It's been a big month for the Washington wine industry. For starters, industry bad boy Charles Smith (you know, the guy with blonde afro hair like Rachel Dolezal) opened a ginormous new production facility in Georgetown that he named Charles Smith Winery Jet City. It's the largest urban winery on the West Coast.
Meantime, that heatwave! All that hot, dry weather has produced the earliest wine harvest ever in Washington this year, a full week ahead of the previous record. Usually, our state's winemakers don't harvest until mid-September, but this summer's weather has turned the entire Columbia Valley growing region into a parched, California-style vineyard.
In a normal year our state's biggest natural advantage over the Napa Valley is its northerly latitude, which gives us two more hours of daylight during the growing season. (Why? Because it's usually photosynthesis rather than heat that ripens grapes and develops the sugar that ferments into alcohol; this year the heat got there first.) Our second advantage is that the temperature usually drops at night and actually slows down grape ripening. This regular cooling down preserves the fruit acids that make wine taste so good. This year, not so much. Let's hope they can figure out how to keep the 2015 vintage in balance.
Coincidentally, August also happens to be Washington Wine Month, an annual campaign by the Washington Wine Institute to raise public awareness of the best grape juice the state has to offer. Most wineries come up with a promotional event or two, as do assorted regional associations, tourist boards and fund-raising campaigns. Eater combed through the calendars so you don't have to; here are some of liveliest happenings we found.
WINE MONTH PICKS
1. Auction of Washington Wines Picnic and Grand Banquet
Thursday, August 13
Location: Throughout Woodinville
The Auction of Washington Wines is one of the oldest and most prestigious such events in the country, and it kicks off with a picnic on the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville ($150). The assortment of winemaker dinners on Friday are already sold out (though there may be a waiting list), but check out the grand banquet and auction on Saturday ($500). This is the grandest wine weekend on the calendar. Purchase tickets for the Thursday and Saturday events here.
2. Demo from Cheese Impresario Barrie Lynne
Saturday, August 15
Location: Wine World, 400 NE 45th Ave, in the U District
Barrie Lynne, the nationally known cheese educator who's also called The Cheese Impresario, presents a demo from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Wine World on matching wine and cheese. There's a reason for classic pairings like young white wine with goat cheese, old red wine with Parmesan, and so forth; it's called umami, and this woman is a master. Tickets are $25 here.
3. Woodinville Winemaker, Brewer, and Distiller Triatholon
Wednesday, August 19
Location: Redhook Brewery, 14300 Northeast 145th Street, in Woodinville
This triatholon brings together 30 teams of winemakers, beer brewers and craft distillers who run, cycle and paddle to raise money for The Goodtimes Project, a children's oncology camp for patients, survivors and siblings affected by cancer. Spectators can cheer their teams from the sidelines, and even (heh-heh) pay extra to hobble rivals or favor other contestants (for example, $5 to put ankle weights on a rival wine maker). The celebration runs from runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m., continuing into the evening at Redhook Brewery. Tickets ($75) include wine, food and a T-shirt; find details and purchase them here.
4. Taste of Main
Saturday, August 22
Location: between 100th and Bellevue Way on Main Street, Bellevue
The 7th Annual "Taste of Main" gives you a great reason to wander up and down Old Bellevue's main drag from noon to 5 on a Saturday afternoon and taste wine. Buy a passport ($40) online and come prepared to sample gourmet food, local wines, and check out the retail sales and services along the way. Experience the kinder, gentler face of Bellevue in great conscience: the event benefits the Detlef Schrempf Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue.
5. Belltown Crush
Sunday, August 23
The 2nd Annual Belltown Crush, in the Bell Street Park between 2nd and 4th Aves, from 1 to 5, pours wines from a dozen vintners in the Cascade Valley Wine Country (Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, Wenatchee), and includes live music, a grape-stomping contest, street food, and Bell + Whete's famous roast pig, all to benefit Plymouth Housing Group. Also, it's the first time that the Bell Street Park will host a real community event; this is, after all, the purpose of the space (which, truth be told, still needs more substantial street furniture and plantings). Tickets ($25) online here.