Monday, December 31, 2012

A look back at 2012 in Washington wine



Well folks, 2012 is down to its last few hours. Below is a look back at some of the things that happened this past year in Washington wine. For more on the year that was and the year to come, pick up the Winter Edition of Washington Tasting Room Magazine where I write about trends in 2012 and predictions for 2013.

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Washington saw major changes as an industry in 2012 with the state auctioning off its liquor stores, liquor sales becoming privatized, and big box liquor stores – such as BevMo! and Total Wine coming to townMore stores are expected. Everyone got in on the game with spirits now sold in stores from QFC to Target and everything in between. In some cases, the effects were unanticipated.

2012 also saw the purchase of the 50-year old Columbia Winery by California behemoth E.J. Gallo and Company. One of the stated goals is to raise production to 1M cases. Meanwhile Washington vineyard owners shopped their land in California.

Precept Wine approached the million case mark and opened two new tasting rooms in Walla Walla. Chateau Ste. Michelle continued to grow, purchasing O Wines and planning for an $18M wine storage and distribution center. The project broke ground earlier this year.

Amazon officially entered the wine business after many previous failed attempts. The company carries over 1,000 wines, including a number from Washington wineries.

The Washington Wine Commission hired a new President and subsequently released a new five-year plan. The Commission also celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Meanwhile an economic impact study showed Washington continuing to expand its economic footprint to the tune of $14.9B nationally. The industry continues to grow with acreage up dramatically in recent years. In terms of wineries, there were more impressive newcomers like AvenniaManu PropriaProper Wines, and Lauren Ashton Cellars among others.

The state also continued to broaden its focus with rosé and sparkling wines receiving increased attention. Meanwhile Chardonnay received some newfound love in Washington with Charles Smith starting a new project as well as Chris Gorman.

Washington’s thirteenth viticultural area was approved – the Ancient Lakes.

Washington State University in on track to break ground on a new Wine Science Center. The center was dedicated earlier this year.

The state completed a trade pact with South Korea, which may be a boon for the wine industry in the years to come. Meanwhile the governor gave a smack down on California wine. Surprisingly, they took notice.

Eastern Washington wineries continued to open up tasting rooms in Woodinville with some also branching into a warehouse area in Kirkland (Waving Tree, Skylite Cellars, and Northwest Cellars as well as downtown Kirkland (Zero One Vintners). However, in a reverse trend, one Woodinville winery opened up a second tasting room in Walla Walla.

After two successive cool growing seasons, 2012 was a return to ‘normal’ times. Indeed, many growers and winemakers are bullish about the prospects for the vintage saying it may be the best year since…the year before. ;) Fires across eastern Washington gave the industry a scare but, to date, no wineries have reported any issues with smoke taint.


Of course, it was not all sunshine and roses. The Seattle Wine Society closed it doors after thirty-five years. Alaska Airlines also reduced its planes to Walla Walla.


That’s all from me for 2012. I want to thank everyone for reading Washington Wine Report this year. I am sincerely grateful.

I’ll be taking a short vacation the first two weeks of 2013. Look for regular postings to resume on January 15th. Happy New Year everyone!

Picture from http://www.govtech.com/e-government/2012-Year-in-Review.html.

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