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Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008

Washington wine facts make their way onto board game

Seth and Dave Portteus for several years have watched wine tasters chew gum while swilling merlot and cleanse their palates with beer in their father's tasting room at the Portteus Vineyards & Winery in Zillah.

Inspired by the unusual practices, the brothers and their business partner Joe Mason of West Richland have created Washington Wine Trails, a board game.

"We began to notice related idiosyncrasies between customers," Dave said, and decided to incorporate them into the game.

It's a more productive way of making use of people's faux pas, Seth said.

Aside from the quirky humor, the game also is educational.

Wine cards that players collect along the way describe a range of wines made in Washington, from angelica to zinfandel, as well as food pairings and flavor profiles for each.

"All wines are Washington specific," Mason said, adding that the whole game was designed in-state and manufactured in the U.S.

Six players each pick a different colored barrel playing piece and make their way around the wine trail by rolling a die.

Players land on a variety of spaces, including ones telling them to select a wine card, a faux pas card or a wild card.

Wine cards help players build up prestige points -- get the most by the time someone reaches the end of the trail and you win -- and playing a faux pas card means other players lose points.

And get a good chuckle.

"This is a game that when you play it at a party, people laugh their heads off," Mason said.

But it's the educational component of the game that was intriguing to Jeri LeBlanc, hospitality manager at Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain.

She decided to sell the game in the tasting room because out-of-town customers often are curious about Washington wines and want to learn more.

"This is a great way to make it an educational trip (for visitors)," LeBlanc said. "A lot of people like to take mementos home. It's a little treasure but it's also educational."

The game, which costs $39.99, also is for sale at the Portteus tasting room and online at www.washington winetrails.com. Mason and the Portteuses plan to distribute the game to other tasting rooms as well.

The three have been friends since childhood and often invented games together, Dave said.

They started creating the board game about two years ago and thought it would take six months to finish.

"We didn't think it would be this complex," Mason said.

The pictures on the cards were taken of friends and family at area tasting rooms and the game was tested many times to make sure the kinks were worked out, Mason said.

The three would like to make video games at some point, but for now they're happy to see their first board game finished.

"It's just really exciting to see something you've been working on ... and one day the truck rolls up with five pallets of your game," Seth said. "It's mind-blowing to see that actually happen."