Pandemic prompts Red Mountain wineries to postpone consumer weekend

By on August 1, 2021
Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain was scheduled to be the setting for the Taste Red Mountain Grand Tasting, which has been postponed by organizers, who cited rising numbers of coronavirus infections in the Tri-Cities region. (Richard Duval Images)

During the first few weeks of summer 2021, a “heat dome” or smoke from wildfires posed bigger threats to Taste Red Mountain than the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the rise in coronavirus infections throughout the region prompted the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area Alliance to scrub the two-day consumer event it scheduled for Aug. 7-8.

“Over the last few weeks, the Tri-Cities area has experienced a worrisome uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” the Red Mountain AVA Alliance stated in a news release issued Friday, July 30. “Given the rapid development of the situation and projections for the next ten days, we did not feel comfortable holding our event at this time.“

Those who put Taste Red Mountain on their calendar a few weeks ago did so with a measure of optimism that marked a return to more normalcy in Washington wine country.

That changed soon after Taste Red Mountain was announced. According to the Tri-City Herald, data from hospitals and health officials showed the number of new cases tripled during July. The percentage of positive results at the free COVID-19 testing site at Columbia Basin College in Pasco nearly doubled.

While the rate among fully vaccinated adults in Seattle-led King County is closing in on 70 percent, it is 43 percent in Red Mountain’s Benton County and 35 percent in Franklin County, where the county seat is Pasco. Those figures are emblematic of much of the Columbia Valley and east of the Cascades.

20 wineries planned to pour at Taste Red Mountain

Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain, sold in 2019 to the Williams family of Kiona Vineyards fame, offers views of the Yakima River. (Richard Duval Images)

The Taste Red Mountain Grand Tasting on Saturday, Aug. 7 was scheduled for historic Hedges Family Estate and more than 20 wineries signed on to pour at tasting stations across the property. A ticket cost $125 and included dinner selections from several food trucks, a commemorative wine glass and a sparkling wine toast.

A pair of educational events were scheduled for Sunday, a 20-year progressive tasting followed by a presentation by acclaimed geologist Kevin Pogue.

“It is our hope that we’ll be looking at a different situation in the coming months and can begin planning anew, but until then, we’re doing everything we can to keep our community safe and healthy,” organizers wrote.

Participating wineries and vineyards include Aquilini, Canvasback, Casad Vineyards, Ciel du Cheval, Col Solare Winery, Cotes de Ciel, Dalee Vineyard, Domaine Magdalena, Eagle Harbor Wine Co., Fidelitas, Hamilton Cellars, Hedges Family Estate, Hightower Cellars, Kiona Vineyards Winery, Klipsun, Market Vineyards, Muret-Gaston Wines, Pacific Rim Winemakers, Schooler Nolan Winery, Tapteil Vineyard Winery, Tinte Cellars, Upchurch Vineyard and Zeron Vineyard.

Sponsors included Alegria + Company Certified Public Accountants, Trysk Print Solutions, Northwest Farm Credit Services, Gesa Credit Union, Metis LLC, Washington Trust Bank, Port of Kennewick and Seattle Printworks.

“This decision was not made lightly and we thank you all for your understanding,” the statement read. “We look forward to the time when we can safely gather and celebrate. In the meantime, we encourage you to raise a glass to 20 years of Red Mountain AVA (with a glass of Red Mountain wine, of course).”

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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