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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — November 2009

The Art of Wine Touring

By Shawna Burkholder
Fall is the perfect time to wine tour. You no longer have to travel an hour or more to find “wine country.” In Clark County alone there are now nine wineries available for tastings. I heartily encourage you to pick a weekend this fall to explore and taste the literal fruits of our talented vintners.

Linda pours wine for a tasting at East Fork Cellars

Linda pours wine for a tasting at East Fork Cellars

To get the most enjoyment out of your trip follow these quick tips…

1 – Designate a Driver. This should go without saying…drinking and driving don’t mix. I usually volunteer, as I’m a “lightweight” when it comes to alcohol. However, I also enjoy wine so I allow myself to sip a wine that is particularly good rather than tasting from a full flight. I am also the default “buyer” as I have the ability (sobriety) to make sure we stay within our budget.

2 – Go with Friends. There are a number of reasons to invite your friends to go with you. Mostly, it’s fun!  There is also a wider opinion on the taste of each wine. This may include consensus on wines that are fabulous vs. spit-worthy.

3 – Plan a Route. For a comfortable trip, plan to visit 4-5 wineries and allow an hour per winery. Although you may not stay a full hour at most of them, this allows for exploring the grounds, travel between wineries and/or stopping for a bit to eat.

4 – Pack a Picnic. I love to bring travel food to go.  A few vineyards have expansive tasting rooms and gift shops where you can buy food items, but most don’t. So be prepared and at the very least bring snack foods like cheese, salami and crackers. Finger food is convenient to eat in the car while traveling between wineries as long as you don’t mind the crumbs. Also, it’s good to keep food in your stomach throughout the day.

One of my favorite things is to pack a full spread of options, especially if touring during Thanksgiving weekend.  It’s a great way to use leftovers. Turkey finger sandwiches, French bread, brie cheese, olives, pickles, sliced pears and dark chocolate are usually my staples and I build from there.

5 – Take Your Camera. The vineyard grounds are gorgeous now with their autumn colors and you’ll want to capture memories of the experience. Snap shots of you and your friends tasting. Ask another patron or the pourer to take a picture of you as a group in front of the winery sign, the wine barrels or a distinguishing feature like a fountain.

6 – Meet the vintners. Over my 15 years of wine touring, the one thing I find invaluable is meeting the winery owners and/or vintners. Their passion, commitment and stories about their wines provide an additional layer of flavor that makes a bottle of wine extra enjoyable.

It can be years later when you open a bottle purchased while wine touring and inevitably the conversation will include, “Do you remember when…?” and the memories will center around the people with whom we shared a taste.

Visit these Clark County wineries. Be sure to check ahead for days and times they are open.

Bader Winery: 711 Grand Avenue, Vancouver. * 360-750-1551 or

Bethany Vineyard & Winery: 4115 N.E. 259th St., Ridgefield. * 360-887-3525 or

Confluence Vineyard & Winery: 19111 N.W. 67th Ave., Ridgefield. * 360-887-2343 or

East Fork Cellars Winery: 24415 N.E. 10th Ave., Suite 104, Ridgefield. * 360-727-3055 or

English Estate Winery: 17806 S.E. First St., Vancouver. * 360-772-5141 or

Gougér Cellars Winery: 1812 Washington St., Vancouver. * 360-909-4707.

Olequa Cellars: 24218 NE 14nd Avenue, Battle Ground. * 360-666-8012 or

Rusty Grape Vineyard: 16712 N.E. 219th St., Battle Ground. * 360-513-9338 or

Three Brothers Vineyard & Winery: 2411 N.E. 244th St., Ridgefield. * 360-887-2085 or

Addition: Two more wineries are now available since the post was written – Benke Cellars, 1804 NW 119th Street, Vancouver, 360-907-9525 and Heisen House Vineyards, 28005 NE 172nd Ave, Battle Ground, 360-713-2359.

November 19, 2009   4 Comments

The 10 Minute Conversation: Gian Paul Morelli

Gian Paul Morelli grew up in Canton, Ohio and moved to Longview from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and the Capitol Civic Center in 2007 when he accepted the position of Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. He lives with his wife, Marykay Morelli, who is Community Relations Director of Community Home Health and Hospice, which is located in Longview and Vancouver.

Gian Paul Morelli

In 1980, the historic Columbia Theatre was scheduled for demolition. The demolition equipment was staged for the job when Mount St. Helens erupted. The contractor who was poised to tear down the theatre and his crew were hired to deal with clean up from the eruption. This gave a group of citizens the opportunity to raise the funds needed to save and develop the building. A $11.3 million renovation of the theatre is underway and a grand re-opening is scheduled for February 4, 2010. The theatre’s current season is underway at the Rose Center for the Arts at the Lower Columbia College in Longview.

ZEST: What brought you to SW Washington?
Gian: I wanted to apply 30 years of arts management experience to a new project. Plus the size and extraordinary potential of the community of Longview. We love so many things about it including the nearby ocean and Cascades. I love smaller communities. They have a huge amount to give. We love the Olympics a lot, too.

ZEST: What do you love about SW Washington?
Gian: The geography, the weather, gardening, the terrain. We really DO love the weather. It’s always interesting.

ZEST: What is the best kept secret about SW Washington?
Gian: We found a yoga class that meets at a church in Longview at 7 a.m. in the morning, five days a week and it only costs a buck! My flexibility has gotten much better and I’ve taken off the 17 pounds that I put on when I got here!

Another secret: I have been surprised and delighted at some of the talent you find here. I went to the Eagles hall in Castle Rock and found a guitarist who is just a killer and you think, “Where did this guy come from?” Avocational musicians are really extraordinary here. This is really great stuff to hear.

ZEST: If you didn’t live here, where would you live?
Gian: Probably Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ZEST: What’s coming up that you are excited about?
Gian: The re-opening of the Columbia Theatre on February 4, 2010 with a performance by the Smothers Brothers. I’m really excited to clue in the rest of SW Washington as to what this theatre means and to show off this new facility.

ZEST: What would surprise people to know about you?
Gian: I’m a rabid Ohio State fan and love avant garde modern dance. I also love the television show, Hee Haw!

November 5, 2009   3 Comments

Adventures on Washington State’s Cranberry Coast, Part II

Isn’t it always the case that when you travel someplace new, you wish you had more time to spend there? We just discovered that in Glasgow (and Edinburgh and Inverness and…) but that’s another blog for another day. This is about Washington State’s scenic Cranberry Coast.

We spent four days there in mid-summer and pined for more. So we returned a month later for a camping trip with long-time friends, Mary and John Tyburski. Again, we were enchanted by the area. Cranberry Coast, Part I is here.

Westport Marina

Friday afternoon. Taking I-5 north, we make our ritual stop for milkshakes at the Dairy Barn in Chehalis (Exit 77). Cookie Dough and Hazelnut shakes in hands, we head west on SR6 through PeEll, which has what must be the world’s largest stop signs, and through Frances and Lebam—a town with a name to love. It’s backwards for Mabel.

We pass the Pacific County Fair in Menlo, hurrying on to Raymond, where we pick up SR105. We’re eager to get to our campsite before sundown at Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Setting up a campsite in the dark is not my idea of fun and it’s raining so we are grateful for our snug tent camper. Our days of sleeping on the ground are over. Guess we are getting older…

Home Away From Home

What a multi-generational community we find! Park demographics include all ages, from infants to grandparents and a diverse, well-behaved canine population. We must have missed the memo that said “bring your dog.” Two doors down, so to speak, at least 30 high school girls (also well-behaved) are on a field trip and eating dinner under the world’s largest tarp.

Much later, two cars of very polite surfers from Port Orchard set up their tents next to ours in the dark. We save them from an imminent medical emergency by lending them our hatchet. Watching a barefoot surfer try to chop wood with machete is not a pretty picture.

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November 1, 2009   No Comments