The 2011 wine event season begins in earnest this weekend with the return of the Frog. A little over a year ago Cayuse Vineyards announced that it was changing its release weekend from November to April – delaying the event by five months the first year. Open only to mailing list members, the event takes place in Walla Walla Valley today and tomorrow. As wine lovers – and more importantly wine buyers – are always in attendance, numerous valley wineries will have extended hours this weekend.

Of recent note in the valley, K Vintners opened up a new tasting room downtown (referred to as its ‘world headquarters’); Sleight of Hand Cellars opened a new tasting room south of downtown (check out the winery’s excellent Funkadelic Syrah from the Rocks region, tasting room only); and Gramercy Cellars opened a tasting room downtown (affectionately referred to as the ‘man cave’). Other wineries to recently open up tasting facilities downtown include Tero Estates and Flying Trout. For those traveling to the area, also check out new winery Fjellene Cellars.

In addition to the Cayuse release weekend, Walla Walla Valley’s Spring Release Weekend is coming up May 7th and 8th where wineries will pour their latest and greatest.

The weekend of April 16th and 17th features two events – Woodinville’s Passport to Woodinville and Yakima Valley’s Spring Barrel Tasting. This year’s Passport event has been significantly revamped. People who purchase tickets are now able to use them for six weeks after the event to visit participating wineries without paying a tasting fee. Read Woodinville Wine Update for some winery-specific events taking place. Tickets are available here.

Fifty wineries are participating in Yakima Valley’s Spring Barrel Tasting weekend. Here wineries offer both new releases and glimpses into the future with wine poured straight from the barrel. In Richland, Barnard Griffin has promised a guest appearance and book signing by Rio, their Golden Retriever featured in the book Winery Dogs of Washington. In Prosser, Milbrandt Vineyards will be barrel sampling its first-ever Tempranillo. In Yakima, check out new sparkling wine producer Treveri Cellars. See the complete list of participating wineries here.

On a final note, Carrie Simon of Washington Wine 9 is in the midst of a nine-day trip through Washington wine country and has been posting notes and pictures. Read Simon’s travel notes here.