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Sipping Season 

It's the last weekend before the holidays, and you need some wine

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The holidays are coming and you need some wine.

Perhaps you need it for your Thanksgiving feast, or that reluctantly attended office Christmas party. Maybe a couple of bottles are going out as gifts this year. More likely, you just need a glass of wine because, well, it's the holidays.

Spokane's increasingly robust wine industry knows what you're thinking, and it's on the same page, rolling out the annual Holiday Wine Festival in the days leading up to the first weekend of the holiday season. Organized by the Spokane Wineries Association, nearly all of the region's wineries are participating on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons this week, greeting local oenophiles with specialty tastings, wine releases and perhaps the opportunity to stock up for the aforementioned occasions.

The multipurpose event mostly means that wineries are open during the allotted hours, typically offering special tasting opportunities. At Arbor Crest Wine Cellars' tasting rooms — at the winery's Cliff House Estate and River Park Square — the wine-loving masses flood through over the course of the weekend, getting an early start on the Thanksgiving holiday, says tasting room manager Shelby Enevold. Arbor Crest is offering cheese pairings, wine specials and gift packaging during the three-day-event.

At downtown Spokane's Barrister Winery, owner Greg Lipsker uses the event to roll out new wines. This weekend, he'll debut his 2011 Merlot and a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes plucked from the 40-year-old vines of the Bacchus Vineyards. Bottles of these new releases, along with Barrister's other standbys, are all on sale, with your $5 tasting fee going toward a bottle purchase.

Lipsker says that in past years, the Holiday Wine Festival has yielded significant sales, but he's not sure who's buying for friends and family and who's just loading up their own cabinet.

"I think it's kind of the kickoff to the holidays," says Lipsker. "But I don't know that there's a lot of gift buying going on," he says with a laugh. ♦

Holiday Wine Festival • Fri-Sun, Nov. 22-24, from noon to 5 pm each day • For a list of wineries and a map, visit spokanewineries.net

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