The whirlwind of the holidays has come and gone, but don’t take too long to catch your breath. Wine tasting has become a year-round sport in the Pacific Northwest. And opportunities to explore and revel at our wine and wine-centric celebrations will return sooner than you expect. If you feel it is still too early to start looking ahead, just think back to last year. Remember all those cool events you missed because you forgot to plan? Don’t make that mistake again. Resolve to check out these Northwest wine and food events in 2020.
[Top photo: Tannis Toohey | Cornucopia Whistler]
When it comes to snapping that post-holiday funk, it’s hard to think of anything more uplifting than cute pooches doing cute things. That’s exactly what you get at The Joriad North American Truffle Dog Championship, Jan. 23, in Eugene, Oregon. Now in its sixth year, the only known truffle dog competition in North America offers an adorable start to the Oregon Truffle Festival (OTF). Spectators can watch the preliminary round, which features dogs and their handlers seeking out truffle-scented targets at Lane Events Center. The top performers advance to a live truffle hunt on private land. Event organizers do not disclose the location of the latter site, to protect it from poachers. But everyone reconvenes in the evening for the awards ceremony and Parade of Dogs.
OTF takes place over two non-consecutive weekends. The initial weekend’s events take place in and around Eugene, Jan. 24–26. Most of these have already sold out. But tickets are still available to The Joriad and two Sunday events: Truffles & Bubbles Brunch, and the Eugene Fresh Truffle Marketplace.
Granted, the first two to three months of any year are traditionally quiet times in most wine regions. But Willamette Valley’s wineries, restaurants and hotels embrace it. They have adopted the term Cellar Season to describe this time of year. And they offer a variety of special events and package deals to entice visitors.
[Photo by David Barajas]
Even though it’s the shortest month, February has a lot to offer. For instance, Valentine’s Day brings red wine–and-chocolate celebrations to Yakima Valley, Lake Chelan and the Olympic Peninsula. In the latter two regions, the festivities take place on the second and third weekends of the month.
And back in the Willamette Valley, the OTF’s second weekend, Feb. 14–16, brings a fresh set of tuber-themed tastings, receptions, seminars and more to the Newberg area. A Terroir of Truffles pass ($795) provides a nearly all-inclusive experience. This includes admission to a Friday night reception and separate dining event; Saturday’s breakfast, truffle hunt, winery luncheon and walk-around wine-and-food tasting; and Sunday’s Newberg Fresh Truffle Marketplace. You can also purchase tickets for individual events, but they tend to sell out fast.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, Feb. 20–22 tantalizes eager palates with three events in three venues. It’s the first big chance of the year for area chefs and winemakers to show off their stuff. The first event, Comfort, shines the light on craft brews, ciders and spirits, accompanied by mac-and-cheese, fried chicken and other foods that fit the theme. Things get dressier at Pop! Bubbles + Seafood (above), where reserve Washington wines and delicious seafood complement pours of champagne, cava and prosseco. And Saturday’s Grand Tasting brings the full spectrum together under one roof. Deal alert: Event organizers are offering The Grape Northwest readers a 20 percent discount on tickets. Enter promo code TheGrapeNorthwest20 at checkout.
You can also fuel—or rekindle—your affection for the world’s most popular—and polarizing—white wine varietal at the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, on Feb. 22, in Newberg. It’s held at The Allison Inn & Spa, which is worth visiting any time of year.
[Photo courtesy of Seattle Wine and Food Experience]
In Southern California, San Juan Capistrano celebrates the return of the swallows each March. In Seattle, we celebrate sips—at Taste Washington, March 19–22. The beloved annual event gets a makeover this year, thanks to arrival of the event’s new producers, the team behind Feast Portland. The biggest changes are the additions of Thursday night dinners at multiple restaurants across town and a waterfront celebration on Friday night. The weekend’s Grand Tasting promises to be as grand as ever. And a flashy soiree is also in the works for Saturday night.
[Photo by Sarah Flotard]
Like Peter Frampton, the Yakima Valley comes alive for Spring Barrel Tasting weekend. The event has become so popular that event organizers recently added a pre-barrel weekend, April 18–19, to accompany the main weekend, April 24–26. This year’s event details are still being finalized. But get ready for barrel samples, library-wine tastings and special food pairings at the 40 or so participating wineries, between Naches Heights and Benton City. Several will also offer seated library tastings, with winemakers.
[Photo courtesy of Wine Yakima Valley]
With their typically light bodies, bright acidity and ripe berry flavors, good gamay noirs can steal your heart. If you have not already discovered the pleasures the varietal has to offer, Portland’s I Love Gamay festival, May. 3–4, is great place to start. The gathering includes a Sunday Gamay Tasting Salon showcasing selections from 25 wineries, with Northwest producers accompanied by those from California, Canada and France.
[Photo by Cheryl Juetten, courtesy of I Love Gamay]
There are a lot of things to love about British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley in June. The weather has warmed up, but the kids are mostly still in school. Which means it is easier to find accommodations at the region’s lakeside resorts than it is in peak summer. June also brings the return of the Okanagan installment of Chef Meets BC Grape, a wine-and-food series with other stops in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary. The Okanagan event takes place in the heart of BC’s premier wine country, bringing dozens of the region’s top producers to a single, scenic location. And area chefs bring their A-games. 2020 details have yet to be confirmed, so check the website (theirs and ours) for details.
[Photo courtesy of Wines of British Columbia]
The Spokane area’s culinary scene has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Homegrown chefs and recent transplants are embracing the locavore movement. And gaining national recognition along the way. Now in its fourth year, Crave Northwest offers a chance to soak in the region’s emerging flavors over five glorious days, July 15–19. The event’s newest additions include a Wednesday-night dinner series and Sunday’s family-style fried chicken feast. In-between, local chefs dish out bites accompanied by a bevy of Northwest wines and locally crafted beers and spirits. The lineup includes Thursday evening’s Seafood Bash and Friday’s Fire & Smoke barbecue extravaganza. Saturday afternoon’s Grand Tasting is followed by the Food from Around the World (above) celebration. That’s six events in five days. Pace yourself.
July is also home to one of the most epic wine events of all. The International Pinot Noir Celebration brings wine enthusiasts from around the world to McMinnville. A splurge-worthy pass ($1,295) gets you into a full weekend’s worth receptions, guided tastings, seminars, vineyard tours, a sparkling wine brunch and more. You can also buy individual tickets for the event’s signature tastings, Saturday’ evening’s Salmon Bake and Sunday’s Passport to Pinot.
[Photo courtesy of Crave Northwest]
For winemakers, Auction of Washington Wines is a chance to get together and regale fans at one last bash before harvest begins. And what a bash it is. Since its inception in 1988, the organization has raised more than $50 million for its beneficiaries, most notably Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Viticulture and Enology Program at Washington State University. So you can feel good about feeling good at any and all Auction events. The main celebrations, Aug. 13–15, includes the Winemaker Picnic at Chateau Ste. Michelle, winemaker dinners at private Puget Sound–area homes, and the gala dinner, back at the Chateau. And serious collectors can sign up for the private barrel auction on the morning of the Winemaker Picnic. But event organizers have expanded their reach with spring winemaker dinners at various Seattle restaurants (April 30) and their Tri-Cities Wine & Music Weekend (May 29–30).
[Photo by Rick Duval]
Speaking of the organizers of Feast Portland, their namesake event takes over the Rose City for a glorious gourmet gathering. Details for this year’s Feast have yet to be confirmed. But you can count on festive food-and-wine tastings, dinners, drink seminars, parties, after-parties and more.
Like a lively sorbet in between the courses of a killer meal, a crisp, hoppy ale is often the perfect thing for revitalizing tired taste buds. This is all the more reason to head to the Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima. The event brings dozens of craft brewers and cider makers from up and down the West Coast—and beyond—to the nation’s hops capital for a memorable evening of revelry. Just how much you remember is up to you.
Early November is one of the few times of year when the opportunities to play outside are limited in Whistler, BC. This makes it the perfect time to gather around tables, demonstration stages and party spaces to explore and indulge at Cornucopia (above), Nov. 5–15. The 11-day epicurean extravaganza celebrates the best in food, wine, beer and spirits from British Columbia and beyond. The near-nightly lineup of tastings and celebrations is complemented by themed luncheons and dinners, chef demonstrations, panel-led tastings of food, wine and spirits, and cornu-copious amounts of other fun.
[Photo by Tannis Toohey | Cornucopia Whistler]
In Walla Walla, Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, Dec. 4–6, provides the perfect opportunity to combine holiday shopping with wine tasting. Decked out in their holiday best, participating wineries embrace the spirt of the season, offering nibbles, live music and samples of future wines. And no one on your shopping list will be disappointed when they unwrap a bottle (or case) from any Walla Walla winery. I know I wouldn’t be. (Hint, hint!)