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Planning the 2014 itinerary for Washington wine: Around our house, it’s a labor of love

Posted in Events, Tourism, Wineries

Now that this and this are behind us, I’m starting to fill our 2014 calendar with other activities beyond family stuff, work and recreation. One thing that keeps me going during the long wet darkness of the Pacific Northwest winter is planning the annual wine itinerary. Here’s what’s on my mind for Q1 2014, and beyond:

Avennia Release Weekend, Feb. 8-9 – Avennia has become one of Washington’s hottest wine brands and with good reason: The wines are stunning – Old World sensibilities that pay homage to the gorgeous fruit from some of Washington’s best vineyards. Avennia doesn’t have a tasting room so the best opportunity to taste the wines is to attend one of their release weekends at the winery in Woodinville’s warehouse district.

These are low-key affairs – lots of focus on the wines, and a chance to chat up partners Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson. You’ll need an invite, but that’s easy peasy – just ping Marty via the Avennia web site or on Facebook, and sign up for the Avennia mailing list. You’ll want to do that anyway – the Avennia list likely will close sooner than later and you won’t want to be left out.

Walla Walla Wine @ McCaw Hall, Feb. 10Walla Walla wine is making its annual marketing visit to Seattle and with 50+ wineries pouring, it’s an excellent opportunity to get a heavy dose of W2 wines without making the four-hour drive to the valley. Tickets are still available and are terrific bargains at $50 per. Organizers are offering a nifty discount with six tickets or more.

Seattle Wine & Food Experience, Feb. 23 – Few wine events in the Pacific Northwest rival Taste Washington and this is one of them. In fact, in some ways, SWFE surpasses TW. While TW focuses solely on Washington wines (see below), SWFE represents wineries from California, Oregon, Idaho and a handful of international offerings (Portuguese port, anyone?), plus sections of the room dedicated to artisan ciders and spirits. Toss in a spectacular food line-up and you have the ingredients for a memorable bacchanalian afternoon. VIP tix are sold out, but GA tickets are available and a steal at $55. My only regret – I’m out of town this weekend.

Grape Killers’ Gala, Feb. 23 – When the SWFE party ends, why not jump into a cab and head over to Spazzo in Redmond for a nightcap at the Grape Killers’ Gala. The Grape Killers are a band of Woodinville winemakers with excellent wines to back up the swagger that the name suggests. Sorry that I’ll be missing this one, too. Knowing many of these guys, I’m guessing that this one has the potential to go way over the top.

Quilceda Creek Release Weekend, March 15 – I’m not the QC list and have always been interested in visiting the winery on the one weekend it’s actually open. So when a friend extended an invite, I jumped. Can you blame me?

Balboa wine dinner, Doc’s Marina Grill, March – Gotta plug the home team here on Bainbridge Island. The island is developing a rep as a dining destination and while Doc’s isn’t always mentioned in the same breath as Hitchcock, Marche or Four Swallows, it turns out some excellent fare in a lovely waterfront setting. It’s also been offering a fine lineup of wine dinners – something that other island restaurants aren’t yet doing.

Doc’s offers a five-course dinner paired with excellent wines at a waterfront spot within walking distance of the ferry. These dinners are a bargain at $65, about half of the going price for something similar in Seattle, Portland or Walla Walla. The dinners are offered at both Doc’s locations – Bainbridge Island and Port Townsend.

Swiftwater Cellars stopped by in January and Forgeron Cellars is on tap for February. But I have my sights set on March, when Balboa comes to town. I enjoy the wines from owner / winemaker Tom Glase and that fact that he’s a Bainbridge High grad is an added bonus.

Taste Washington, March 29-30 – This is the granddaddy of them all – the Rose Bowl of Washington wine events. It’s the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event and while it’s a bit pricy, it’s still a great way to sample a vast cross-section of the state’s wineries and some of the region’s best restaurants.

To be honest, TW was starting to feel a little tired several years ago, but Visit Seattle partnered with the Wine Commission in late 2011 to help produce the event and it seemed to have more life and energy in the past two years. I’m looking forward to seeing how this year’s event comes off.

Cayuse Weekend, April 4-6 – Several years ago, I received an email congratulating me on getting onto the Cayuse allocation list and to this day, I’m convinced that Christophe and Trevor confused me with someone else. But who’s complaining? We love heading over to Walla Walla in early April – the weather usually is warm enough for a bike ride or two, we load up the back of the Denali with some gorgeous wines and we get to spend a couple of days (and nights) catching up with good friends.

Keep in mind that this is by no means all inclusive of upcoming wine events in Washington – only a small, personal sampling. Nearly every region has an event in February focused on red wine and chocolate and spring release events are on tap for Walla Walla, Woodinville, Yakima Valley and Lake Chelan, among others. Additionally, nearly every winery has special events – releases, dinners and other fun stuff – scheduled throughout the year.

So that’s what our calendar looks like so far, and we already have some things penciled in for later in the year. I’d love to hear what’s on your wine itinerary in 2014.