Top Tips for Wine Festivals

We recently drank our way through Woodinville Passport 2008, in the ever-burgeoning Woodinville wine region just outside of Seattle, Washington. Here, we experienced wine tasting in warehouse office parks – and never was a more true and honest passion for wine represented without all the fancy mahogany tasting bars, and retail swag you find in other wineries. With a little help from some Woodinville winemakers, I share with you my top tips for how to attack a wine tasting festival.

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Woodinville boasts some spectacular wine: Syrah, Cab Blends, even Sangiovese. Several well-known wineries like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia call this region home with beautiful grounds and tasting rooms. But as someone who has traipsed through wine tastings in Napa and Sonoma and been awed by the grounds and architecture, I was intrigued to attend Woodinville’s Passport Weekend where 32 wineries open their doors to the public – even if those doors are in warehouse office parks. Skeptical at first, I had the best time hopping from one winery to another and sipping alongside people who really care all about the wine. And how can you beat going to 12 wineries in an hour and a half? It’s just not possible when you have to drive down long gravel Cypress-lined driveways to get to each and every tasting room.

Here in Woodinville, tents and carpets welcomed visitors into the warehouse suites’ front doors, where barrels were stacked at every turn. Festively arrayed in white lights, painted walls, or hanging posters, it was like someone fixed up their garage to welcome you inside. Catered food of every variety offered aromas of brie, olives, chocolate and mini-meatballs as folks noshed, sipped and mingled in the early afternoon. As you bopped from warehouse to warehouse, you passed happy groups of wine lovers chatting away and laughing. Winemakers’ musical tastes came out in their choice of either blaring Aerosmith into the festivities or having a live jazz band.

But with 32 wineries to choose from, the desire to not get completely wasted, and the designated driver factor, how do you approach things to make the most of your day? Here are my six top tips:

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.