Big Wine Weekend Kicks Off in Eastern Washington

Big Wine Weekend Kicks Off in Eastern Washington
BENTON COUNTY -- It's the biggest wine weekend of the year. Spring barrel started Friday but Action News found it's off to a slow start.

At 10 a.m. Friday the early birds are out to taste our Washington wine.

One couple from Canada was the first in the door at Barnard Griffin.

They're here to visit wine country, they just didn't know they're were coming on the busiest weekend of the year.

Spring barrel weekend is perfect timing for Tom O'Neil. It's his first day in business and this is the first winery within Richland city limits.

"I just wanted a little corner warehouse to make my wine and it tuned into a brand new building with food and music," said O'Neil.

By 11a.m. at Thomas O'Neil winery, there was lots to do before their doors open for the first time at noon.

In Prosser, by lunch time the crowds started to turn out.

"It's been rainy all spring on our side of the mountains so we thought we'd come over here. We're only slightly disappointed," said Dennis Peterson. Paterson traveled to Prosser from Woodinville.

There's two things that might keep the crowds away this Spring Barrel weekend, the rain and the gas prices.

"We're still trying to out what gas prices are going to do to people's travel plans. Are they going to here instead of far away or stay in Seattle?" said winemaker Marcus Miller.

Miller says Airfield Estates usually sees 2,000 people on just the Saturday of Spring Barrel. So they're hoping to hit that mark although they've noticed tasting room business is down lately.

"It's a difficult time. A longtime wine family like us, Olsen Estates, recently decided to get out of the industry. And there are others making that decision too. So just like the rest of the economy, wineries are taking a bit of a hit," said Miller.

That's why area wineries are hoping the clouds clear and the crowds come this Spring Barrel weekend.

Yakima Valley Spring Barrel runs through Sunday. Those premier passes are $50 this year. But not every winery in our is participating so you can still go tasting without a pass.