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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
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Five Under Fifteen - October

Sunday, October 31, 2010 2 comments







In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

Red Diamond
is a Ste. Michelle Wine Estates holding. Laura Sorge serves as the winery’s winemaker. Red Diamond focuses on value wines. As with the previous vintage, the 2008 Merlot offers a lot of enjoyment for the price.

It is an extreme rarity to find a Washington State Malbec for under $20, let alone for $15. Powers Winery made its first varietal Malbec in 2007. The winery’s tasting room is located next to Badger Mountain in Kennewick. Greg Powers serves as winemaker.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from October 15th to 21st. See previous week's round-ups here.

From around the country…


NPR talks about the liquor initiatives.

From the blogosphere…


Drink Nectar announces the wineries for Spokane’s Nectar Tasting Room. Josh also writes about Leavenworth and the 2010 vintage.

The Oregon Wine Blog writes about Tranche Cellars and Seattle’s Black Pearl Restaurant.

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As I wrote several weeks ago, I am against both Initiative 1100 and 1105. This is due in part to my distaste for the subversion of the initiative process in Washington State. However, after spending countless hours over the past several weeks studying the issues, my position against these initiatives has only been reinforced. Here is what I have learned.

No one supports Washington State having a monopoly on the sale of spirits. Like everyone else, I support privatizing liquor sales but not in this manner and not with all of the add-ons in Initiative 1100.

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This is the second of two posts detailing the thoughts of individuals in each of the three tiers on Initiative 1100 and how they believe it might affect their businesses and consumers. Here, I look at how the changes might affect distributors, retailers, and restaurants giving representative quotes from each group. Read part I here.

The Distributors


The quotes below represent thoughts from small to mid-sized distributors. While I attempted to solicit opinions from some of the state’s larger distributors, I did not receive a response. Note that I also did not receive any 'for' responses for Initiative 1100, which is not to say that they don’t exist within this sector.

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Reminder: October's Virtual Tasting takes place tonight at 7pm Pacific Time. Read about how to participate here.

Initiatives 1100 and 1105 propose broad changes to how wineries, distributors, and retailers would do business. This is the first of two posts detailing the thoughts of individuals in each of the three tiers on what those changes might look like for their businesses and how they think consumers would be affected. In each case, I have tried to give representative opinions from those I received.

Let me start by saying that no one I have spoken with - from wineries to distributors to retailers to consumers - believes that the state should continue to have a monopoly on the sale of spirits. The question is whether these initiatives are the way to make the necessary changes to privatize liquor sales given the numerous other changes included in these initiatives. I should also add that no one I have spoken with supports Initiative 1105. I will therefore focus exclusively on Initiative 1100.

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Reminder: October's Virtual Tasting takes place on Wednesday the 27th at 7pm Pacific Time. Read about how to participate here.

As promised, below is a list of wineries and their positions on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. Several readers indicated that they felt this information might be helpful in thinking about their own position.

First, let me say a word about how this information was collected. The list below represents both wineries that contacted me based on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook solicitations and wineries that responded to an email asking their positions.

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Reminder: October's Virtual Tasting takes place on Wednesday the 27th at 7pm Pacific Time. Read about how to participate here.

I am pleased to announce the integration of Washington Wine Report reviews as a content channel within CellarTracker and Grape Stories. The integration will provide their users access to reviews from this site from within the CellarTracker/GrapeStories systems.

In six short years, Eric LeVine's CellarTracker (and now GrapeStories) has revolutionized the way many people approach and think about wine. The site allows users to enter their own tasting notes and see the notes of others. On any given day, the user community adds more than 1,500 wine reviews; the site itself contains 1.5 million reviews. It is, quite simply, one of the most important places for on-line discussion about wine (see a post about CellarTracker written prior to the launch of GrapeStories here).

I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to continuing to be a part of this vibrant user community.

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Reminder: October's Virtual Tasting takes place on Wednesday the 27th at 7pm Pacific Time. Read about how to participate here.

Catching up, a round-up of stories on Washington wine from October 8th to 14th.

From around the country…


Wines & Vines writes about hotel space growing in Walla Walla.

The North Country Times writes about the 2010 growing season.

USA Today writes about Washington exports to China (wine is very briefly mentioned).

The Napa Valley Register writes about Hogue Cellars and screw caps.

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As mentioned over the weekend, I am collating the positions of as many wineries as possible on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. I will subsequently be listing this information on the blog for reference.

If you wish to have your winery’s position on these initiatives listed, please e-mail me at wawinereport@gmail.com stating whether you are:

For / Against / Undecided / Abstaining

Please respond to both Initiative 1100 and 1105.

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Reminder that October's Virtual Tasting takes place on Wednesday the 27th at 7pm Pacific Time. Read about how to participate here.

The Tasting Note Database has been updated to the current date. Also, I have added a hyperlink column linking back to the original posts. Read an explanation of the fields here. Enjoy!

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The 2010 harvest is underway in Washington State. Over the coming weeks, I will provide weekly updates on what is picked, where, and when. See previous reports here.

10/20 Update: Nighttime temperatures dropped precipitously in eastern Washington over the last week. Many areas reported lows at or slightly below 32 degrees. However, through the work of wind machines and in some cases the apparent generosity of Mother Nature, most areas avoided a frost which would have put a punctuation mark on the growing season.

Still, as the days grow shorter and the daytime highs drop, many areas are not accumulating many heat units at this point. Growers continue however to hang fruit to get every last bit of sun the season provides. The biggest concern at present is a wet weather predicted to move into the area this weekend.

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This is the final post in a four part series about Initiatives 1100 and 1105. In the first part, I gave the initiative titles, how we got here, and a quick summary of the two initiatives. In the second part, I gave a breakdown of Initiative 1100. In the third part, I broke down Initiative 1105. Today, I give some other issues to consider regarding these two initiatives.

When thinking about both of these initiatives, h
ere are some additional issues to consider:

1. Do you think the state should or should not have a monopoly on selling hard liquor?


Washington is in the minority in having a monopoly on sale of spirits. Eighteen other states have a monopoly on some aspect of the distribution and sale of liquor. Both Initiatives 1100 and 1005 would end this monopoly.

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This is the third in a four part series about Initiatives 1100 and 1105. In the first part, I gave the initiative titles, how we got here, and a quick summary of the two initiatives. In the second part, I gave a breakdown of Initiative 1100. In today’s post, I breakdown Initiative 1105.

To do so, as with Initiative 1100, let's work with the ‘brief summary’ of the initiative. Read a more extended summary of 1105 from the Senate here (Note: Opens .pdf) and from the House here (Note: Opens .pdf). Both of these documents are required reading for anyone interested in the subject. Read the complete text here (Note: Opens .pdf).

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Based on reader suggestion, October’s Virtual Tasting wine will be the 2008 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Quarry Butte. The tasting will take place Wednesday October 27rd from 7-8pm Pacific Time. The wine retails for $20 and is reasonably widely available. Hope you will join us!

What you need to do to participate is:

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

2. Post your comments/tweets on the wine on the 27th between 7 and 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #ancwine during the event.

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As part of a subsequent post about Initiatives 1100 and 1105 following the current series, I will be giving the perspective of people at all three of the distribution tiers: wineries, distributors, and retailers. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts, please contact me at wawinereport@gmail.com. This will involve responding by phone or email to a specific set of questions. The responses may be anonymous or attributed, whichever you prefer.

Separately, I plan on collating and listing the names of wineries that have taken positions for or against these initiatives and listing this information on the blog for reference. If you are interested in having your winery's name listed, please contact me at the email address above and state your position on each of these initiatives (no additional explanation needed).

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This is the second in a four part series about Initiatives 1100 and 1105. In today’s post, I breakdown Initiative 1100. Next, a look at Initiative 1105. See the first part of the series here.

Yesterday, I listed the titles of the two initiatives. This is what voters will be seeing on the ballot. Today I will start by listing the ‘brief summary’ of Initiative 1100 and then break it down point by point.

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For people looking to understand Initiatives 1100 and 1105 on the November ballot in Washington State, in the next series of posts I will attempt to summarize relevant background information. While I have tried to make the information as accurate and succinct as possible, the details of these initiatives are quite complicated. Beware people who say otherwise. Posts are broken up as follows:

Part I: Initiative Titles, How We Got Here, and a Quick Summary of Initiatives 1100 and 1005
: ‘Initiative Titles’ states what voters will be reading on their ballots. ‘How We Got Here’ discusses how these initiatives got on the ballot in the first place. ‘Quick Summary of Initiatives 1100 and 1105’ gives a quick overview of similarities and differences between these initiatives.

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The 2010 harvest is underway in Washington State. Over the coming weeks, I will provide weekly updates on what is picked, where, and when. See previous reports here.

10/13 Update: The past week was a bit nerve wracking for some, featuring rain in areas across the state and near freezing temperatures in a few spots. In terms of the rain, many areas saw precipitation at some point Thursday through Sunday. Red Mountain reported 0.15 inches of precipitation, Pasco 0.41 inches, Yakima 0.21 inches, and Walla Walla 0.99 inches. Mainly this appears to have delayed picking in some places and led to wet harvest workers in others. No one I spoke with indicated significant concern regarding any effect on the grapes.

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Washington State adopted its initiative process in 1912. Since that time, the initiative process has been used to enact laws large and small. Documents from the Secretary of State say, “Today, if Washingtonians are dissatisfied with certain laws or feel that new laws are needed, they can petition to place proposed legislation on the ballot.” It continues that the initiative process acts to secure “the rights of citizens to make and remake their laws, and to provide a check over the decisions of their Legislature”

Let’s be completely clear. The two upcoming ballot initiatives regarding liquor, Initiatives 1100 and 1105, have absolutely nothing to do with “Washingtonians dissatisfied with certain laws” or “securing the rights of citizens.” They are about big business. Initiative 1100 was largely driven and funded by Costco. Initiative 1105 was driven largely by Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers, which now, comically, opposes the initiative.

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Richard Funk and Anita Funk moved to Walla Walla from Montana in 1991. Upon arriving, Richard Funk took up work as an Environmental Health Specialist for the Walla Walla County Health Department. The position gave him the opportunity to interact with many of the valley’s winemakers. These same winemakers would eventually help him get his start in the wine business.

Why did they help him? Because Richard Funk is the proverbial nice guy. How nice? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to see him and Bob Betz get into a nice fight. No one could possibly win.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from October 1st to 7th. Please add links to any articles I missed to the comments section. See previous round-ups here.


From around the country…


The San Francisco Chronicle writes about Washington Syrah.

Wine Library TV talks about top wines of 2010 with a callout to Andrew Will.

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With the economy putting the focus squarely on providing as much quality for the lowest price possible, wineries have been increasingly focused on value priced wines. The frequent refrain of late talking to Washington winemakers has been, “This is my glass pour wine,” – meaning a wine that can be offered at restaurants and bars by the glass for a modest cost compared to a winery’s standard offerings. The problem has been that, due to production costs, it has frequently been challenging for wineries to offer high quality, low priced wine. Until now.

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The 2010 harvest is underway in Washington State. Over the coming weeks, I will provide weekly updates on what is picked, where, and when. See previous reports here.

10/6 Update: The 2010 Washington harvest is now a race against the clock. After an unseasonably warm ten-day stretch that quickened the pace of ripening after a cool growing season, sub-30 degree temperatures are forecast in the Yakima Valley in mid-October. This has led to some concerns about how long the growing season will last. However, the warm temperatures over the last ten days have mitigated many of the concerns that numerous varieties throughout large areas of the state would not reach maturity before freezing temperatures arrived.

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Over the last ten years, Washington State has blossomed as a wine region with the number of wineries growing more than four-fold. Along the way the state has also become a significant wine-touring destination, with people from inside and outside Washington traveling to wine country to see what all the fuss is about.

While the number of wineries in Washington has grown, wine touring infrastructure has struggled to keep pace. As recently as May of this year, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates CEO Ted Baseler lamented the slow growth of dining and lodging options in Washington wine country. In addition to the slow growth of travel amenities, information on what is out there is scant, making it somewhat challenging for the interested traveler.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from September 22nd to 30th. Please add ones I missed to the comments section. See previous round-ups here.

From around the world…


The Telegraph writes about recent grape thefts in Europe as well as the recent theft of grapes at Grand Reve Vineyard.

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