Overview


Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Northwest wine to you and bringing you to Northwest wine. Our goal is:
  • To help you select Pacific Northwest wines at a variety of price levels
  • To keep you up-to-date about the Northwest’s wineries, vineyards, and individuals
  • To help you plan trips to wine country
  • To connect you to the larger wine community

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'17 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

As many of you know, I review Washington and Idaho wines for Wine Enthusiast magazine. Throughout the year, I keep a tabulation of wines that use natural cork closures as well as various types of alternative closures. I also keep track of wines that appear to have cork taint.

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The following article appeared in the March issue of Wine Enthusiast.

A bottling’s ability to stand the test of time has long been considered a mark of quality, but that might not be the case for every wine or even every region.

We’ve never had to question the ageability of wines from Old World regions like France and Italy—we already know the answer. Wineries throughout these countries date back generations, and top vintages of, say, Bordeaux or Barolo can last for decades; we have the pleasure and ability to taste such older bottlings as proof of their prowess. Can New World wines age the same way? More importantly, should they even be held to the same standard?

Read the full article here.

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2017: The Year in Washington Wine

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 0 comments

The following article appeared in the Winter issue of Washington Tasting Room magazine. 

WASHINGTON STATE continued a string of favorable growing seasons in 2017, with warm weather throughout the eastern part of the state during the summer months. Early reports from growers and winemakers indicate another high quality vintage is in store for Washington wine consumers. Reflecting back over the past 12 months, here is a look at some of the current highlights and trends we saw taking shape in the state’s wine industry.

Click here to read the full article.


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The following article was published on February 2, 2018 at Wine Enthusiast.

Based on my talks with winemakers over the years, I get the impression that many think cork taint, a contaminant that can negatively affect a wine, is currently at a low and perhaps even acceptable level. My experience says otherwise.

Last year, after tracking the more than 1,200 wines I sampled that used natural corks, 3.59% appeared to be cork-tainted, or were “corked.” That’s a completely unacceptable percentage.

Read the full article here.

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Pic of the Vine - January 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 0 comments

Winter might mean fewer wine outings to Washington wine country for some but that doesn’t mean life stands still in the wineries and vineyards. Snow can actually help ensure healthy grape vines in the spring, acting as an insulator against freezing temperatures. It also makes for a striking photograph, noted contributing photographer Richard Duval, who ventured to the scenic Owen Roe wine estate in Wapato on a windy, snowy day.

“Owen Roe is amongst my favorite vineyards to photograph year-round,” Duval said. “The estate winds up and down the Valley hillsides, anchored by the dark red winery, and always offers a vineyard vista to capture. Here sleeps another vintage of a great Washington wine.”

Click on the picture to see a larger image.

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Recent changes on the Wine Enthusiast website have made it significantly easier to search for categories of wine reviews, such as Washington wines. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Go to winemag.com

2. Click on ‘Wine & Ratings’ in the upper left corner (or just go here).

3. Scroll down to where it says ‘Buying Guide’ on the left. Click on ‘Search.’ This will show you all of the reviews in the Wine Enthusiast database.

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The following article appeared in the December 31, 2017 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Washington State wine is perhaps best known for its diversity. There are more than 80 grape varieties planted here, but one variety seems to be separating itself from the crowd: Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Pic of the Vine - December 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017 0 comments

Capping off a year of vivid Washington wine imagery, resident photographer Richard Duval captured a blanket of snow on Pepper Bridge vineyard and winery in Walla Walla - a perfect way to end 2017. Cheers and best wishes for the New Year!

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As plantings increase in the Columbia Valley, growers and winemakers are looking to add to the specificity of their wines. It is therefore no surprise that four new appellations, or American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), have been proposed this year for Washington. The proposed appellations are, in order submitted, Candy Mountain, Royal Slope, The Burn of Columbia Valley, and White Bluffs.

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Pic of the Vine - November 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017 0 comments

With harvest’s end comes the canopy color change. After six weeks of capturing the joy and madness of harvest and crush, resident photographer Richard Duval ended the season at Doubleback’s McQueen Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

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Below is a look at what was picked, when, and where in Washington during October. Many growers and winemakers wrapped up harvest this year between the middle and end of October, although some did pick into November.

The hallmark of this harvest season was certainly the cool down that took place in September and October, where heat accumulation more or less flatlined. This is well shown in the chart of Growing Degree Days (GDD), a measure of heat accumulation, from Washington State University. This allowed picking to occur at a measured pace.

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The wine world was shocked on October 25th when Walla Walla Valley’s Cayuse Vineyards announced that it would not be releasing many of its 2015 vintage wines due to problems associated with the cork closures. The problem described by the winery was "the presence of paraffin and an oily film in the wines." Both of these issues were presumably the result of treatment processes used to produce the cork closures.

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In looking at the recent Washington acreage data, I noted that Riesling (6%) and Chardonnay (2%) grew at small rates between the 2011 and 2017 surveys. Meanwhile, Pinot Gris (35%) and Sauvignon Blanc (24%) showed the strongest growth. Let’s take a look at appellation level data to see what’s happening where for these varieties.

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Looking deeper into the Washington wine grape acreage study that was released yesterday, here are six additional thoughts.

1. White grape plantings have slowed down sharply

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Numbers released today in a 2017 Washington State grape acreage study showed a dramatic increase in Cabernet Sauvignon plantings.

In 2011, the last year this study was conducted, Washington had 10,293 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. This year the state has 18,608 acres – an increase of 81%. Red grape varieties in general showed 43% growth, from 24,998 acres in 2011 up to 35,852 acres in 2017, with Cabernet Sauvignon driving most of that change. White grape varieties increased at a more modest 4%. Overall acreage in the state was up 26% since 2011. Again, Cabernet Sauvignon was the major player. To wit, the state increased its acreage by 11,596 acres from 2011 to 2017. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for 8,315 (72%) of those acres (note that some varieties decreased in acreage while others increased).

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Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley announced on Wednesday that he would not be releasing many of the 2015 Cayuse wines due to faulty corks. The text of the message to Cayuse customers was as follows:

Since 1997, we at Cayuse Vineyards have been dedicated to creating world-class wines. We are committed to biodynamic farming and our mission is to produce wine that is the best possible representation of our unique terroir. We simply will not release a wine that doesn't meet our rigorous standards.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the May bottling of many of our 2015 wines, we purchased the highest quality corks from our long time supplier. Despite taking every possible step to ensure that we are crafting the best wines possible, during bottling we discovered paraffin particulates caused by faulty corks.

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We’re approaching the six week mark on harvest in Washington. Harvest began on August 23rd with picks of Tempranillo for rosé in the Walla Walla Valley and picks of Pinot Noir for sparkling wine in the Yakima Valley. Most winemakers I’ve spoken with have reported that they have brought in 30-40% of their fruit at present. Hillary Sjolund, consulting winemaker at Wine Boss in Richland, provided the following summary of recent vintages at Wine Boss:

Tons received by Oct. 2nd in each vintage:
2015 - 540 (82% complete)
2016 - 419 (67% complete)
2017 - 211 (~40% complete)

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Pic of the Vine - September 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017 0 comments

Welcome to the controlled chaos that is crush! All around Washington, all around the clock, some 900+ wineries are delivering bins, picking grapes, sifting stems and crushing the good stuff to make the 2017 vintages. Resident photographer Richard Duval lives for this season, relentlessly roaming 14 appellations to photograph Washington winemakers at their best, if not their most tired.

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Buckle your seat belts. A round-up of stories on Northwest wine from August 22nd to September 7th 2017. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

Wines and Vines writes that Oregon wineries welcome eclipse viewers. They also write about the start of harvest.

Decanter writes about Oregon Gamay.

Shanken Daily News writes that Ste Michelle Wine Estates sees innovation pay off. They also write that Oregon wines are on the rise.

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Seattle Metropolitan's 2017 Top 100 Washington wines list has been released in the October issue. This is the eighth year that I have written this list for the magazine. This year, the lists are as follows:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Syrah
Best wines under $30
Bordeaux-style blends
White wines
Other reds

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50 Years of Chateau Ste Michelle

Friday, September 1, 2017 0 comments

With Washington now home to over 900 wineries, it seems almost unimaginable to think of just how small the state’s wine industry was when Ste. Michelle Vintners was founded in 1967. “At the time there were only 12 wineries in the state, and 88% of the wine was fruit wine or fortified dessert wine,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s parent company. “There was only a small amount of varietal wine.”

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Pic of the Vine - August 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017 0 comments

In the western most point of the Yakima Valley appellation stands the much praised Red Willow Vineyard. Planted and farmed by the multi-generational Sauer family, Red Willow’s iconic landmark is the Monsignor Chapel, built by the family as an homage to the many chapel vineyards in France. A favorite site of resident photographer Richard Duval, the chapel is as distinctive as the grapes.

Aiming to capture a truly spiritual image that reflected Red Willow’s beauty and reverence, Duval and associate Chris Rider, an experienced night sky photographer, enlisted a clear summer night and the vineyard’s 1,300 foot elevation to capture the Milky Way. Starting at 11 pm and shooting till nearly 3:00 am, they captured nearly two dozen striking images.

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I had the opportunity to talk with Allen Shoup for a Wine Enthusiast podcast about the early days of the Washington wine industry, how the industry has evolved over the years, and his work at Long Shadows Vintners. You can listen to the podcast here.

Enjoy!

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A round-up of stories on Northwest wine from August 15th to 21st. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

Wine Spectator writes about donating $1M to WSU’s viticulture and enology program.

The New York Times writes about Yakima Valley.

Wine Enthusiast says Oregon Riesling is the best in the west.

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Harvest begins in Washington

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 0 comments

Harvest has begun in the Northwest. Ryan Driver, vineyard manager at Tertulia Cellars, reported harvesting Tempranillo (21.2 Brix) today for rosé at the winery's Rivière Galets Vineyard in the Rocks District on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. In the Yakima Valley, David Minick reported harvesting Pinot Noir for sparkling wine at Precept's Canyon Vineyard Ranch. Winemaker Aryn Morell (MatthewsTenorAlleromb, Gård) said that he will begin harvesting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Thursday August 24th for a sparkling wine project. The fruit will come from Solaksen Vineyard, a Lawrence property in the Columbia Valley.

Most growers and winemakers I've spoken with have said that they expect to start bringing in white wine grapes either at the end of August or beginning of September. Red wine grape harvesting is expected to begin in the second week of September, considerably later than recent (warm) vintages.

Let harvest begin!

Picture courtesy of Ryan Driver, Tertulia Cellars. This post has been updated to include the harvest at Canyon Vineyard Ranch.

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