The Horse Heaven Hills are turning green, Mother Nature is turning a sunny face our way and wineries in the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Richland areas are bracing for Spring Barrel Tasting Weekend, April 23-25.
Nearly 50 wineries will open their barrel rooms, letting tasters sip vintages straight from the barrel. Wineries also will be sampling finished wines.
The wineries, some normally only open by appointment, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Several also will have live music and arts and crafts vendors on site and a few will have educational demonstrations.
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For example, Kana Winery in Yakima will have a barrel-blending demonstration and tasting. Milbrandt Vineyards in Prosser will have acoustic guitarists with Blue Mountain Spanish Sounds playing on the patio from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
What to expect
Spring Barrel Tasting attracts a lot of people, which means a lot of traffic and crowds including busloads of tasters, many from the west side.
This weekend is one of the busiest for the wineries. Winemakers and cellar staff will be on hand to share insights and answer questions on the winemaking process.
Take a glass or be prepared to buy one at your first stop. There's no way the winery dishwashers will be able to keep up with the demand for glassware.
For the best experience, discounts and tastings, purchase a Wine Yakima Valley Premier Pass (actually a wristband).
"Forty to 45 percent of the wineries in Yakima Valley charge a tasting fee, and if you have a Premier pass most will waive the fee. Plus you'll also get extra discounts on purchases, extra tastings and, in some cases, food samples too," said Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley.
The wristbands are good only at participating Yakima Valley wineries. Some, but not all, of the wineries in the greater Tri-City area are members of Wine Yakima Valley. A couple of wineries are open only to Premier Pass holders.
Premier Passes come with a tasting glass and cost $30 in advance. Buy them at www.wineyakimavalley.org.
You can also buy a Premier Pass at the Kennewick Costco.
You do need to buy two at a time at Costco, but you get a 20 percent discount off the $30 price. To activate the pass, go online and choose which winery you want to stop at first to pick up your glass and wristband. Not all wineries have them but those that do are marked on the website, Glover said.
Online pass sales will stop April 21.