IT’S FAR FROM the vines, yet Cannon Beach, the quintessential Pacific Northwest coastal destination, will transform itself into wine country just in time to usher in spring.
For four days, March 6-9, this community on the northern Oregon coast will play host to Savor Cannon Beach, a wine and food festival that is well worth the four-hour drive from Seattle.
I’m partial to Cannon Beach for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the town and stretch of sand are among my top-three Northwest destinations (along with Port Townsend and the Pike Place Market).
And depending on the weather, always iffy even in a drought year, a late-winter trek to Cannon Beach can be glorious for the mind and soul. Last year’s Savor was blessed with 96 hours of blue skies and bare whispers of a breeze. This year? Who knows, but a cloudy day at the beach beats a sunny day in traffic.
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And this doesn’t even begin to take into account the event itself. It kicks off with the Thursday Night Throwdown, in which patrons taste through 12 wines from six varieties (two cabernet sauvignons, two pinot noirs, etc.) to determine a winner. This is as close as you’ll get to a pro-wrestling style of atmosphere at a wine tasting.
Friday afternoon features two delicious seminars, starting with a blind tasting of favorite Northwest wines to see if you can guess which is a cab and which is a merlot (a lot of fun but not terribly easy). The second seminar is a battle of blends, in which participants taste through eight wines to decide what they like best.
On Saturday, I will lead a seminar called “Do You Know Your Cinsault?” in which we taste through lesser-known grape varieties, red and white, to explore the broader world of wine. (Full disclosure: I lead the seminar as a volunteer and travel on my own time and dime; I do not financially benefit from being there.)
A highlight of Savor Cannon Beach is the Saturday afternoon Savor Cannon Beach Wine Walk. It wends its way through town, where 40 wineries from Washington and Oregon will be pouring in and near businesses throughout the shopping district. This also is when the awards from the Savor Northwest Wine Competition will be revealed. Last year, winemaker Robert Smasne of Smasne Cellars cleaned up with many top awards. Smasne, whose winemaking facility is in the Yakima Valley town of Grandview, has tasting rooms on both sides of the Cascades: Woodinville and Kennewick.
The festival wraps up Sunday with a sparkling-wine brunch.
A festival pass that gets you into all the events is $119, or you can buy a ticket to the wine walk only for $30. For more information, call 888-609-6051 or go to www.savorcannonbeach.com.
Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.