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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In tough times we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines. With summer already waning – didn’t it start barely three weeks ago? – we focus on white wines this month.

Wines of Substance is a project from Jamie Brown of Waters Winery and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars. The winery focuses on single varietal offerings with each of the wines featuring black and white labels with a periodic table style notation. The 2009 Pinot Gris is a fairly full-bodied white with callouts to the Old World.

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Our July Virtual Tasting is tonight! The tasting will take place between 7-8pm Pacific Time. The wine is the 2007 Hogue Genesis Syrah.

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 tonight between 7 and 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #wawine during the event.

Look for updates to the blog and comments and tweets from virtual tasters starting at 7pm. Hope you'll join us.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

Since Abeja's first release from the 2001 vintage, the winery has established itself as one of Washington’s premier producers of Cabernet Sauvignon - the 'King of Grapes.' While the winery also makes limited bottlings of Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Viognier – which are also consistently standouts that demand attention – Abeja's mission is Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for the majority of its production.

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Tim Stevens was studying English literature and working in a restaurant to make ends meet when he first became interested in wine. He subsequently met winemaker Matthew Loso at a tasting group in what would become a fateful meeting. He worked for two years as Loso’s assistant winemaker at Matthews (Loso has since moved on). After a consulting stint with Scott Greer at Sheridan Vineyard, Stevens and his wife Paige started Stevens Winery in 2002.

Stevens Winery has focused on small lot production of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. Formerly a commercial artist, each of the wines bear a unique label every vintage.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

Charles Smith of K Vintners continues along as an irrepressible force of nature. Much like his wines, he is almost unavoidable. In any given week, he's pictured in newspaper articles and blogs posts around the world, including a recent favorite from The Gray Market Report. One isn't even safe in the car with his visage now on three separate billboards in or around the Walla Walla Valley.

Smith has parlayed his marketing and promotional genius into a wine empire. Already far along the path to stardom with his omnipresent ‘House Wine’ from the Magnificent Wine Company and his highly rated micro-quantity wines from K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines, Smith rose to national prominence last year after receiving a 100 point score for his Royal City Syrah from Wine Enthusiast and being named Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from July 15th to 21st. Please add any I missed during this time period to the comments section. See previous weeks here.

From around the world...


The Toronto Star recommends Hogue’s 2008 Genesis Merlot.

From around the country…


Wines & Vines
writes about wineries opposing initiative 1100.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

Winemaker Jamie Brown of Waters Winery has taken a somewhat unforgiving path to success. A Walla Walla native, Brown became interested in winemaking as he watched the local wine industry grow and a number of friends enter the field. A musician and songwriter, the relationship between art and winemaking appealed to Brown’s artistic sensibilities.

After assisting at Glen Fiona, Dunham Cellars, and Pepper Bridge, Brown was encouraged by friends to start a winery of his own.

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Our July Virtual Tasting wine will be the 2007 Hogue Genesis Syrah. This wine retails for $16 and is widely available. The tasting will take place on Thursday, July 29th 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 #wawine during the event.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

Of the numerous new wineries that opened in 2009, few made as significant an impression on me as Rasa Vineyards. Named after a word in Sanskrit that translates roughly to terroir, Rasa Vineyards was started by brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane. The winery’s inaugural releases were two wines - the 2007 QED, principally Syrah, and the 2007 Principia, a reserve Syrah. Both of these wines stand among the finest being produced in the state and exemplify why there is so much excitement about Washington Syrah (see a review of these wines here).

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Among the many changes in wine over the last ten years has been a general increase in alcohol and a decrease in acid levels. These changes have resulted from evolutions in viticulture, enology, and consumer tastes. Consumers everywhere have favored a more ‘drink-me-now’ wine as opposed to something that needs years of cellaring to become approachable. Wineries have responded in kind.

Northstar Winery winemaker David ‘Merf’ Merfeld has watched these changes take place. Merfeld, a native of Iowa, moved to Washington in 1990 to pursue a career in brewing. While originally interested in beer he says, “When I got the offer to make Merlots at Northstar, no one had to ask me twice.” Merfeld joined the Northstar team in 2001 and became head winemaker in 2005.

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Quilceda Creek has announced their fall releases. This includes three wines from the 2007 vintage – a Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a Palengat Vineyard Proprietary Red Wine, and a Columbia Valley Red Wine.

Quilceda Creek made its first Galitzine Vineyard-designated Cabernet in 2004. The vineyard is located on Red Mountain and is managed in partnership with Jim Holmes, owner of nearby Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. The 2007 Galitzine Cabernet Sauvignon will be 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from July 8th to 14th. Feel free to add any posts I missed to the comments section.

Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen. This round-up is a long one.

From around the country…


The Wall Street Journal writes about stalking Washington wine.

The San Francisco Chronicle recommends Washington Cabernet.

The Mercury
recommends Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Gwurztraminer.

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Mike Wade of Fielding Hills Winery recalls a formative wine experience at Chieftain Restaurant in Wenatchee, Washington. An avid beer drinker at the time, Wade decided one night to try a glass of “house Burgundy” along with his prime rib. As fate would have it, there were no French inspectors in town otherwise this story might never have been written. Instead, Wade became hooked on wine.

After traveling to Napa Valley in the mid-nineties followed by trips to the Yakima and Walla Walla valleys in 1997 and 1998, Wade became increasingly interested in growing grapes and making wine. As part owner of Columbia Fruit Packers, an apple and cherry packing business, he saw similarities between growing apples, cherries, and grapes. As he looked more into growing grapes and making wine he kept asking himself the same question - “Could I do this?” After seeing a seeing a small-scale wine operation in Walla Walla, he decided that the answer was yes.

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Last month I wrote about a few recent trends in the Washington wine industry. Here I discuss other recent trends and the potential implications for the coming years.

Increased Number of Grape Varieties Planted


For many years Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Riesling have dominated the Washington wine scene. In the last ten years, this has started to change. Many vineyards now have twenty or more varieties planted. This has resulted in the emergence of several varieties in the last decade, particularly Syrah and Malbec. However, a number of varieties that were previously almost unheard of in Washington are popping up each year as well, such as Juan Garcia, Tempranillo, Albarino, and Grenache to name just a few.

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Joseph Ramseyer started making wine in Washington in the 1960s. These were the early days of the rebirth of the state’s wine industry when Associated Vintners (now Columbia Winery) and Ste. Michelle Vintners (now Chateau Ste. Michelle) were both getting started. While these wineries would blossom and help form the large industry that exists today, Ramseyer would focus his efforts as a home winemaker.

For Ramseyer, who would become one of the founding members of the Enological Society of the Pacific Northwest (now the Seattle Wine Society), making wine was a family affair. The whole family worked to pick the grapes, crush, and press them. The grapes for the wines came from the Grandview area not far from what would one day become Boushey Vineyards. Throughout the years, the Ramseyer family rarely missed a vintage until Joseph passed away in 1986.

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In the wine business, like in almost every business, location matters. Wineries spend a good deal of time thinking about where to hang their sign to make sure that they draw enough visitors to sustain the business. They also often spend a good deal of money for the right real estate. And with good reason. A proper location can be the difference between success and failure. What to do then when your winery location suddenly changes?

On Monday June 21, a new section of Highway 12 opened on the way in to Walla Walla. The new section is part of a multi-phase project funded by a variety of agencies and municipalities (see the complete list here). The goal of the project is to improve safety and increase commerce by widening U.S. Highway 12 to four lanes from the Snake River Bridge (US 12/SR 124 intersection) to the city of Walla Walla (see a list of project goals and progress here).

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Below is a list of known posts from July 1st to July 7th related to the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference. Please add links to additional posts during this time period to the comments section.

From the blogosphere…


1 Wine Dude discusses the case for Washington Syrah.

Drink Nectar
gives a video recap of WBC10 and links to numerous blog posts.

Wine Tonite! writes about the foundation of Washington wine.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from July 1st to 7th. See the special Wine Bloggers Conference edition for additional posts on Washington wine during this time period. Please refer any complaints regarding this distinction to the legal department.

From around the country…


Wines & Vines writes about the delay in the growing season this year.

The Dayton Business Journal recommends Columbia’s 2008 Cellarmaster’s Riesling and and Pacific Rim’s 2008 Gewurztraminer.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recommends the 2008 Willow Crest Pinot Gris.

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Despite the fact that Washington State wines have received numerous accolades and high scores in recent years, many people remain unaware that Washington is a significant wine region. Surely, people who pay close attention to the world of wine are keyed in on what is happening here, but the average consumer is still somewhat unaware. Recently, several Washington wineries have set out to fix this.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

L’Ecole No. 41 is located in Lowden, Washington, a short distance from Walla Walla. The winery was founded in 1983 by Jean and Baker Ferguson as the third winery in the Walla Walla Valley. L’Ecole is now owned by the Ferguson’s daughter and son-in-law, Megan and Martin Clubb, with Martin serving as the winemaker.

L’Ecole is located in an iconic, 1915 schoolhouse whose image adorns the winery’s labels. L’Ecole is relatively large compared to many Washington wineries, making approximately 30,000 cases annually. While many wineries may lose focus, quality, or both at this level, L’Ecole has excelled. The winery produces consistently high quality wines across a range of styles and price points. Winemaker Marty Clubb attributes this to a continued focus on vineyards, viticulture, and an artisan approach to winemaking.

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What follows is a section of my 2010 Walla Walla Spring Release Report. The report will be published in its entirety in .pdf form after the last entry is posted to the blog. See previous posts here.

As I drove to Bunchgrass Winery, I listened to a message from co-owner Tom Olander on my cell phone. Look for the…what was that he said? Dragon? I listened to the message again. Sure did sound like dragon. I’ve seen a lot of things in Walla Walla but…then there it was - a steel sculpture of a dragon by the side of the road. And a good thing too as Bunchgrass is otherwise modestly marked and set back far from the road.

Bunchgrass was founded by Roger Cockerline in 1997. Cockerline’s interest in wine started in the 1980s when he planted a small vineyard, selling grapes to local wineries. He also saved some grapes to make wine with friends Gordy and Venneri and Myles Andersen, who would go on start Walla Walla Vintners.

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Note: Rainy weather not drawn to scale.


Residents of Seattle know that regardless of the date summer is marked on the calendar, there is only one date to pay attention to here – July 5th. With Independence Day barbeques and fireworks safely ruined by gray and drizzle, summer officially begins.

The past several years have seen a disturbing trend in the Rain City with sunny weather beginning in May and even April. More concernedly, we even saw some good weather on the Fourth of July. Previously a gloomy holiday had been almost as certain as death and taxes. For several years running Seattle denizens grumpily dragged out their barbeques and were forced to celebrate the holiday outside with the rest of the nation. Coffee shops citywide lamented the drop in revenue as the city’s pasty masses took to the outdoors. There was much talk about global warming. Four horsemen were said to be seen riding over Snoqualmie Pass.

Sleep easy tonight Seattleites. Order has been restored.

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From the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference, a list of truly random thoughts:

Far less drunken absurdity than last year's conference. Must have been all those Californians!

In terms of people I spoke with and met, there seemed to be more bloggers this year as opposed to industry types.

Oregon Pinot Noir is excellent. I was accused of having Pinot Envy, and I can't deny it.

Amazed to not have live stream going for the conference.

Never cease to be impressed at how Walla Walla rises as a community for an occasion.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from June 22nd to June 30th. Please note, posts generated by folks at the Wine Bloggers Conference during this period are in a 'special edition' post here.


From around the country…


The New Jersey Star Ledger writes about Riesling with a callout to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Snoqualmie.

Wine Spectator writes about eleven value reds from Washington (Note: may require subscription).

The Anniston Star writes about going beyond Chardonnay with a callout to the Eroica Riesling.

The Lousville Courier-Journal writes a Charles Smith.

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Below is a link to known posts from last weekend's 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference. The list has been compiled from various links sent on Twitter, Google alerts, searches, and the like. I have attempted to capture as many as possible. However, I am sure the list is quite far from complete. My apologies in advance to anyone I missed. Feel free to leave comments with links to additional posts. Please note that some of these posts relate to Washington wine while others are specific to the event itself. Enjoy!

Wine & Dine Walla Walla
gives a WBC wrap-up.

Drink Nectar
writes about speed wine blogging. Josh also writes about five things he is going to do because of WBC. See his post in advance of the conference here.

Wine & Beer of Washington State
gives five sound bites from the conference.

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