My partner in wine and I have spent some fun weekends in Spokane, a three-hour drive from Walla Walla, visiting parks, going to concerts, shopping, and, of course, tasting wine. Recently I was talking to Mike Allen, a Spokane City Council member, about his brain child, The Cork District: The Down Town, Mt. Spokane and Spokane Valley wineries.
Mike’s background is in marketing, he recognized a gap between the already established music, theatre and restaurant visitors and the wineries. By focusing attention on the wineries and linking them to the hospitality and entertainment industries he conceived of the idea to “enhance and advance” wine tourism in Spokane; The Cork District is the organization that is pulling together The Spokane Wine Association, Visit Spokane, Alaska Airlines and Spokane International Airport along with the recreational and previously mentioned hospitality and entertainment partners. If visitors have their Alaska Airlines boarding pass with them during the first 48 hours after landing their tasting fees are waived.
Spokane has a decent sized airport and Alaska Airlines, which offers a ‘wine flies free’ special deal when you fly out of Washington, Oregon and Sonoma wine country, may add Spokane in time.. This is especially nice for those where shipping of wine is limited, but I haven’t heard anyone flying out of Walla Walla complaining about this offer. Last summer we met a couple from Wisconsin that flew into Spokane, camped and bought wine throughout Washington and Oregon to fill two shipping cases (not regular wine cases) they were then flying out of Portland on Alaska Airlines. The camping equipment wasn’t going back with them as they didn’t have room to pack it all into their small rental car once they got both boxes packed. Priorities, we all have to have them.
About 20 miles from the Idaho state line, about 90 miles from the Canadian border, Spokane is considered the ‘hub of the Inland Northwest’ with over 200,000 residents. Although they don’t need hotels, the shopping areas, restaurants and wineries have a pool of locals to draw from. Making sure the community is aware of where and when there are special events is coordinated through The Cork District page on the Visit Spokane webpage. The map provided on the Cork Districts page has both wineries and wine bars with addresses and telephone numbers in the legend to facilitate finding each place. The Down Town wineries are mostly within walking distance of each other. I found that the open hours were usually afternoon, leaving you the morning to visit Manito or Riverfront Park (site of the 1974 World Fair), take in a museum or lounge over a leisurely breakfast since wine tasting is best done on a full stomach.
Washington State Wine is a big deal, everywhere there are wineries there is a need to include it in the community and tourism information. Spokane is embracing the local wineries and the wine bars where out-of-the-area wineries are grouping together or choosing to have a tasting room making planning to visit much easier. A few years ago when we went to Spokane to pick up several cases of wine for Brix & Stone Wine Shop we had fewer means of connecting with other wineries during our short stay; now we look forward to making the most of our time when we visit! In the coming weeks I will introduce you to some of Spokane’s wineries, show you around, tell you about the wine makers and their wines. Naturally, we didn’t get to them all, but we had a great time everywhere we went.