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Taste Paul Gregutt

The Crush Is On

Pick a spot and get ready to sort, sniff, stomp and slurp

Crush begins as soon as the first grapes are brought in to the first winery — somewhere around Labor Day — and extends well into late fall. In the broadest sense, it refers not only to the actual pressing of the grapes, but to everything that transpires from picking onward.

It also offers an apt description for the caffeinated, companionable, occasionally high-stress ride. For wine tourists it's the ultimate show. And for those who want a hands-on (or feet-in) experience, now's the time.

Of the roughly 900 wineries throughout Washington and Oregon, several hundred welcome visitors, offer crush tours and tasting events, hold seminars and put on harvest dinners. The smaller wineries often recruit volunteers to help pick, lug, sort, sniff, stomp, splash, stir, slurp and otherwise pitch in.

Briefly, here are a few highlights from around the region. For the most current information visit any winery Web site, or call the tasting room. Then, prepare to jump in.

WALLA WALLA

Blue Stocking Tours. The company orchestrates harvest and crush experiences at Ash Hollow and other vineyards and wineries. Visit www.bluestockingtours.com.

L'Ecole. The winery deck was built to overlook the crush pad, offering visitors a great observation point to watch the harvest crew while tasting wine.

Reininger. Visitors are taken step-by-step through the winemaking process, with a chance to join the crush crew to help sort.

Dunham Cellars. Here, you're welcome throughout the season. The winery holds special harvest lunches hosted by the winemaker. Reservations required: 509-529-4685.

Isenhower. Punchdown seminars are offered daily during harvest. "I feel like Tom Sawyer trying to find someone to paint my fence," writes Brett Isenhower.

WENATCHEE/LEAVENWORTH/VANTAGE

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The Columbia Cascade Winery Association. "Autumn Crush" events are scheduled Oct. 26-28. Full details are posted on the Web site, www.columbiacascadewines.com. Call 509-782-0708 for further information.

Two Mountain Winery. Learn about the whole process in an "Afternoon in the Life of a Winemaker" Oct. 20. Cost is $30 per person; registration required. Call 509-829-3900 or visit www.twomountainwinery.com.

Boudreaux Cellars. Visitors are welcomed to their Icicle Canyon winery as grapes arrive from a dozen vineyards. Call 509-548-5858 or e-mail rob@boudreauxcellars.com.

Cave B Estate Winery. This upscale destination in Quincy hosts a Harvest Festival Oct. 13. Visitors can take part in a wide range of harvest activities, listed at www.caveb.com.

LAKE CHELAN

The Lake Chelan Crush Festival. Running from October 5 through 14, the celebration is a hands-on, focused look at crush; each winery will take on a separate topic, from fruit handling to filtration and bottling. For an update see www.lakechelanwinevalley.com.

RED MOUNTAIN

Terra Blanca. Catch the Crush tours take visitors through the production facility, tank rooms and caves. To register call 509-588-6082.

Hightower Cellars. The winery is harvesting its first estate-grown grapes, offering "lots of opportunities for experiences (read slave labor)," they write. Visit www.hightowercellars.com or call 509-588-2867.

COLUMBIA GORGE

Wind River Cellars. The annual harvest picking party, on the second Saturday in October, invites you to come help pick grapes, experience crush and celebrate with a wine-besotted harvest dinner. Registration required; call 509-493-2324 or visit www.windrivercellars.com.

Cascade Cliffs. Its Harvest Party is Oct. 13-14, with picking, crushing, fermenting, food, music and wine-related festivities. Call 509-767-1100 to register.

HORSE HEAVEN HILLS

Columbia Crest Winery. Catch the Crush is Sept. 29-30. You will find live music, wine tasting and winery tours. All guests are welcome, and admission is free. For directions visit www.columbia-crest.com.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars. It will be open throughout harvest at its Destiny Ridge vineyard. Call ahead (509-832-3497) to schedule lunches, dinners and guided tours of the vineyard, 13 miles down river from Columbia Crest.

YAKIMA VALLEY/RATTLESNAKE HILLS

Bonair. The winery hosts private vineyard/winemaking tours with the winemaker, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Cost is $20 per person; reservations required (www.bonairwine.com).

Claar Cellars. The 11th Annual "Help Stomp Out Breast Cancer" event is on in Zillah, Oct 5-7. Two-person teams compete in cut-off wine barrels, hoping to be named Champion Grape Stompers. Call 509-829-6810 for more information.

Steppe Cellars. Its "Federweisser und Zweibelkuchen" celebration is Oct. 13. (If you can pronounce it, you can safely drive home.) Fermenting grape juice (federweisser) is paired with traditional German onion cake (zweibelkuchen). Call 509-837-8281 for reservations.

SEATTLE/WOODINVILLE

Ste. Michelle and Columbia. The two major Woodinville wineries (www.ste-michelle.com and www.columbiawinery.com) have a full schedule of harvest-related tours and special events.

At Columbia: "The Art of Crush" on Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. is a chance to experience the winemaking journey from vine to table. Reservations are required (425-482-7348) and the cost is $20 per person.

For an overview of events at the smaller wineries, visit the excellent Woodinville Wine Country Web site at www.woodinvillewinecountry.com.

OREGON

Oregon Bounty. During October and November, Oregon wineries are pouring new wines at dozens of autumn festivals. The Web site at www.traveloregon.com offers useful information on special travel packages, itineraries, tastings and events. Call 800-547-7842 for more information.

Experience Oregon Wine Country. This is another excellent resource, at www.oregonwine.org, which provides information on wine touring throughout the state.

Paul Gregutt writes the Wednesday wine column for The Seattle Times and covers Northwest wine for the Wine Enthusiast magazine. Write to him at wine@paulgregutt.com.

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