One of the many great things about living in Bellingham and the Whatcom County area is the “small-town feel” the region carries despite its close proximity to two major metropolitan areas. With Vancouver, B.C. to the north and Seattle to the south, Bellinghamsters have a wealth of recreational and cultural choices at their disposal for those wishing to venture out of town for a change of pace.

The variety of choices applies to wine enthusiasts as well. Vancouver and Seattle offer two of the biggest and best wine festivals in all of North America. These events provide plenty of seminars, tastings, and a great opportunity to chat with winemakers, distributors, and winery personnel.

And area wineophiles who like to enjoy good food and good wines on a smaller scale take note: Bellingham now hosts its own regional wine festival. It’s a nice alternative for those who’d rather pass on a trip to the big city while still having a chance to taste a great selection of Northwest wines.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL

This year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival was scheduled to take place from February 11 through 19 at a number of venues and restaurants around the provincial city.

At the heart of the festival is the International Festival Tasting, a three-day, four-session event that features nearly 800 wines from 16 countries. It is estimated that during this and the festival’s other events, an amazing 42,000 bottles of wine would be poured and/or purchased.

This year’s schedule was also expected to include a number of wine-related luncheons, brunches, dinners, and seminars, as well as the Bacchanalia Gala, a nine-wine, five-course dinner, with event proceeds benefiting the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.

Each year, the festival organizers select a theme country and provide attendees with a large number of representative wineries from which to choose. The 2017 festival’s focus was Canada, and 76 wineries from B.C., Ontario, and Nova Scotia were expected to attend and pour a superb array of wines.

For Whatcom County residents, a first-hand trip to British Columbia wineries is an easy and scenic drive. Wineries from the Fraser River Valley are practically a stone’s throw north of the border, while those in the Similkameen and Okanagan Valley regions are located just over the Cascades in eastern B.C.

TASTE WASHINGTON

Billing itself as “the nation’s largest single-region food and wine event,” Taste Washington will feature over 225 Washington wineries, 65 area restaurants, and 60 culinary exhibitors during a four-day extravaganza from March 23–26.

This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary, and the Washington Wine Commission and Visit Seattle organizers have again partnered to offer an impressive package of tours, classes, parties, and tastings that are practically guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any Washington wine enthusiast.

The festivities kick off with a “Red & White Party” at AQUA by El Gaucho on Seattle’s waterfront on March 23, and continue with “Taste and Savor Tours” on March 25 and 26, which include an eat-your-way morning walk-through of Pike Place Market.

Ninety-minute, wine-related seminars will also be held on March 25 and 26, along with Taste Washington’s centerpiece, the Grand Tasting at Century Link Field Event Center in Seattle.

The Grand Tasting includes two ticket-purchase options: general admission from 2–5:30 p.m. each day or a VIP option which allows you one-hour earlier access. For a complete calendar of events or to purchase tickets, visit tastewashington.org.

BELLINGHAM NORTHWEST WINE FESTIVAL

Now in its second year, the Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival is also a great showcase for regional wineries as part of Bellingham Wine Week, beginning July 31.

This year’s Grand Tasting will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel and Conference Center Ballroom on August 5. The event is scheduled to feature up to 50 wineries and well over 100 wines. Many of these wines will be entered in a pre-event, judged competition, which is the only one of its kind in Northwest Washington.

Award-winning wines from the competition will be announced during the Grand Tasting, and include bronze, silver, gold, double gold, and best of show medalists.

Festival organizer Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi said that the Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival not only provides attendees with an incredible selection of wines, it also helps raise funds for a number of local non-profit organizations. Net proceeds from this year’s event are scheduled to benefit Lydia Place, Pass the Hat, Our Tree House, Brigadoon Service Dogs, and Growing Veterans.

General admission to the Grand Tasting runs from 7–10 p.m. VIP passes are also available, and VIPs will be granted access to the Ballroom beginning at 6 p.m. and then also to a private lounge from 7–10 p.m. where exclusive wine pours and appetizers will be served.

In addition, festival-goers will be able to purchase wines from an on-site wine store to take home with them.

For detailed event information including a list of winery participants, accommodations, and ticket purchases, visit bellinghamnorthwestwinefestival.com.

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"At the heart of the festival is the International Festival Tasting, a three-day, four-session event that features nearly 800 wines from 16 countries. "