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Friday, Apr. 08, 2011

Yakima Valley wineries open barrels a week early

Spring Barrel Tasting, when the Yakima Valley wineries celebrate their new vintages, will come a week early this year, April 15-17.

"Normally it's the last full weekend of April but those dates fell on Easter weekend. That's a tough holiday to compete with," said Barbara Glover, executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, which represents the wineries and grape growers in the Valley.

This is the 25th year Valley wineries have opened their barrel rooms to the public. During the three-day event, they offer a chance to sample unfinished wines right from the barrels.

"This is your chance to sample the up and coming vintages," Glover said.

It's also a great time to buy because many wineries will offer case specials just for the weekend, especially for those carrying a Premier Pass, she said.

Pass holders also get special reserve tastings, extra deep discounts on purchases and tasting fees waived at many wineries.

Buy a pass at http://wineyakimavalley.org before April 11 and it costs $45. After that it will cost $50.

Passes will be sold on the first two days of Spring Barrel Tasting at seven wineries: Kana Winery in Yakima, Airfield Estate Winery and Kestrel Vintners in Prosser, Severino Cellars and Agate Field in Zillah, Tapteil Vineyard in Benton City and Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard in Richland.

But the best deal for a Premier Pass is at Costco in Kennewick.

"They bought a bunch of passes and are selling them for a 30 percent discount. Just look for the display out on the warehouse floor," Glover said.

Several participating wineries will be offering delicious cheeses, sauces, salsas and desserts to nibble with their wines.

One of those is Barrel Springs in Prosser, which will pour winemaker Jim Madison's wines along with sweet and savory products produced by students in the Columbia Basin College Agriculture program. Money from the sale of the students' products -- including infused oils, a wine mustard and cranberry-walnut crunch white chocolate -- will go to the CBC ag program.

On April 15, Steppe Cellars in Sunnyside is offering a dinner, with each course reflecting the cuisine of a different part of the world paired with a wine for $46. Enjoy dinner with winemaker Anke Freimuth-Wildman on April 16. Cost is $60. See the menus and make reservations at www.steppecellars.com.

"I'm glad to see evening activities this year," Glover said. "Many of our guests this weekend will be coming from outside the area and they'll want to do something in the evenings as well. It helps round out the weekend."

Several wineries also will have live music and vendors displaying handmade wooden bowls and wine stoppers, specialty soaps and cigars.

One thing the wineries won't be offering are glasses for tasting, so either take your own or buy one at your first stop.

Hours are generally from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but vary by winery.

For more detailed information, go to http://wineyakimavalley.org.

*Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com