Seaside merchants will provide the venue this Saturday for wine fans looking to sample the wares of noted vintners from around the Northwest.

The Seaside Downtown Association Wine Walk offers the chance to shop and sip Saturday, May 13 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Step into one of the more than a dozen local participating stores, sample a pinot noir or chardonnay, enjoy complimentary hors d'oeuvres and check out the wares - then stroll to the next stop. Live music is also on tap.

The wine walk is a new twice-yearly event inaugurated in 2005 by the merchants group, and organizers are hoping for a turnout even bigger than the numbers who attended last year's two events.

Wine walkers begin by purchasing a $5 commemorative glass and receiving an ID bracelet at one of three locations: the Carousel Mall, Salmonberry Square or Ter Har's.

Coastal attraction

The event was the brainchild of former Downtown Association Director Bree Phillips, who attended a wine walk event in Corvallis and "loved it," according to current director Cheryl Cochran. The group decided to put on its own version of the event twice a year in May and November to help draw visitors to the area during the slower "shoulder season."

Like the wine and other refreshments, smiles are freely shared at the Seaside Downtown Wine Walk. Submitted photo.Both events last year were big hits with the merchants, wineries and participants, and based on the number of calls and e-mails the association is receiving daily, they're expecting a big turnout this year as well, Cochran said. The Seaside event is included on numerous lists of regional wine events on the Internet, she said.

In last year's two events, about two-thirds of the "walkers" were from out of town, including many from the Seattle area, and a number of them made the event part of a weekend stay, Cochran said.

Along with boosting business for local shops, the event also provides a networking opportunity for winemakers and merchants, Cochran said, noting that organizers are holding an after-event gathering for the wine vendors to let them mingle with local restaurant owners and wine sellers.

Partakers in last year's Wine Walk enjoyed noshing on hors d'oeuvres and browsing the merchandise at the participating venues. Submitted photo."A lot of the participants are businesses that will carry their wines," she said.

Best of the Northwest

One of last year's vintners who's returning is Hip Chicks Do Wine. The winery in southeast Portland opened five years ago with the mission of "making fun wine and wine fun," with a special emphasis on young customers.

Hip Chicks has been a regular at the Crab and Seafood Festival, but company "wine goddess" Laurie Lewis says she likes the smaller scale of wine walks like Seaside's, which give her and other wine sellers a chance for more one-on-one contact with the public. They also take the opportunity to promote local businesses.

"We let people know where they can buy our wine locally," she said.

Wine Walk visitors have the chance to peruse some of Seaside's most inviting businesses. Submitted photo.Along with Hip Chicks, the other wineries taking part this year are Anam Cara Cellars of Newberg, Cubanisimo Vineyards of Salem, Rex Hill Vineyards of Newberg, Dalla Vina Winery of Hillsboro, Kings Raven Winery of Oregon City, Mia Sonatina of Tualatin, Coelho Winery of Amity, Nehalem Bay Winery of Nehalem and St. Laurent's Winery of Wenatchee, Wash.

Participating businesses include Beach Books, Comfort Inn, Corner Magic Shop, Country Bungalow, Day Spa on Broadway, Gilbert District Gallery, Heron's Nest, The Jewelry Box, Kay Lynn's Artworks, Mediterranean Bazaar, Montero Sisters, Natural Nook, Norma's Ocean Diner, Portland Fudge Company and Seaside Scent Factory.

This year, the association is partnering each of the participating merchants with a local restaurant to provide the food, as a way to showcase Seaside eateries, Cochran said.

Music in the air

The wine walk also features live music. At Salmonberry Square in the historic Gilbert District, local musicians Dave Quinton and Gary Keiski will perform acoustic swing from 4 to 7 p.m. The two have entertained local music lovers for more the 25 years - today Quinton plays guitar and bass with the Muddy Bottom Boys, and Keiski performs violin with the Floating Glass Balls.

Strolling along with the wine walkers will be the Sweet Adelines quartet, who will sing a cappella beginning at the Carousel Mall and then at various stops around town during the entire event.

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