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Visitors taste the fruits of local labor at weekend wine tour

Marlene and Jim Hulett were never big wine drinkers, but that’s changed the last five or so years.

“We’re becoming wine snobs now,” Marlene Hulett of Vancouver said.

Part of the reason for that is Clark County’s growing wine scene, which is on display this weekend during the Southwest Washington Winery Association’s Labor Day Weekend Wine Tour. This weekend, 16 vineyards and tasting rooms are participating in the tour, which has been around for at least four years. Different stops offer different drinks, and some even celebrate with live music.

The Huletts stopped into English Estate Winery Sunday afternoon to have their passport stamped. Visitors who stopped in at five or more wineries and had their passports stamped are going to be entered in a drawing for prizes.

English Estate was the fourth stop of the weekend for the Huletts, although not a new one. That’s one of their regular spots. On Saturday, they visited three wineries, including SuLei Cellars, a new tasting room that opened downtown earlier this year. The tasting room comes to Vancouver from a vineyard in Walla Walla.

“It’s nice to see Walla Walla wines moving in over here,” Jim Hulett said.

Chris Bean, the tasting room associate at SuLei, said it was a busier Saturday than normal in the tasting room this weekend with the tour.

“We had a pretty steady stream all day until about 7 at night,” Bean said.

He said the tasting room has done well in Vancouver so far thanks to word of mouth and people walking around the downtown.

“The downtown area is exploding,” he said. “We’re starting to see people from Portland over here. The wine scene is growing.”

Andrew Starr agrees. He’s the tasting room manager for one of the stalwarts of the Clark County wine scene: English Estate Winery, which opened in 2001 on farmland that dates back to 1903, according to Starr.

“It really helps to have wineries work together like this,” he said. “We can point people in different directions to places they haven’t been yet. (The wine scene) is really blowing up over here.”

All of the English Estate wines are grown on the vineyard’s 20 acres of property, 7 of which are used for growing vines, Starr said. The wines are between 10 and 40 years old.

Mike McKenzie and his wife have driven by English Estates the entire 30 years they’ve lived in Vancouver, but never went inside until Sunday. They didn’t know about the weekend wine tour, but were fans of what they tasted.

“This is my style,” he said. “It’s old and torn up and pieced together. You can see that they’ve added on to it over and over again.”


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