Cheers! Downtown Issaquah wine celebration returns

January 29, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

Revelers can sip, snack and shop as the Downtown Issaquah Wine Walk series returns.

The popular winter and springtime event launched last February to attract people to downtown merchants even as the weather turns gray and soggy. Organized by the Downtown Issaquah Association, merchants host musicians, and offer sips from Washington vintners and hors d’oeuvres, during the monthly event that launches Feb. 1.

Though the event is designed to appeal to oenophiles — the 1-ounce wine pours remain limited to the 21-and-older crowd — creativity is showcased in arts-focused downtown, too. Highlights at the opening event include demonstrations by master glass blower Lenoard Whitfield at artbyfire and artEAST’s latest exhibit, “Stitch,” at UP Front Gallery.

“We do get all ages, because there’s art going on — they’re doing glassblowing demonstrations” and other art-related activities for families, Downtown Issaquah Association Executive Director Karen Donovan said.

If you go

Downtown Issaquah Wine Walk series

  • 5 p.m. Feb. 1, March 1, April 5 and May 3
  • Participants can start the check-in process at 5 p.m. at the Hailstone Feed Store, 232 Front St. N.
  • Tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and include 10 1-ounce drink tokens. Participants must be 21 or older to purchase wine-tasting tickets. Organizers provide a map of tasting locations, wine glasses, tokens and wristbands at check-in.
  • The Spanish Nest, 195 Front St. N., is offering drop-in care from 5-9 p.m. for children ages 3-10 for $5 per child per hour. Register at 

Throughout the event, musical acts perform at downtown businesses. The lineup includes cabaret act Bodacious Ladyhood, guitar duo Enigmatica, jazz performer Megan Biegalski with Mike McGee, and the eclectic bluegrass-country-folk sounds of The Debutones.

Participants can also see musical performances at Amante Pizza and Pasta and Vino Bella. Mills Music is opening the stage to amateur performers for a wine walk open mic night.

Organizers tapped Washington vintners — including a local winemaker — to feature at the event.

“The wineries, of course, are the star of the show,” Donovan said.

The wineries featured at the Feb. 1 event include Amelia Bleu, Icon Cellars, Nardone Cellars, Northwest Cellars, Redmond Ridge Winery, and Issaquah winemaker Estrin Estates Cellars.

In addition, Capri Cellars’ tasting room is scheduled to remain open until 9 p.m. for the event.

The wine is not limited just to tastes. Participants can purchase a bottle of wine from the featured wineries and sip it with dinner with no cork fee during the event at Amante Pizza and Pasta, Jak’s Grill, Issaquah Brewhouse, Mandarin Garden, Max’s World Diner, Montalcino Ristorante, Shanghai Garden and Stan’s Bar-B-Q.

The events last year averaged about 200 people per month — a figure organizers hope to increase in the months ahead.

“We got a lot of people who said they’d never been to downtown or they hadn’t been here in a long time,” Donovan said. “It was really great for a lot of the venues down here, just to get new people in there.”

The series concludes a little more than a month before the spring and summer ArtWalk returns. Downtown merchants plan to host the initial ArtWalk on June 7.

In the past, ArtWalk started in May, but Donovan said the organization decided to extend the wine program into May because the month is prone to unpredictable weather and ArtWalk includes more outside activities than the wine walk.

During the Feb. 1 event, venues include artbyfire, Illuminate Electrical, Museo Art Academy, artEAST UP Front Gallery, Opus Bank and Village Theatre’s First Stage Theatre. Throughout the ArtWalk and Downtown Issaquah Wine Walk events, Front Street shops and restaurants remain open to the public.

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