Last weekend we visited Seattle to attend the inaugural Holiday Wine Fest, which took place November 12-13. It was located at Seattle Center, in the Exhibition Hall, and was split into three sessions over the two days. The cost was around $40 per session, but we were offered a media pass to attend one session for free—so we went to the Saturday evening session which ran from 5 to 9pm.
Obviously, this being a beer blog, I tend to focus on the beer events but this was a good opportunity to check out something new. I’ve been to plenty of beer festivals, and several wine tasting events over the years, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Holiday Wine Fest. As it turns out, it was structured in an exposition format, a bit more like a trade show than the typical (beer) festival.
This actually worked out fairly well; reps from the wineries were not only pouring samples from their various wines and flights, but were also selling bottles. (Some of them, anyway; there were a few only pouring but did not have any to sell directly.) There was a fairly wide range of wine available, both from near (to the Pacific Northwest) and afar, and ranging from whites and champagnes to reds and ports. Most were good, some were so-so to average, but overall it was a good selection to sample and choose from.
There were also food and craft vendors, with much the same structure—plenty of samples and you could purchase directly from the vendors at any time. And don’t forget the distilleries: a number of reps sampling and selling a variety of liquors and liqueurs. Standouts included the Expre Coffee Espresso, Bärenjäger honey liqueur, and the kkÀdā caramel (non-creme) liqueur.
There were only two brewing companies present: PFriem Family Brewers from Hood River, Oregon, and Stella Artois. Stella (Anheuser-Busch InBev) was a big sponsor of the Fest, providing most of the sample glassware as well as having a central booth pouring Stella (of course) and their Cidre. Yes, I had Stella and PFriem both; when in Rome, after all.
Several cider makers were also present, and one particularly impressed us: Neigel Vintners Cider and their “Pear Up” line of all-pear ciders (technically, they are perries). Offerings included a hopped perry which I enjoyed, and a fantastic “Cranpeary Caramel” cider that was their holiday offering—and we ended up buying the last two bottles of that one (he’d sold through nine cases in the previous session that day!).
The admission fee included essentially unlimited samples, and to help offset the alcohol there was Essential Water, a vendor that specializes in alkaline water (9.5 pH), giving away free bottles. This was very smart—not only for the need to hydrate when drinking, but the basic pH of the water was a great offset to the acidity of all the wine. (Anyone who’s consumed a fair amount of wine in one sitting can attest to the heartburn-y nature that follows.)
Regarding the sessions as opposed to a traditional fest: What we found was, a four-hour session was more than enough time to sample what we wanted, make some purchases, and not feel like we missed out on anything in particular. It was frankly quite a ways to go from Bend to Seattle for this type of event, and in the future we would extend the trip to a three or four day weekend and add on some brewery visits.
But for a first time event and something different, it was worth it. Look for this event to return next year.