Historic Moment in Washington State Wine

The movie Bottle Shock tells the story of a 1976 wine competition in which California wine was victorious over French wine. Known as the “Judgement of Paris”, it’s a tale that many are familiar with. It seems, however, that few are aware of an important historic moment in Washington State wine. The hero in this story is the pioneer of vinifera grape growing in Washington State that has been producing classic European varietal wines since 1967, Chateau Ste. Michelle.

At a blind Riesling tasting sponsored by the Los Angeles Times in 1974, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 1972 vintage of Johannisberg Riesling won top honors. Moreover, although Ste. Michelle Johannisburg Riesling was the least expensive wine in the tasting, it beat out German, Australian, and California Rieslings. It is significant to note that producers included P.J. Valckenberg in Worms, the oldest family-run wine export company of Germany, as well as Liebfraumilch Madonna, the oldest brand of German wine. Domestic producers included a who’s who of California stalwarts such as Beaulieu Vineyards, Heitz Cellar, and Freemark Abbey.

The Real Johannisberg Riesling

Continue reading “Historic Moment in Washington State Wine”

Reimagining Virtual Wine Events

A picture of a winery event I organized years ago got me thinking about how things could be altered to make it work during the current restrictions. Some of this might sound far-fetched, but dreams (and vino) are going to get us through these days, am I right? So, here are my ideas on what wineries could do to transform release and wine club parties into reimagined virtual wine events.

Virtual Wine Event

The thing about winery events is that most people don’t realize that it takes a lot of combined efforts and collaboration to pull them off. This pictured open house, for example, took a small army of caterers, party rental services, florists, a DJ, a photographer, and a magician. However, in a virtual format each could offer a focused theme on their own.


A big cheers to wineries, such as Avennia, that have included virtual music performances as part of their release events!

How about something a little different? I mentioned a magician previously. It happens that the same talented magician, Nash Fung (as seen on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us), has adapted his performances for virtual events. I’ve yet to see another winery event include a magician. What a special way to surprise and delight people during a virtual event!


Couldn’t we all use a little colorful cheer in the form of flowers right now? Let’s have a virtual floral design class. Perhaps even tie it into a wine theme, such as using wine glasses as a vase.

Party Rental Services

There is something about setting a table with classy linens, the good china, and all the wine glasses that makes my heart happy. I remember when I gave the nice folks at Cort Party Rentals my wish list for table décor, lighting, and furniture and they were able to provide it all! These days, I know party décor has taken a backseat while wineries line up to rent tents in order to provide outdoor service. However, what if a winery partnered up with a party rental firm to demonstrate how to glam up our tables at home this holiday season? This could be a nice tie in for the release events that offer to go meals. Count me in!

To Go Meals

Wineries have been joining forces with restaurants and caterers by adding on special to go meal options with wine release pickups. Hooray, a night off from cooking! That kind of partnership is a win for the businesses as well as those of us at home. Let’s keep this coming.

Just for Fun

I’m not the only one dreaming up new event ideas! A holiday party kit is an inspired option offered as a partnership between Elsom Cellars, Seattle Made, and the Seattle Good Business Network. Brilliant!

Getting to chat with the winemaker and/or winery owners at events is usually a highlight of release parties. I’ve seen winery owners such as Alex and Samuel of Aluel Cellars indicate they are receptive to working with large groups to develop some custom virtual tasting events. How cool is that?

Cooking classes have also gone virtual and it would be fantastic to see those providers partner with wineries.

If any of you wine lovers out there have participated in a virtual winery event, or have your own idea for an event with a unique spin, do tell! Share it on Twitter or Instagram.


I am incredibly grateful for all the people who have partnered with me throughout my wine career. The following were particularly helpful in my success with the event pictured in this post.

International Live Events Association (ILEA)
Cort Party Rentals
Nash Fung Magician
Fena Flowers
Photographer Jackie Donnelly

Virtual VinoSocial: Let’s Talk About Washington Wine

As we continue to hunker down, let’s connect via Zoom, have some fun, and sip some fantastic wines from Washington State! Do you like sparkling wines? How about balanced, complex red wine? I am conducting a virtual Washington wine tasting in collaboration with a couple of admirable women in wine. Together we will shine the light on four selections that are sure to spark more joy than decluttering your house ever could.

Save the date and order your wines now!
Monday, October 19
5-6pm Pacific / 7-8pm Central
Registration $12

Virtual Event Collaborators

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the two remarkable women who have partnered with me on this event. Continue reading “Virtual VinoSocial: Let’s Talk About Washington Wine”

Karen MacNeil Virtual Wine Tasting Series

Worlds are colliding! Innovation in the wine industry is taking shape in the form of virtual wine tasting. This enables consumers to learn about wineries all over the globe. In some cases it provides the opportunity to taste wines. It also gives wine lovers access to a number of industry experts from winemakers to renowned authors. Now, Seattle based non-profit Auction of Washington Wines (AWW) is bringing all of these components together in a brand-new Virtual Tasting Series.

Hosted by AWW Honorary Chair, Karen MacNeil, the fascinating series features a who’s who of Washington winemakers.  Explore the world of their wines through 7 virtual experiences held between June 18 and August 20. Hosted by MacNeil on the Zoom platform, wine lovers may register to attend these events online at no cost! Bonus – those who wish to taste along in any or all of the sessions may pre-purchase wines at retailer partner Esquin Wine & Spirits.

The lineup of wines and wine industry greats is phenomenal! To give you a taste, the series premieres with L’Ecole No 41’s Marty Clubb, Long Shadows Vintners’ Allen Shoup and Woodward Canyon Winery’s Rick Small. Topics range from Washington Women in Wine to Red Mountain and Bordeaux Style Wine. Let the good times flow. Continue reading “Karen MacNeil Virtual Wine Tasting Series”

Celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month During the Coronavirus Scare

This week I’ve been getting all kinds of messages related to the current COVID-19 situation. Some ask my thoughts on wine events being held in spite of the panic-inducing situation. Others request help in rallying support for our local wineries. Then  the colossal bomb dropped yesterday. Taste Washington, Seattle’s biggest wine and food festival due to take place March 19-22, 2020 in Seattle, has been canceled. WHOA! Don’t panic, there are still ways to celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month.

Over the years, my personal preference has been to attend the Taste Washington seminars. While it is unfortunate that the event has been canceled for 2020, the consensus on social media leans toward the “better safe than sorry” anthem. The hedonistic wine and food festival is intended to be hosted again in 2021.

Support Washington Wine

Although Taste Washington is not taking place in 2020, there are still other opportunities to experience Washington wine and support the community. This is particularly critical at a time like this. Given that many Washington wineries are small, locally owned operations they can suffer greatly when there is a dip in customer activity. After all, they just barely got over dry January (don’t even get me started about that). So, please do whatever you can within your comfort zone to show these businesses some support during this challenging time. If you were going to Taste Washington, take that money you planned  to spend anyway on some Washington wine or an alternative event. While I am not a health professional, I can say from experience that conscientious winemakers keep a very clean environment.

While doing some online checking it’s apparent that the status of some events on websites such as LocalWineEvents.com haven’t yet been updated. This is no fault of these sites; however, it serves as a reminder to check directly with organizers regarding the status of any event. Luckily, sources have confirmed some events going ahead as of this writing.

10th Annual Cabernet Classic

Saturday, March 7, 2020
Tickets $50

The quality level of wineries pouring at this showcase for Cabernet Sauvignon is staggering! Among the featured wineries are Den Hoed, Figgins Family Estate, Passing Time Winery, and Sheridan Vineyard. These purveyors of high quality juice don’t have tasting rooms regularly open to the public, so this is a rare chance to have such an upscale lineup of wine to taste!

Avennia Spring Release

While writing this, VinoSocial client Avennia cancelled their release party at the winery this Saturday, March 7. Nevertheless, the latest vintages of the highly acclaimed Sestina and Valery wines are still being released. Member allocations are available for pickup at the winery. Additionally, the tasting room in Woodinville’s “Gateway District” will be open regular hours this weekend. Their welcoming staff will be happy to assist, and pour, the latest wines for members and non-members alike. This is the place for those who appreciate world class wine.

Avennia Tasting Room
19255 Woodinville Snohomish Rd #1,
Woodinville, WA 98072
Open daily 11:00am-5:00pm, Fridays until 7:00pm

Devison Vintners Winemaker Dinner at Barking Frog

Thursday March 19, 2020
$150 per person + tax and gratuity
Call 425-424-2999 for reservations
Having worked with talented winemaker, Peter Devison, I am full of anticipation over the new releases he and his wife Kelsey are launching under their Devison Vintners brand! Taste them for yourself paired perfectly with a delectable five course dinner created by Chef Bobby Moore. This has got to be the most indulgent way to celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month!

Celebrate Taste Washington Wine Month at Home

If you don’t feel like braving the crowds, follow my suggestion on Instagram to help raise awareness of this great region and its award winning wines:  simply uncork a bottle of wine from Washington State sometime this month, and post about it using the #WaWineMonth hashtag!! With over 1,000 wineries there are a lot of first-rate selections from which to choose.

Meanwhile, the majority of the population is raiding the supply of toilet paper and I’m at local wine shop Esquin thinking what we really need to buy is more wine (p.s. they’re offering 10% off Washington Syrah in-store on Saturday, March 7, 2020). Make good choices, my friends, and be careful out there!