WALLA WALLA -- This weekend, thousands of visitors will come to the area to celebrate Autumn Release Weekend, which marks the end of the grape growing season and features many new wine releases.
Many Walla Walla wineries will be releasing new vintages and hosting special events throughout the weekend.
"Most members are pouring new releases this weekend. Some are featuring music or dinners and other types of events as well," said Shontina Gianotti, managing director of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance.
In the past, the two main winery weekends in Walla Walla were Holiday Barrel Tasting and Spring Release Weekend. In recent years Autumn Release Weekend has become more prominent, according to Gianotti.
"Actually, it has already become (a third major winery weekend) over the last several years and for some members surpasses Holiday Barrel Tasting," Gianotti said.
The majority of hotels in Walla Walla are booked this weekend, meaning thousands of people are coming to the city.
"Not only is this a great weekend for our local community and visitors to sample members' wines, but it is also a nice boost to the local economy," Gianotti said.
This weekend, Woodward Canyon will feature an extended tasting with special reserve wines and older vintages. The winery will release its 2008 Charbonneau Red, 2009 Estate Barbera and 2009 Dry White Riesling. Tasting will occur in a different tasting room than usual this weekend.
"We are pouring out of our reserve house this weekend, which is a special facility at the winery," said Marlene Steiner of Woodward Canyon.
Steiner notes Woodward Canyon does get more visitors that usual this weekend.
"It is a great way to kick off the season," she said.
L'Ecole No 41 also has special events planned. The winery will release its 2009 Estate Luminesce, 2009 Chardonnay and Bordeaux blends and writer Paul Gregutt will sign copies of his book in the L'Ecole tasting room on Saturday.
"We will have an open house all three days with domestic and imported cheeses paired with our new releases," said Cindy Widmer of L'Ecole.
Widmer notes that this weekend is definitely one of the winery's busier weekends, as visitors especially like to come to Walla Walla during this time of year when the weather is so nice.
Tero Estates & Flying Trout Wines in Milton-Freewater will have extended hours and will release their 2007 Old Vine Malbec, 2008 Cut-Throat Blend and 2008 Deep River Red.
"We are going to have a release party from 1 to 4 on Saturday with appetizers on the rooftop, a bonfire, vineyard tours and barrel tasting of our new wines," said winemaker Ashley Trout.
Trout notes this weekend is special for the winery, as it is in vineyard country and gets more traffic for new releases.
There are various winemaker dinners as well, at Waters Winery, Northstar Winery, Patit Creek Cellars and Dunham Cellars, among others.
For a complete list of hours and events for wine alliance member wineries, go to www.wallawallawine.com.
Joe Volpert can be reached at email@example.com.