Wine and wild pants

Spring Barrel Tasting weekend is your chance to get a jump on tasting the newest vintage from local wineries. A visit to the Yakima Valley on April 26-28 will allow you to sample delicious, unfinished wines from the barrel.

Wineries offer creative and educational opportunities to learn about the winemaking process. Over the years, Spring Barrel attendees have learned which wineries offer experiences that best suit their interests and palates.

One example is Paradisos del Sol Winery. Owners Paul Vandenberg and wife Barbara Sherman are passionate about making barrel tasting an educational experience and strive to create a new and different presentation of their wine each year. The one thing that is consistent is Vandenberg’s attire. During the last weekend of April every year, he is known as “the man in the wild pants.”

In 1985, Vandenberg was working Spring Barrel tasting at Blackwood Canyon winery. He arrived early Saturday to finish up some painting before guests arrived, and his plans to wear a tuxedo were cut short when visitors arrived early. Paul had put his tuxedo shirt on but wasn’t able to finish dressing — he had to welcome visitors — so he entertained guests with his paint-splattered pants.

“The customers loved it,” says Vandenberg. “People came in asking for the man in the wild pants. It was an accident that stuck. Ever since, I’ve worn some sort of wild pants for Spring Barrel Tasting. This year will be my 34th year.”

Vandenberg may have his pants picked out for next Saturday, but he still hasn’t decided which wine(s) he will pull out for guests.

“I haven’t gone through the barrels yet,” he says.

But you can be sure that whatever wine he selects, Vandenberg will offer interesting insights into the winemaking process while wearing a wild pair of pants.

Spring Barrel weekend is the region’s largest wine event, featuring more than 40 participating wineries throughout the Yakima Valley. The weekend’s newest event, Winemaker’s Table, offers a more intimate experience with seated tastings with winemakers at select wineries. Tastings include a library selection, current vintage and barrel sample of one of the winery’s best wines. (Tickets are required, see www.wineyakimavalley.org for more information.)

If you are planning on making it a full weekend of wine and fun, be sure to make lunch or dinner reservations and consider taking in a concert. Perham Hall in Zillah is featuring The West Coast Feed, an electrifying nine-piece experience with a sound that honors the legacies of Memphis and Muscle Shoals from 8 to 11:45 p.m. Saturday, the perfect complement to a day of wine tasting. The West Coast Feed is Seattle’s newest big buzz, headlining sold-out shows in clubs from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, to New York. Premier pass and winemaker ticket holders receive a discount on concert tickets.

Many of the wineries bring in food trucks or caterers during the weekend. A complete list of winery activities, food availability and event passes can be found at www.wineyakimavalley.org.

Whether you are experiencing Spring Barrel weekend for the first or 35th time, be sure to take time to enjoy all the weekend has to offer. Check out the blog at www.wineyakimavalley.org to find insider tips for navigating Spring Barrel weekend. Learn where the 10 best places to stay when wine touring are, read up on wine tasting protocols and learn where to dine while you are enjoying Spring Barrel weekend in the Yakima Valley.

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