Coastal Wine Fest Smackdown
We compare the Oregon coast's two biggest wine festivals: the Newport juggernaut and the Astoria upstart
How you enjoy wine is a personal choice: some people prefer the quiet respite of a sun-dappled trattoria patio. Some like a dimly lit lounge full of witty sommelier banter. If those sound boring and you’d rather enjoy your wine in a tent full of craft booths, crab shuckers and congested queues, then check out the Oregon coast’s two most famous wine festivals: The Newport Seafood and Wine Festival, and the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival.
Both festivals offer scenic coastal locations, award-winning wine from the Pacific Northwest, arts and craft vendors, and fresh seafood—but which one wins the trophy for best wine festival largely depends on the kind of experience you’re seeking.
NEWPORT SEAFOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
Feb 20–23, seafoodandwine.com
If you’re looking to try as many wines as possible, then the Newport Wine Festival is your event. This 36-year-old juggernaut hosts over 80 winemakers, including the 2014 Commercial Wine Competition winners. Tastes (which are not included) can cost upwards of a dollar each, and if you don’t want to buy a glass at the event, you can bring your own. Though thanks to increased attendance in past years, whether you get to sample that rare Snoqualmie Vineyards Reserve Cabernet may largely depend on your ability to throw some elbows.
This year, Newport festival patrons are warned of long waits and overcrowding—especially during peak hours like Saturday afternoon, which is accessible this year by E-ticket only. While you wait, your only entertainment will be DJed music and the stumbling mayhem of your fellow patrons bouncing off the unheated tent walls.
ASTORIA-WARRENTON CRAB, SEAFOOD, AND WINE FESTIVAL
April 25–27, oldoregon.com
Offering a cheaper, smaller wine tasting opportunity is the underdog, the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival. While it only lists around 30 winemakers, this festival is family-friendly, includes live music and entertainment all three days, courtesy parcel pick up for bottle purchases, and free entrance on Sunday for kids and military.
As much a celebration of community and the ocean’s bounty as it is a wine tasting, the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival seeks create a memorable, albeit bustling weekend.
Pro-tip: there's a third fest elbowing its way into the fray: Astoria's Sip, Savor & UnWined (Mar 7), a tasting event held in the beautiful Liberty Theater McTavish Room. For $25, you’ll get first taste of 10 wines available at April’s main festival, paired appetizers, a complimentary event glass, and a chance to talk shop with the competition judges.
[UPDATE: Due to weather, Astoria's UnWined event has been postponed until Mar 7. It was previously scheduled for Feb 8.]
So which sounds better: moshing through crowds of Dionysian revelers, or sipping a Riesling while your kids dance to live music?