Heading into the weekend, sales of Wine Yakima Valley’s Spring Barrel Tasting premier passes were up by about 20 percent over last year, and that increase was borne out by attendance at local wineries.
Spring Barrel Tasting, the Yakima Valley wine industry’s biggest annual event-weekend, drew steady crowds at dozens of participating wineries from Naches to Benton City.
“It was awesome,” said Katherine Goodson, managing partner of Kana Winery in downtown Yakima. “Saturday we had over 750 people come through the tasting room. We had record sales.”
Barbara Glover, executive director of industry group Wine Yakima Valley, said she saw packed tasting rooms all weekend.
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Spring Barrel Tasting, which serves as the unofficial beginning of wine tourism season, draws thousands each year to taste unfinished wines straight from the barrel as well as wineries’ regular offerings. The bulk of the tasters come from Western Washington.
It was awesome. Saturday we had over 750 people come through the tasting room. We had record sales.
Katherine Goodson, managing partner of Kana Winery in downtown Yakima
“It was a good crowd, good number of people and the wineries had a good weekend,” Glover said. “We’re really happy with it. Good kickoff for 2016.”
That larger number of visitors was reflected, in part, by the about 1,500 Spring Barrel Tasting premier passes, which gave buyers special food pairings, tasting and tours unavailable to the public, that were sold this year.
Masset Winery near Wapato had its best Spring Barrel weekend in years, said co-owner Michaela Masset. She estimated that between 700 and 800 visitors on Saturday alone, including more local tasters than she’s seen on an event weekend in a decade.
“It was fantastic,” Masset said. “Holy lord. We started off at 9:30 in the morning — we’re supposed to open at 10 — with probably 70 or 80 people waiting in line. And it was steady and constant.”
That was the case at Kana too, Goodson said. She had planned to close at 10 p.m. Saturday, but there was so much demand from customers that Kana remained open until midnight. They weren’t just tasting and leaving, either. Some bought bottles, others cases, Goodson said.
“They were serious buyers,” she said.
Glover heard similar things from other winery owners. In the past, there was been a sense that as the number of wineries increased, spending at each was going down, she said. But that was not the case this year.
“I talked to one woman who said she had the best Friday she’s ever had for Spring Barrel Tasting,” Glover said.