Saturday, March 26, 2011
Columbia Gorge Passport Week Coming Up
Last weekend I attended a conference down in Portland. Rather than rushing back home late on Sunday night and making it home at 2 a.m., my wife and I decided to stay over until Monday and take in a little rest and relaxation. What a great idea that was! Not only did we get to do some needed shopping, but we got to visit a few wineries along the Gorge that I hadn’t visited before.
I’ll be sharing with you my winery notes over the next couple of weeks, but this week I want to talk about an important upcoming wine event literally just down the street from your home.
The Columbia Gorge became an official AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 2004. Until then this beautiful region along the Columbia River was part of the gargantuan region called Columbia Valley. Just like many of the other AVAs in the Northwest, the Columbia Gorge winemakers have formed a great association, where they pool their efforts, bringing people into the region to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
One of the greatest aspects of the Columbia Gorge region is that it offers an unprecedented number of micro-climates not seen anywhere else in the Northwest. I don’t know if you realize this, but there is approximately 10 inches of rain per year average difference between Hood River and the Dalles.
Along with moisture, there are huge differences in soils, elevations, and average temperatures. All of these differences make it possible to grow everything from the heartiest to the finickiest grapes possible in a relatively small area. You can find estate Pinot Noir, Spanish Varietals, delicate Alsace varietals, and hearty Zinfandels in just a few minutes drive of each other.
Because of that ability to grow and make such a wine range of wines, the Columbia Gorge annual event is called “Passport Week, A World of Wines in 40 Miles”.
The week kicks off on Monday, March 28th from 1p.m. to 4p.m. for a private tasting for people in the wine trade such as myself. Wine writers and industry bloggers, distributors, store and restaurant staff will converge on the Urban Studio at 935 NW Davis Street in Portland. This event is not open to the public, but if you are in the industry I suggest emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to get in the door.
The event will then open up to the public from 5p.m. to 8p.m. with hors d’ oeuvres, a complimentary wine glass, tastings, and a “passport” to the wineries. The cost for this event will be $25 and well worth it. If you are in the Portland Pearl District area I would highly recommend getting there. What a great way to start the week.
“Passport Weekend” starts on April 1st and runs through the 3rd. 25 Columbia Gorge region wineries will be participating in the event. You can get your passport by going to www.columbiagorgewine.com or search “Gorge Wine” on your iPhone for the passport app. The cost is $15 each, and saves you hundreds of dollars in tasting fees, lodging, and dining for the weekend. You can also pick up a passport at the wineries, but why wait until you’re there to jump in.
As always, enjoy, and be safe when tasting. I encourage eating, drinking water, and assigning a designated driver. 25 wineries in under 40 miles is a lot of wine!