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Spokane -- a surprising wine destination

Explore the downtown Cork District

Lori Allison, wine steward at Terra Blanca, serves up a newly released Rose. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Spokane has no estate wineries but is rapidly becoming a wine destination due to its downtown Cork District. Focused in the urban core of downtown Spokane, there are 16 award-winning wineries within walking distance of each other. Throw in a great food scene with two James Beard Chef semifinalists, Jeremy Hansen and Adam Hegsted, and Top Chef Contestant Chad White, all who operate restaurants in the city, and you have a recipe for a perfect weekend.

According to Mike Allen, executive director of the Cork District, you really can have a perfect weekend in Spokane. "The Cork District allows you to taste a variety of wine regions with the tasting rooms within walking distance. Many of our local hotels offer Sip and Stay packages. You can plan your perfect weekend around wine tasting, a great culinary experience, and an urban waterfall. Spokane is also within a short drive to just about any outdoor activity you can imagine from skiing, golfing, hiking and whitewater rafting," he said.

If you really want to limit your walking, consider staying at the historic Davenport Hotel. This beautiful hotel has been lovingly restored to its glory days. With a stay here you can come downstairs to the main floor, which has two tasting rooms right on site, Va Piano Vineyards and Arbor Crest. This hotel is also renowned for its Sunday Brunch, which is truly a wonder to behold. The Peacock Room Lounge brings back the feel of the Jazz age. It is worth it to drop in just to see the 5,000-piece stained glass ceiling of a peacock. The restaurant is pricey but you can enjoy a great cocktail or glass of wine during happy hour at the bar. It is very popular with the locals, especially theatergoers who drop in for a cocktail or dessert after a performance in the entertainment district. In keeping with our wine theme, the lounge is a recipient of a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

The tasting room specialist or wine stewards can really make or break a wine tasting experience. They must have the ability to establish your level of wine expertise and craft an experience for you whether that is suggesting wines to try or sharing information on the grape and production of the product. Corey Harter, Tasting Room Specialist at Helix Wines, is a friendly and knowledgeable pourer of wine. Helix offers three levels of tastings, so if you ever wanted to try some more expensive wines, this is your opportunity. Lori Allison, the wine steward at Terra Blanca, also pours a fun experience. This tasting room is super friendly. It is in the old Chronicle newspaper building and the architecture is stunning. Quite a few residents of the apartments located in the building are also Terra Blanca wine club members, which makes this a more lively tasting room.

A must-see in Spokane is the Riverfront Park, which is just finishing up a $64 million update. At one end of the park is the Skate Ribbon, which offers ice skating in the winter and roller skating in the warmer months. This makes a great pre-wine tasting activity. There is also a Sky Ride, which gives you a bird's eye view of Spokane Falls. Insider Tip: Visit in May when the falls are at their peak.

Spokane is about a four-and-a-half hour drive with no traffic, but you can also fly. The Cork District has partnered with Alaska Airlines which offers to fly a case of wine home for free. If you visit the Cork District within 48 hours of landing in Spokane, your Alaska Airlines boarding pass serves as a pass to free wine tastings in the Cork District.

For more information on the Cork District, visit: and for information on lodging, restaurants and activities.

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