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Celebrating Wine Tourism May 11

Diverse events and locations from coast to coast mark first Wine Tourism Day

by Jane Firstenfeld
flat creek estate
Flat Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery of Marble Falls, Texas, is hosting a yoga class as part of its Wine Tourism Day celebrations. Photo credit: Melba Allen/The Wine Profilers
Red Lodge, Mont.—The North American wine industry has learned to capitalize on its scenic appeal, infinite variety and innate hospitality, leveraging these assets with links to local tourism to generate traffic. Direct-to-consumer tasting room sales fuel thriving year-round wine clubs, and most cellar doors are open every weekend—at least during the growing season, whenever that may be. States from Virginia to Washington proclaim annual “wine months” to promote their wares and destinations.

Wine Tourism Day is not, however, the creation of any winery organization or government marketing department. The fledgling event May 11 is the brainchild of a small travel company that specializes in active excursions worldwide. Zephyr Adventures started in 1997 with inline skating events, branched out into bicycle and foot trekking and now offers culinary/beer/wine tours.

    For a complete list of Wine Tourism Day events, click here.

Based in isolated Red Lodge, Mont. (the Big Sky State currently has a scant 14 wineries according to WinesVinesDATA), Zephyr’s motto is “Life’s Short: Prioritize Adventure.” Although Zephyr is a commercial enterprise, Wine Tourism Day is a non-revenue idea. “We don’t do very many of those,” Zephyr owner/president Allan Wright told Wines & Vines.

While organizing the annual Wine Tourism Conference for the past two years, Wright developed contacts and the concept of Wine Tourism Day. “I had the idea in September and brought it up at the conference in November,” he said.

Wright heard enthusiastic responses at the conference, held last year in Santa Rosa, Calif., so he started working on a website in January and contacting wine industry organizations and allies in February.

“Everyone’s extremely supportive,” he said. A recent count tallied 196 separate events at “About 51 wine and tourism associations are promoting it to their members,” Wright said.

According to the website, “The type of event you host can be anything you want: a lunch or dinner paired with wines, an evening musical performance, ‘family day’ with clowns and other activities for the kids, etc. You can choose to offer your event for free or charge money.” A tool kit is available online to help with planning and promotion.

Registration is free to qualified participants, and it’s still open for last- minute entries. Requirements are minimal: Create something unique for Wine Tourism Day rather than something you frequently offer, and post the Wine Tourism Day logo and link on your website.

More than sipping and spitting
The Wine Tourism Day database hosted by Local Wine Events allows visitors to find events near them (it’s currently organized by city, not by state) or to browse the entire range offerings.

As the organizers had hoped, these one-off events are wildly eclectic and a good read even if you can’t attend all (or any) of the festivities. The samples below illustrate that wine tourism can be much more than just sipping and spitting.

• Tour the 10 acres of hybrid wine grapes at 3,500-case Cedar Ridge Vineyards in Swisher, Iowa, including a complimentary tasting of wine and spirits. Cost: Free.

• Wine & Dine Escape weekend package in Paonia, Colo., including two-night stay, two breakfasts, wine seminar, tour and tasting, winemaker dinner and a case of Stone Cottage Cellars wine. Cost: $595 (tax and tip not included).

• Grove Wine & Song with “Big Something,” 6 p.m. at 3,100-case Grove Winery & Vineyards, Gibson, N.C.: Cost $7.50 (normally $10).

• Urban Wine Day at ENSO Winery in Portland, Ore.: Cost: $10 wine flight/$36 per couple for “urban immersion wine and food pairing.

• Wine Growing for Beginners seminars at 3,000-case Mountain Cove Vineyards, Lovingston, Va. Cost: Free.

• Tickle Me Buck Naked Party at 10,000-case Valiant Vineyards, Vermillion, S.D. “Featuring two of our most playful wines: Tickle Me 100% Rhubarb wine and Buck Naked, a honey and black currant wine.” Cost: Free.

• Wines from Favorite Wineries to Visit in the USA at Pairings Wine & Food in Winchester, Mass. Taste seven wines from Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County, Calif.; Rhode Island; Willamette Valley, Ore.; Walla Walla, Wash. Cost: Free

• Celebrate Wine by Creating Your Very Own Wineglass at 1,600-case Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery, Freeport, Ill. Taste four wines and paint a wineglass to take home. Includes glass, paints, instructions and samples. Cost: $15.

• ZAP—Zinfandel Associates and Producers Winemakers Tasting Seminar & Dinner, Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar, Sacramento, Calif. Cost: $60, tasting and seminar only; $175, tasting, seminar and five-course dinner with pairing.

• Ladies Night—Fishing Widow Diva Destination! At 200-case Buffalo Rock Winery, Buffalo, Minn., 5-8 p.m. The woman-owned winery is hosting something similar to a Tupperware party on steroids: “Women-focused product reps will be onsite.” Cost: Free admission; five wine samples and 5-ounce glass of wine $7.

• Yoga in the Vineyard at 10,000-case Flat Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery, Marble Falls, Texas. Hour-long yoga session overlooking the vineyard, optional private wine tasting and brunch. Yoga class starts at 9:30 a.m., tasting at 10:30, brunch at 11 a.m. Cost: yoga only, $20; yoga and tasting, $25; Yoga, tasting and brunch, $45.

Wright hopes that Wine Tourism Day will become an annual tradition. Despite last-minute planning, “It’s not been a headache,” he said. If the timing—the day before Mother’s Day—is help or hindrance remains to be determined.

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