lange called Journey to… Eastern Washington Wine Country. His industry experience and connections to winemakers and vineyard owners near and far perhaps make him one of the most knowledgeable winemakers in the state. Grande Ronde’s Red wines consistently score 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator.
Visit these and Spokane’s many other wineries this holiday season. Holiday Wine Fest 2011 runs November 18th-20th, 11 am to 5 pm. Remember, if you are planning to taste with a group of 10 or more, please be courteous and call the winery ahead of time. Tasting fees may apply. For more information about this event and all participating wineries, visit www.SpokaneWineries.net. Visitor information can be obtained at www.VisitSpokane.com. For wine tours, visit www.GroupCoordinators.com or www.SpokaneWinerytours.com.
About the Author:
Sulo Abeid is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and the mother of two. Sulo is a graduate of Gonzaga University and is currently studying for her Masters in business administration at Whitworth University. Sulo’s wine experience comes from her years as the tasting room manager at Lone Canary and work at other Spokane wineries.