Connoisseurs pour in for first winefest

Organizer expects it to become annual event after inaugural success

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter


photoVancouver native Mary Andersen, now living in Portland, samples wine from one of the 20 wineries participating in the Craft Winefest of Vancouver at Esther Short Park on Sunday.

(/The Columbian)

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photoCody Gray



Gold: Burnt Bridge Viognier 2012

Silver: Moulton Falls Chenin Blanc 2011

Bronze: Seventh Son Gewurztraminer 2009


Gold: Moulton Falls Lemberger 2009 (double gold as the top wine)

Silver: Burnt Bridge Syrah 2011

Silver: Olequa Caruso’s Red 2009

Bronze: Gordon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Susan Swank had an interesting way Sunday to gauge how the first Craft Winefest of Vancouver was going: Her arm hurt.

It wasn't a bad thing. It meant that she had been sharing tastes of Moulton Falls wines with a lot more people than usual.

"We've had a great turnout," said Swank, co-owner of Moulton Falls Winery.

On Saturday, "We did more than 1,000 pours. I had a sore arm," she said.

Moulton Falls was among 19 Washington wineries, vineyards and cellars -- including 10 from Clark County -- that took part in the three-day event at Esther Short Park.

And the Yacolt winery got some serious recognition. Its two awards included a double gold for the best wine at the event, a 2009 lemberger.

Billed as a celebration of craft wines, it gave the local businesses an opportunity to show off their products to a hometown audience.

"This has been a long time coming," said Greg Weber, with Confluence Vineyards and Winery in Ridgefield.

'Growing industry'

"We love it. We absolutely love it," said Mark Mahan, with Burnt Bridge Cellars of Vancouver.

"We have a growing industry" in this region, Mahan said. The Craft Winefest is a great way to promote that, he added.

Burnt Bridge also was a double-award winner, including a gold for its 2012 viognier.

Their winery isn't just a home-turf winner, Mahan was pleased to point out. Burnt Bridge had six entries in the 2013 Seattle wine competition, and "All six won medals: four golds and two bronzes," Mahan said.

Interestingly, the 2011 syrah that won a gold medal in Seattle didn't fare quite as well at the Craft Winefest, earning a silver.

"It's nice to see local wines we weren't aware of," Joe Stilger said as he and his wife, Michele, paused between tastings.

Some wine drinkers appreciated the chance to get the biographies of locally produced reds and whites.

Georgia Smith said she likes to know more about what's being poured into her glass: where the grape came from, and if it's a blend, how it was formulated.

"Some of these guys make interesting blends," Smith said.

Drinking and discussing

In addition to drinking wine, Mary Andersen said she enjoys talking about it. It runs in the family, since her mother is a wine steward in Vancouver. Before Andersen entered a pre-nursing program at Portland Community College, her last full-time job was tending bar, and she enjoyed sharing her knowledge of wine with her customers.

Organizer Cody Gray said Sunday that the Craft Winefest had hit the break-even point, and is shaping up to be an annual event.

"It's going great," Gray said. "We're definitely going to be here next year."

And if even more local winemakers show up next year, it sounds like that would be fine with Heather Brown, owner of Rusty Grape Vineyard in Battle Ground.

Asked if the other people showcasing wines in the park were competitors or colleagues, she didn't have to think it over.

"I see colleagues," Brown said. "You don't drive out to Battle Ground to see one winery."