The wine grape harvest has begun in the Yakima Valley. Washington has 20 designated wine grape-growing regions known as American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, and the Yakima Valley AVA was the state’s first, established in 1983.
Even with a variety of experiences offered by nearly 100 wineries and tasting rooms throughout the Valley, many may find the world of wine intimidating. Chuck Clemmons wants to change that. Clemmons hosts Third Thursdays with Chuck at Grocery Outlet, 2109 S. First St. in Yakima.
The free monthly wine tastings from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. have resumed as the pandemic has waned. Clemmons pours, shares wine notes and answers questions. Eight wines are available to taste — reds and whites — and are paired with cheese.
Don’t knock the wine selection and wine tasting events at Grocery Outlet on South First and other grocery stores in the Yakima Valley. Considering the Valley’s important place in the Washington wine industry, some store owners and staffers like Clemmons strive to curate and maintain a varied selection, with quality, affordable prices and good value for the price among their main priorities. In making “Chuck’s Picks,” Clemmons also likes to highlight worthy Washington and Yakima Valley wines.
Though he’s loved wine for many years, Clemmons didn’t share his knowledge on a broader public basis until son and daughter-in-law Jeff and Jill Clemmons opened The Beer Shoppe in downtown Yakima in 2006 and he decided to help out. It closed in 2019.
Chuck Clemmons started working part time in the Grocery Outlet wine department after he found out the store was holding wine tastings. He’s there every Tuesday and Thursday, restocking the department and making it “look pretty,” he said. Clemmons makes his wine tasting choices on the previous Tuesday and gets it all set up.
“What I really want to do is help people,” said Clemmons, who thinks there is something for everyone. “It’s just fun.”
Some questions and answers:
Where did you work before your role at Grocery Outlet?
Before Grocery Outlet I worked at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for 31 years. I worked many jobs during my years there, but the most rewarding jobs were field work supervisor and work procedure writer. I retired in 2008.
How did you come to appreciate wine?
My love for wine started while I was in the Navy back in 1971. I was stationed at Moffet Field near San Francisco. With access to many California wineries, I was off and running.
Over the years I have read much about wines, talked with many about wines and have been just generally curious about all things wine.
What should customers expect at Third Thursday with Chuck wine tastings?
My goal is to provide a cross-section of the wines at Grocery Outlet. The wines come from all over the world. I try to taste wines that may not be familiar to new wine drinkers. I want customers to feel that it is OK to not like the wines I pick.
I try to have wines that will appeal to a wide range of tasters. I also encourage customers to try something that is not in their comfort zone. Most important, I like lots of questions.
What are some of the most common wine questions you get?
What does the term “dry” mean?
How does Grocery Outlet get their wines?
I purchased a wine before; can I get more of that wine?
Corks vs. screw tops, which is best?
How can people become more knowledgeable about wine?
Ask lots of questions whenever you get a chance. Read about wines you like. Try as many different wines as you can; we have so many grape varieties in Washington that you can always find something new.
The internet is a wonderful tool to look up grape varieties, wine terms, how a wine is rated, what wine goes with what food.
How do you store and enjoy wine at home?
I store all of my wines on their side. If I have a case and the wine has a cork, I store it upside down. My red wines I store in a wine cooler before serving, though sometimes I serve reds or whites at room temperature depending on the wine.
I keep my wines in a cool, dry place. I have a den where they stay cool all the time.