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Clark County wineries open for annual tour

Extended hours, online options new this year

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A bunch of grapes hang from the vine at English Estate Winery, Vancouver's oldest vineyard and winery. English Estate is among 16 Clark County wineries participating in a wine tour re-imagined for the pandemic.
A bunch of grapes hang from the vine at English Estate Winery, Vancouver's oldest vineyard and winery. English Estate is among 16 Clark County wineries participating in a wine tour re-imagined for the pandemic. (Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Instead of abandoning plans for its sixth annual wine tour, the Southwest Washington Winery Association revamped the event for pandemic-era safety.

Participants can pick up wine in person or participate virtually. To avoid crowding, the event has been extended from its usual Thanksgiving weekend barrel tastings to an entire month of activity ending on Dec. 31.

To join, customers pick up a passport card at a winery or tasting room or download and print it at home. Each visit to a participating business garners one entry into a Jan. 15 drawing for three $100 gift cards. Many wineries and tasting rooms have added online ordering and curbside delivery for contactless transactions.

Those not interested in leaving home can virtually participate through the event’s website at www.swwawine.com/2020holiday. Promote the Southwest Washington Winery Association or its members on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and fill out the online form to enter. Each post provides one entry for the $100 gift cards.

“For us, growing our presence on Facebook — that’s a big deal,” said Jennifer English Wallenberg of English Estate Winery (17806 S.E. First St., Vancouver). She’s treasurer of the Southwest Washington Winery Association.

The rural wineries participating in the tour are in Battle Ground, Ridgefield and La Center. For those interested in sipping outdoors, Stavalaura Vineyards and Winery (29503 N.W. 41st Ave., Ridgefield) offers outdoor tastings on a tented and heated patio facing acres of grapevines.

Tasting rooms clustered in downtown Vancouver also offer some outdoor spaces to sip wine.

Burnt Bridge Cellars (1500 Broadway) recently added a roof and heaters to its outdoor patio. Reserve an outdoor tasting spot online. Guests can have tastings, glass pours or bottle service in this intimate space. Burnt Bridge recently added mulled wine by the glass or growler as a holiday treat. Growler fills of Burnt Bridge Blend, a mix of Rhone and Bordeaux, have been popular this season, said tasting room manager Sarah Richin.

Online tastings with up to 30 people can be arranged through Heidi Griggs, tasting room manager, at Pepper Bridge Winery and Amavi Cellars (677 W. Columbia Way). Hosts choose the wines for the tasting. All participants receive discounts on cases of wine. Wine is picked up curbside and a specific date and time is set for the meeting.

For those seeking a good holiday wine, Wallenberg recommends pinot noir, a varietal commonly made by Clark County wineries. The lighter version bottled in Clark County goes well with salmon and turkey, she said.

Richin of Burnt Bridge Cellars sips grenache at Thanksgiving and malbec at Christmas and year-round.

“It’s an all-around beautiful wine,” she said. “Good in the summer and good for cozying up.”

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