Issaquah Rotary Club’s Grape Escape grows in popularity

February 28, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

A vintner discusses his product with visitors to one of the previous Issaquah Rotary Grape Escape fundraisers. Contributed

Six years ago, the Rotary Club of Issaquah offered its first Grape Escape event. For four years, the event took place at one of the smaller venues in the local Hilton Garden Inn, said Rotarian and event chairman Scott McKorkle.

The event was conceived as a wine tasting. But the first events, while popular, featured only a handful of local wineries, maybe five or six, according to Lesley Austin, a Rotarian who has long been involved with the Grape Escape event.

How things change. Both McKorkle and Austin said the Rotary has put a major push behind Grape Escape, greatly expanding the offerings and tying it in with the Taste Our Town campaign featuring local restaurants, many of which will be represented at Grape Escape.

Proceeds from the evening will go to support the Rotary Club’s several charitable undertakings, most notably scholarships offered to students at Issaquah, Liberty and Tiger Mountain Community high schools.

This year’s event is from 6-9 p.m. March 8 at Pickering Barn. Even after holding last year’s Grape Escape at Blakely Hall in the Issaquah Highlands, a larger venue was sought for the 2012 event, McKorkle said.

Perhaps more notably, instead of five or six wineries, the year’s Grape Escape will feature approximately 20, Austin said. There also will be at least one local brewery on hand along with a tequila tasting.

And finally, at least 11 restaurants have signed up to supply food for the evening. The idea is for each restaurant to make a signature dish, McKorkle said, and serve up appetizer-sized portions.

If you go

Issaquah Rotary Club’s Grape Escape 2012

  • 6-9 p.m. March 8
  • Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W.
  • Tickets: $40 per person, age 21 and older only
  • Go to Tickets also are available at some of the participating restaurants.

Wineries to be on hand include Cedar River Cellars, Milbrandt Vineyards, Pleasant Hills Cellars and Airfield Estates Winery. The Issaquah Brewhouse will have its original craft brews on hand, while local importer El Relingo will offer a selection of tequilas.

Restaurants involved include Agave, Coho Café, Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant, Tantalus and WildFin American Grill.

Finally, a silent auction will feature wine-related items as well as experience and entertainment packages. Wine and craft beer also will be available for sale by the bottle or at special pricing with no sales tax.

“This year, they’ve really upped it a notch,” Austin said, adding she and others hope the evening can turn into a “Taste of Issaquah” type event.

The Taste Our Town campaign runs from March 11-25. The idea is to promote local restaurants, eateries and taverns, urging residents and area employees to patronize shops in Issaquah and Sammamish, according to a Rotary press release. The Issaquah Restaurant Coalition is running the campaign, McKorkle said.

Austin said she believes the city has some great eateries of which even locals might not be aware. Grape Escape is a good way to get to know and try a few local restaurants and perhaps visit them later, rather than driving to Bellevue for your next dinner out, she said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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