Fall Release not hard to swallow

Many tasting room managers extend their hours and expand their regular line of accompaniments.

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Among the visitors in Le Chateau Winery on Saturday morning, Randy Nordlof of Canby, Ore., fills out a tasting menu sheet, while being attended by tasting room manager Katie Druzianich (right).

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Donna Squires of Gig Harbor, Wash., tastes a Le Chateau Winery red on Saturday during Fall Release weekend.

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Tasting room assistant manager Thomas Thompson arranges and prices a mixture of local, regional and imported wines on Saturday afternoon at the new Walla Walla Wine Woman retail store, which opened on Monday.

WALLA WALLA - One of the three big wine selling weekends is finishing today, and along with it a big savings on wine that might actually be a first for Walla Walla wineries.

Right along with Holiday Barrel Tasting in December and Spring Release in April, Fall Release is considered a big wine sales weekend for area wineries.

Many tasting room managers extend their hours and expand their regular line of accompaniments beyond the regular cheese and crackers, to include catered hot appetizers and entrees, full dinners with wine makers, live music and, of course, special deals on wine.

It was the latter that brought Randy Nordlof and company to Le Chateau Winery early Saturday morning.

"The hard part is going to be how are we going to fit it (three cases) in the car," Nordlof joked, just before he and wife Terri and their traveling companions, Roger and Molly Bjorkland of West Linn, Ore., bought three cases of Le Chateau's Kelso label wines on sale this weekend at Le Chateau for $44 a case.

Do the math and that comes out to a rare vintage price of $3.66 per bottle.

"Being a new winery and lesser known, we are still trying to draw people to us," tasting room manager Katie Druzianich said, explaining the pricing strategy.

It seemed to be working, as five minutes after opening on Saturday at 10 a.m., while the trays of cheese and crackers were still being laid out by tasting room assistants, a half-dozen clients were already tasting and buying wine.

"It's part of the reason we came by, for 44 bucks a case. You don't see that often," Nordlof added.

In addition to getting customers like Nordlof in the door for the first time, there was another more practical reason for the case special, explained tasting room associate Emily Petty.

"It is because our vintage is up and we really need to get rid of it," Petty said, explaining they needed to make room for new lines.

Wine expert Catie McIntyre Walker agreed that $44 a case is a rare price even for a regional wine that usually sells in the medium-range, but she noted that when wineries store wine, they incur costs associated with federal liquor regulations, climate controlled environments and general maintenance.

"They have new wine and they want to move it out the door. They want to make room for the new stuff coming in ... And it costs to store and save wine," she said.

So how good of a deal is the Kelso special at $44 a case?

As for being able to qualify wine deals, McIntyre Walker has no affiliation with a winery, but she is big on wine. She is the first owner and operator of a local wine-only retail shop that does not produce its own label. And even though she isn't selling the Kelso label, she said, "I think that right now at that price you are crazy not to buy."

McIntyre Walker's store, where she sells wines that can be bought from around the world or from local wineries, opened Monday at 19 N. Second Ave.

"I am not here to take away their Walla Walla business, it is just another venue to showcase their wines," McIntyre Walker said.

McIntyre Walker plans to keep her retail store open Monday-Saturday, with Sunday hours from noon-4 p.m. on special-occasion weekends, which includes today.

La Chateau Winery is at 175 E. Aeronca Ave., and is open from 10-5 p.m. today. But the $44 cases were only available while supplies lasted.

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