One of the biggest local wine events of the year here in Eastern Washington is the Tri-Cities Wine Festival that is put together by the Tri-Cities Wine Society. Roughly 100 wineries participate every year, and this was Thomas O’Neil Cellars first trip to the festival. The original plan was for Tom O’Neil to join me at the festival while his wife Tricia kept things rocking at the tasting room, but the harvest season continued it’s trend of forcing those of us in the wine industry to adjust our plans to Mother Nature’s whims, and we got in a bunch of grapes that required the winemaker’s attention. All of this left me on my own to man our booth.

I started off my Saturday morning helping my good friend and Wine Society mucky-muck Scott Abernathy with the setup of the room that would house the annual Gala Wine Tasting that wraps up the Festival. The tasting was held at the Three Rivers Convention Center, a large facility that is adorned with a row of Mercedes and Cadillac vehicles on the back wall. This was my second year to volunteer with the setup of the facility. There is always a race to get everything in place to make sure that the space is ready for the wineries to get settled in their booths and for the stream of people that will begin to file through at 7:00pm.

The event itself is a great opportunity for wine lovers to taste a wide variety of fantastic wines from Washington, and a few from outside the state, including Oregon and Montana. There are also a number of local restaurants that are showcasing their culinary skills to the attendees.

Since I was busy manning the Thomas O’Neil booth the entire evening, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to taste any of the other wines or sample food, although my sweet wife did bring me back a plate with a few tasty items, and my friends at Katya’s Bistro also saved me some of their wonderful food. As the new kids on the block, the festival was a fantastic opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to the members of the local wine community who were not yet familiar with us. The response to the wines was very positive.

I really enjoyed my first opportunity to pour at an event like this one. I always love talking with people who love wine, and I had the opportunity to do just that. Having access to so many people in a short amount of time is not only an enjoyable experience, it is also a great opportunity to raise awareness of the winery within the local community. I’m already looking forward to my next experience with a large public tasting.