Small and rural fire departments around the country have had a tough time recruiting volunteers able and willing to bite off 40 or more hours of training.
Maybe if they knew there was free wine tasting at the other end, they might enlist.
Member wineries of the Columbia Gorge Wine Growers Association have offered any of the firefighters who worked to combat a series of late-season fires in the Gorge the tribute of free wine tasting through Dec. 31.
Talia Hammond, marketing coordinator for the CGWA, says people who fought the Milepost 66 fire, the Highway 141 fire, or the Mt. Adams fire can find info and directions to Gorge wineries by visiting the association web site, or calling her at 866-413-9463.
Because of a long, dry fall, the Gorge not only experienced some fires, it also is expected to have one of the best grape crops in years.
Lonnie Wright, a Gorge wine pioneer and proprietor of The Pines 1852, says of the crop and harvest: “Couldn’t ask for a better year.”
Peter Cushman, son of veteran winemaker Rich Cushman (Viento), said fruit looked great during harvest.
“This could be a banner year,” he says. “We did have frost a couple of days ago that shut down some vines in the valley, but luckily everything was ready to be picked anyways.”
Steven Thompson, vigneron at Atavus Vineyards in White Salmon, knows first hand the scare of fire. Twenty acres of the 300-acre property burned, coming within a mere 200 yards of the vineyard.
“Such a dry year is bad for fires, but really good for grapes,” he says, referring to his dry-farmed Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer vines, which go into wines bearing the Analemma label. “We’re seeing really great flavors.”