Mention oak barrels in this neck of the woods and people begin imagining what flowers would flourish in those rustic containers.
But in the wine biz, barrels play a key role in turning fermented grape juice into something worth sipping on the deck this summer.
Spokane wineries want to demonstrate exactly how that wood works at its annual barrel tasting event.
This weekend, area vintners will pour samples from barrels and serve food designed to complement the flavors of the winery’s spring releases.
Here’s what they will be sampling:
At Caterina (328-5069), the young ‘96 merlot will pour from three different types of oaks to show the differences between Hungarian, French and American barrels.
Catered Ambiance will serve chocolate-dipped strawberries and brownies. Bratwursts and sausages will also be available for sale.
The flowers are in bloom at Arbor Crest (927-9463) and the food vendors for this weekend event sound like picnic nirvana.
There will be breads from Hearthstone Bakery, goat cheese from the prestigious Quillisascut Cheese Company near Lake Roosevelt, summer links from Dan the Sausage Man and pickled goodies from Oh’Brine’s.
Barrel samples will include the ‘96 sauvignon blanc and the ‘95 cabernet franc.
You can jaw with Latah Creek (926-0164) winemaker Mike Conway about his recent trip to Tuscany while trying the winery’s first-ever reserve ‘96 chardonnay, along with the merlot, cabernet sauvignon and lemberger.
Wash down some of the new releases with Ellena Conway’s fresh vegetable gratin.
Visitors will have the chance to bottle and label their own ‘96 lemberger.
Knipprath Cellars (624-9132) will pour barrel samples of its ‘95 merlot and cabernet franc.
It will group its new releases according to the region where grapes originated. For instance, pinot noir and chardonnay will be paired because both varietals have ties to the Burgundy region in France. Food samples will reflect that European heritage.
Mountain Dome (928-2788) will serve its lineup of elegant bubbly and will give visitors some insight into how one step in the lengthy champagne-making process works.
Worden’s (455-7835) will do a winery tour on the half-hour with a trip to the barrel room with tasting of the ‘96 chardonnay aged in American oak and two different styles of the ‘96 lemberger.
Nibbles will include specialty cheeses from Alpine Deli, pickled stuff from Oh’Brine’s and homemade goodies created by members of the winery staff.
The wineries will be open extended hours for the festivities from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. today, tomorrow and Sunday. For directions or additional details, call the wineries.