Vashon Farmers Market to offer wine tasting

Beginning this fall, visitors to the Vashon Farmers Market will be able to sample wine between chatting with friends and selecting fresh produce.

Vashon's market was one of 10 in the state randomly selected by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) to take part in a pilot program passed by the state Legislature that allows wine and beer tasting at farmers markets.

Alison Bockus, Vashon's market manager, said that market organizers have long hoped that tastings could be possible.

“People will be able to taste the wine and taste what Island wineries are doing,” she said. “They never had access to that before, except at the wineries.”

Bockus added that she knew of at least one Vashon microbrewery currently becoming certified, and imagined it may one day provide samples at the market as well.

“We might get some local brewers at the market, which would be amazing,” she said.

Vashon Winery, owned by Ron Irvine, has so far been the only winery to sell at the market. Irvine said he was excited Vashon was chosen to take part in the wine sampling program.

Irvine plans to begin offering free samples of his wine and cider and saud he feels as if his five years taking part in the market, even when business was low, will pay off.

"They've done studies that people want to try wine before they buy it," Irvine said. "So it should be a good marketing tool."

At the same time, Irvine said, he worried that sampling at the market may discourage people from visiting the actual winery, where he can offer more samples and a wider variety of wines. He said he often uses the market to point customers to the winery, which is north of Vashon town.

"I worry a little bit it may take away from sampling at the winery," he said. "I'm so close that in a sense I'll be competing against myself."

The pilot will run from this September to November of next year. After the pilot, the WSLCB will submit a report on the program to the state Legislature.

The program includes strict guidelines. Only one winery or brewery may offer samples per day, and samples will be limited to four ounces per customer. Liquor enforcement officers will check compliance during announced and unannounced visits to the markets.

Forty markets applied to participate in the program. The board divided the markets into regions and selected randomly from each one. Other markets selected include the West Seattle Farmers Market and the Pike Place Market.  


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