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A taste of wine: Vino paired with food, shopping and more in Spokane

Several hundred people attend the watch party where large screens showed the game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the North Carolina Tarheels men’s basketball teams Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 in the Pavilion in Riverfront Park in Spokane. The party was thrown by Hooptown, USA, the brand owned by Hoopfest, and the Northwest Passages Book Club. (Jesse Tinsley / SR)
Several hundred people attend the watch party where large screens showed the game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the North Carolina Tarheels men’s basketball teams Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 in the Pavilion in Riverfront Park in Spokane. The party was thrown by Hooptown, USA, the brand owned by Hoopfest, and the Northwest Passages Book Club. (Jesse Tinsley / SR)
By Michael Allen For The Spokesman-Review

When you think of wine tasting, do you immediately think you need to head to Walla Walla? Many of us do, but there is an excellent option in our own backyard.

Spokane has found itself positioned to be a wine-tasting destination in the coming years. Spokane has even been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times and Food and Wine.

Historically, the wine-tasting model was drive, drink wine, drive, drink wine, drive – you get the point. Many of those tasting rooms were in rural areas that offered little in the way of other experiences to complement the wine tasting.

About a decade ago, we started to see a change in what wine tasters wanted. They wanted wine tasting, but they also wanted to pair it with other experiences. Spokane’s Cork District is set up to be the perfect urban wine tasting weekend.

The wineries

We now have more than 22 wineries in Spokane, and it is anticipated that two more will be opening this year. Not only do we feature local wineries, but we also have representation from Walla Walla and Red Mountain.

The bulk of the tasting rooms are within walking distance of one another in downtown, but you can still get the more rural experience, too, if that is what you would like.

Wine paired with culinary

The breadth and quality of Spokane’s culinary offerings have become something to experience. Multiple semifinalists for Best Chef Northwest, plus Chad White of “Top Chef” fame, now have multiple restaurants. The restaurant scene has never been better.

Wine paired with entertainment

When planning that perfect weekend, you might want to include a show, and Spokane has them, with entertainment at the Spokane Arena, First Interstate Center for the Arts, Spokane Comedy Club, Bing Crosby Theater, Knitting Factory and Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

And don’t forget about the smaller venues, among them Lucky You Lounge, Spokane Civic Theatre and the Pin. There is always a great opportunity for music, plays, art and so much more.

Wine paired with recreation

Not many cities have a waterfall right in their downtown. That alone is an attraction, but, as a bonus, it sits right in the middle of one of the region’s top visitor attractions: Riverfront Park.

With the recent renovations, lighting of the Pavilion and the many attractions and hiking/biking trails, there is always something to do. Additionally, you’re within an hour drive to four ski resorts and 15 golf courses.

Wine and shopping

Yes, shopping at stores is still a thing, and it’s much more social than online. River Park Square and downtown have hundreds of places to explore, from national brands to small artisan shops.

Wine paired with accommodations

One advantage to an urban wine experience is the access to great places to stay that offer different vibes in walking distance of tasting rooms.

From the Historic Davenport to the more-modern Davenport Grand, the Holiday Inn Castle on the Rock to the centrally located Double Tree and the many boutique and Airbnb locations, it’s easy to shape your experience and budget.

Wine and air travel

There are not many places in the world where you can land, check into your hotel and be in a tasting room within an hour. Spokane has that, plus the Cork District wineries are part of the Alaska Wine Flies Free program.

Whether you live in Spokane or are just visiting, you need not go far for excellent wine tasting – and you can always find your perfect pairing for the perfect weekend.

Michael Allen is the director of Spokane’s Cork District.

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