Leavenworth in Summertime

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Getting There: From I-405 north, take exit 23 to U.S. 2 east and follow it to Stevens Pass Highway and Icicle Road.

Where: Leavenworth, Washington.

Why: For the Icicle Creek Theatre Festival’s New Play Festival (8/19. $12–$20. Canyon Wren Recital Hall, 7409 Icicle Road; 509.548.6347; icicle.org), at which playwrights debut new works. This time, the fest features work by award-winning young writers Martin Zimmerman and Michael Louis Serafin-Wells. New this year: a collaboration with Seattle’s ACT, which will also stage the shows in Seattle later this month (8/21–8/22. acttheatre.org).

Side Trips: Explore new sips at the Leavenworth Wine Tasting Festival, where you’ll listen to local jazz while admiring breathtaking views of the Cascades (8/18. $40. 10461 Stemm Road; 509.433.1054; visitwashingtonfarms.com). Then, travel 10 miles northwest for a hands-on cheesemaking class at Alpine Lakes Sheep Cheese (every Saturday, by appointment only. $80. 509.548.5786; alpinelakescheese.com).

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

An intimate affair for wine lovers who get their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude
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A flight of wine awaiting tasting at one of the educational panels

If you love good wine—really good wine—you’ll want to put Northwest Wine Encounter on your radar.

Haven’t heard of it before? That’s not surprising. The inaugural event, which I attended last spring, was an intimate affair with space for just a few dozen wine lovers who got their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude on winemaking, learning about these during educational panels led by some of the region’s finest winemakers. And, of course, it helped to taste through flights of really fine wine as the winemakers offered insights and perspective.

The return engagement, on the weekend of April 28-30 (from $485/person including lodging, events and gala dinner), will follow a similar format and will once again be held at Semiahmoo Resort, a lovely spot overlooking Semiahmoo Bay, with the U.S./Canadian border and Peace Arch in view across the water. This year, there will be room for around 100 wine lovers (sign up for Northwest Wine Encounter here).


Winemakers and guests enjoying Friday night’s bonfire at Semiahmoo 

This quintessential Northwest location was chosen to complement the local wines that are the focus of the weekend. At Semiahmoo, Mount Baker frames the view in one direction, the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in another. At one time in its history, Semiahmoo was also the site of a salmon cannery. Hard to get more Northwest than that.

The 2017 winemaker lineup includes a few superstars from Oregon and Washington: Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Walla Walla’s oldest winery; David Merfeld of Northstar Winery, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars; Tony Rynders of Panther Creek and wine grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards. New this year is the addition of a British Columbia winemaker, Walter Gehriner of Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.

 

At last year’s events, the panel discussions were interesting, but the Friday night kick-off event was almost worth the price of admission alone. It had the air of an informal party where everyone was enjoying each other’s company. All the winemakers were in attendance, pouring and chatting about what they love most: making wine. The party eventually spilled out onto the beach where a bonfire warmed the crowd. Marshmallows optional, wine required.