Oenophiles bellied up to winery bars across Spokane County Saturday afternoon to swirl, sniff and sip wines sweet and dry. Rosé-colored cheeks framed smiling faces during the Holiday Wine Fest.
Some traveled in packs with designated drivers (or even limo chauffeurs) to hit many different wineries in a single afternoon. Others used the event as an excuse for a romantic date or a reason to become reacquainted with favorite wines and winemakers.
“This is a good weekend for old friends and new friends,” said Rebecca Gunselman, co-owner of Robert Karl Cellars in downtown Spokane.
Tastes of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a red blend called “Inspiration” were poured there, accompanied by homemade Moroccan stew.
Employees and volunteers at the 12 participating wineries eagerly described their wines and favorite food and wine pairings.
The Holiday Wine Fest is one of two annual events showcasing area wines. The Spring Barrel Tasting happens over Mother’s Day weekend.
“All ships rise with the tide. We’re trying to help each other and educate people about wine,” said Tom Boubel, who was pouring at Robert Karl.
Two new wineries were added to the mix this year – Vintage Hill, which sells white wines downtown, and Nodland Cellars in Spokane Valley.
At Nodland Cellars, owners Tim and Tracy Nodland poured their Riesling and red blend in a brightly decorated warehouse front room.
“It’s exciting,” Tracy Nodland said of the winery’s public debut.
The Nodlands have been making wine for family and friends since 1999. They want to expand that reach, but not by too much.
“We got encouraged to go a step forward, but we’re always going to stay small so we can keep it an art rather than a job,” she said.
Jim Fromm joined a group of friends from Coeur d’Alene to tour as many of the wineries as possible.
“We always spend more money than we’re supposed to,” Fromm joked, but then added that tasting can be a more frugal option in the long run. “It gives you a chance to try something without having to spend $20 or $30 on something you might not like.”