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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Five Under Fifteen - May

Monday, May 31, 2010 4 comments








This month in a nod to Washington’s non-existent spring, we take a look at five Chardonnay under fifteen dollars (Note: Summer is scheduled to begin July 5th).

Chardonnay was, somewhat surprisingly, Washington’s most produced grape in 2009, edging out Riesling. I say surprising because I generally find a lot Washington Chardonnay to be somewhat non-descript. Not bad but not particularly interesting or unique. Surely, there are some excellent bottles out there from wineries such as Forgeron Cellars, Woodward Canyon, Abeja, and Buty to name a few. However, there are many wines that neither seem particularly distinct or distinctly Washington.

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How does an Oregon-based winery end up making four Washington Zinfandels including three vineyard-designated wines? This is how.

Ed and Laureen Fus moved their family to Oregon in 1997 to pursue their dream of establishing a small vineyard. In 2001 they began planting Three Angels Vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills. The vineyard was named after a term of endearment used by Ed’s father to refer to Laureen and the couple’s two daughters. Ed says, “When (my father) would call on the phone, he’d always ask how his Three Angels were doing.”

At Three Angels Vineyard, the Fuses planted Pinot Noir, selling fruit to Dobbes Family Estate and Domaine Coteau. After several years of assisting wineries that purchased his fruit, Fus became interested in making his own wine. He decided to focus on Zinfandel, his wife’s favorite wine. The couple had originally hoped to plant Zinfandel at Three Angels Vineyard. After deciding it wasn’t practical to grow in the Willamette Valley, the Fuses turned their attention to Washington.

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Our May Virtual Tasting is tonight! The wine is the 2006 Kiona Lemberger. This wine retails for $12 and is widely available. The tasting will take place from 7-8pm Pacific Time.

What you need to do to participate is:

1. Buy this month’s wine from a local retailer or from the winery. For those in the Seattle area, 6th Avenue Wine Seller is offering a 10% discount on a bottle of the Lemberger for the event. Stop in and ask for the discount.

2. Post your comments/tweets on the wine that night between 7 and 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #kiona during the event.

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Reminder that May's Virtual Tasting takes place on Thursday May 27th. The wine is the 2006 Kiona Lemberger. Read more about it here.

On a recent climbing trip, I tried out the PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System which a reader recently inquired about. Platypus is the brand name for a series of hydration systems made by Cascade Designs, a Seattle-based, outdoor gear company. With the PlatyPreserve, Cascade Designs makes a variation on its popular hydration system by making the soft plastic bag semi-opaque and adding milliliter markings along the side. The bag has a small spout on the top for filling, pouring, and cleaning.

The intent of the device, as the name would suggest, is to assist with the preservation of wine. This is done by adding wine to the bag and removing oxygen. An alternate and obvious use is to carry wine in to the backcountry or other places where having a glass bottle is not practical.

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Reminder that May's Virtual Tasting takes place on Thursday May 27th. The wine is the 2006 Kiona Lemberger. Read more about it here.

A round-up of stories on Washington wine from May 15th to 21st.


From around the country…


The Anchorage Daily News makes Hedges 2008 CMS White their wine of the week.

The Wall Street Journal (blog) writes about Kyle MacLachlan.

The Boise Weekly writes about Washington red blends.

Wine Spectator writes about Washington looking for more visitors.

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Reminder that May's Virtual Tasting takes place on Thursday May 27th. The wine is the 2006 Kiona Lemberger. Read more about it here.

At my monthly tasting group, someone recently brought an interesting bottle. We taste the wines blind and talk through them before revealing what they are. This wine clearly had a good amount of age on it, throwing lots of sediment and brickish in color. The nose had lots of aged fruit aromas along with some Old World styling. The taste on the other hand was decidedly New World with abundant, albeit fading, fruit. Overall the wine was drinking beautifully. What was it?

The bottle turned out to be a 1997 Merlot from St. Clement. St. Clement is a Napa Valley producer with a long winemaking history. The winery focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. All of the current offerings are designated Napa Valley. This bottle however was designated

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Recently I wrote about my conversion to believing in alternative closures for wine bottles as well as the experiences of six Washington wineries that are using them. Today I give my closing argument on this topic.

Following my last post, I wrote on Facebook that I was considering starting a memorial on-line for people to list the names of the corked bottles they had and the occasion, such as “2001 Wine Name. My Brother’s birthday.” While I was being facetious, I liked the idea of people having a space where they could commiserate about the loss of a corked bottle.

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Calling all wine bloggers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 4 comments

The 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference is a little more than a month away. The third annual conference, which takes place in Walla Walla June 25th to 27th, brings three hundred wine bloggers and industry professionals together. The conference focuses on academic information related to blogging as well as a series of wine tasting events (see the agenda here).

For those attending the conference, there are a couple of items I want to point out. The first is a lecture by Dr. Kevin Pogue titled “The Terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley.” Pogue is chair of the Department of Geology at Walla Walla’s Whitman College. The talk is scheduled at an unfriendly 8am Saturday morning and is listed as ‘optional.’ However, for those with any interest in Washington wine or the forces that have shaped the state’s terroir, this lecture is mandatory.

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This is the tale of two Merlots. Both come from Northstar Winery. Northstar is a Ste. Michelle Wines Estates holding. The winery was founded in the nineties with the sole focus of producing the world’s best Merlot from Washington State fruit. While this goal remains, the winery now also offers a number of winery-only, non-Merlot based wines, such as Syrah and Cabernet Franc. David ‘Merf’ Merfeld serves as Northstar’s winemaker. Merfeld joined Northstar in 2001, working as enologist and assistant winemaker before becoming head winemaker in 2005.

Both wines sampled here are classic examples of Washington Merlot. Additionally, both are quite distinct from each other, displaying the varying styles of Merlot being made in the state. The Columbia Valley offering is an appealing, exceptionally well balanced, polished wine. Northstar makes

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from May 8th to 14th.

From around the country…


CBS News writes about HR 5034 - an abomination of a bill drafted for Congress by the National Beer Wholesalers Association that is an attack on direct sales from wineries and an affront to consumers everywhere - with quotes from L’Ecole No. 41’s Marty Clubb.

The Boston Globe writes about Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback as does the Boston Herald and NESN.

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Our May Virtual Tasting wine will be the 2006 Kiona Lemberger. This wine retails for $12 and is widely available. The tasting will take place on Thursday, May 27th from 7-8pm Pacific Time.

What you need to do to participate is:

1. Buy this month’s wine from a local retailer or from the winery

2. Post your comments/tweets on the wine that night between 7 and 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #kiona during the event.

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2009 was a year of extraordinary recognition for Washington wine. Wine Spectator named a Washington wine its ‘Wine of the Year’; Wine Enthusiast gave a Washington wine a 100 point score; and Wine & Spirits Magazine named a Washington winemaker its ‘Winemaker of the Year.’ 2009 was such a critically acclaimed year that it seemed hard to imagine what 2010 could do for an encore.

Less than half way through the year however, the beat goes on. Earlier in the year Wine Spectator gave the 2006 Charles Smith Royal City Syrah a 97 point rating. This is the highest score the publication has ever given a red wine from Washington State. This wine received a 100-point rating from Wine Enthusiast last year.

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Last week I wrote some thoughts about a recent trip to Virginia wine country, focusing on various factors affecting Virginia’s quest to become a recognized wine region. Today I discuss some other observations from the trip.


The Virginia wine industry is doing well


One of the things that surprised me the most on my trip to Virginia is that, despite the poor economy, Virginia wineries are doing extremely well. All of the wineries I spoke with reported a significant increase in sales over the previous year. None of the people I spoke to were feeling any ill effects of the economic downturn.

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Thursday June 3rd you are invited to join a national on-line Washington wine tasting. On that night, thousands of people across the country will be discussing Washington wine live and on-line. The goal of this event - WAWine - is to leverage Social Media to connect the virtual wine tasting community and wineries across Washington State.

WAWine is the second in a series of Washington wine-focused Social Media events. The first, WAMerlot, had over 500 participants on Twitter and 1,000 people at various events across Washington State. The event received local as well as national media coverage and was a trending topic on Twitter.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from May 1st to 7th.


From around the world…


The Calgary Herald writes about Charles Smith.


From around the country…


Access Atlanta makes Kiona’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon its wine pick.

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Recently I had the opportunity to visit Virginia wine country as part of the 2010 DrinkLocalWine.com conference. I had never been to Virginia before or visited a winery there, so I was quite excited as to what I would find. What I found was this sign greeting me at each winery I visited:

“Warning: Under Virginia law there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, among others, risks of injury inherent to land, equipment, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity.”

Welcome to the winery!

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Recently I wrote about why I have come to believe in alternative wine closures. Today I write about six Washington wineries that have made the switch, focusing on what made them decide to use alternative closures, what type of research they conducted prior to making the change, and what consumer response has been. The wineries listed here range from small to large. It is not a comprehensive list but rather is intended as a hopefully representative sample (others feel free to chime in with your experiences).

Syncline Wine Cellars
, located in the Columbia Gorge, uses both screw caps and glass stoppers. Winemaker James Mantone says, “We have been proudly cork-free for four years. Sold our corker two years ago, never looked back.” In terms of making the decision to switch from cork, Mantone says, “We were encountering too many purchased wines that were either tainted or had cork failure and were concerned what the consumer reaction might be to a similar problem in our wines.”

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from April 22nd to 31st.

From around the country…


Madison.com
writes about Pacific Northwest wine.


From the blogosphere…


Fermentation
writes about Gramercy Cellars video on HR5034 (a must see).

Through the Walla Walla Grapevine
writes about Substance Wines. Catie also writes about Sleight of Hand and HR5043.

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Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Virginia to participate in a Social Media for Wineries workshop and to attend a DrinkLocalWine.com conference. I came to the area knowing relatively little about Virginia as a wine region and having never tried a Virginian wine. I came away impressed.

Winemaking in Virginia dates back at least four hundred years to the early days of colonization. Famously, Thomas Jefferson devoted a great deal of time trying to grow wine grapes in the area. His attempts were ultimately unsuccessful. Later attempts to grow grapes and make wine from Native American varieties, as opposed to French, had greater success.

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Fresh back from a trip to Walla Walla Valley for Spring Release weekend. As always, the trip was a mixture of visits to wineries I had been to before and wineries that were new/new to me. Also as always, despite visiting numerous wineries over the course of the weekend, there were many more that I hoped to visit but was unable to. The valley is currently home to more than one hundred wineries. This is part of what makes the area so exciting to visit.

A few quick impressions from the weekend. The Walla Walla Valley continues to be branded in various ways as a tourist destination. While I noted in my Fall Release report the Charles Smith billboard in downtown Walla Walla, two additional Smith billboards now line the highways on the drive out from Seattle - one 45 miles away from Walla Walla and one 15 miles away. I had brief visions of Wall Drug as I drove along.

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