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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
  • 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

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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A round-up of stories on Northwest wine from August 8th to 14th 2017. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the world…

Shanghai Daily writes about Washington wine.


From around the country...

Wine Enthusiast writes about the diversity of Washington State wines (article by yours truly).

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Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for September 2017. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read additional information on how I review wines here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. There is also a freely available Wine Enthusiast Tasting Guide app. See previous Wine Enthusiast reviews re-published in this space here. Search Wine Enthusiast's on-line database here.

283 wines reviewed in the September 2017 issue of Wine Enthusiast. Lots of top quality wines in this issue. I’ll highlight a selection of them here.

Newcomer Ardor Cellars continues to impress with its Syrahs (Ardor 2015 Quaternarium Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley $7093 pointsArdor 2015 Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley $5091 points).

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A round-up of stories on Northwest wine from August 1st to 7th 2017. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

Wine Enthusiast writes about relying on animals for sustainable winemaking, with mentions of several Northwest producers. They also write about old vines of Oregon.

Food and Wine writes about where to eat and drink in Willamette Valley.

Winston-Salem Journal writes about recently tasted wines, with a callout to the Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé and Left Coast Cellars Pinot Noir.

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Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for August 2017. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read additional information on how I review wines here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. There is also a freely available Wine Enthusiast Tasting Guide app. See previous Wine Enthusiast reviews re-published in this space here. Search Wine Enthusiast's on-line database here.

153 wines reviewed in the August issue of Wine EnthusiastAvennia continues to make some of the best wines in the state (Avennia 2014 Valery Columbia Valley $5092 pointsAvennia 2014 Sestina Columbia Valley $6591 points).

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Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for July 2017. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read additional information on how I review wines here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. There is also a freely available Wine Enthusiast Tasting Guide app. See previous Wine Enthusiast reviews re-published in this space here. Search Wine Enthusiast's on-line database here.

125 wines reviewed in the July issue of Wine Enthusiast. They include a great Syrah from Eight Bells (Eight Bells 2014 Eight Clones Red Willow Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley $3592 points).

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A round-up of stories on Northwest wine from July 22nd to 31st 2017. Read previous round-ups here.

From around the country…

Wine Spectator writes about an ownership transition at Adelsheim.

Boise Weekly says to think pink, with a recommendation of the 2016 Dunham rosé.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune makes the Cooper Hill Pinot Gris its wine of the week.

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Pic of the Vine - July 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017 0 comments

With the growing season hitting its stride, resident photographer Richard Duval is roaming the Washington wine community capturing the colors of summer.

“Wandering around the south section of Walla Walla, I visited one of my most dependable photos spots - Northstar winery and vineyard,” said Duval. “Meticulously maintained, Northstar always delivers a colorful scenario. Sure enough, that morning the lavender framing the rows was in full bloom, adding a splash of vivid color to this vineyard vista.”

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Veraison in Eastern Washington

Saturday, July 22, 2017 1 comments

Veraison - the changing of color of the grapes - has begun in eastern Washington's vineyards. This picture of Sangiovese comes courtesy of Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. The folks at Seven Hills report that they saw veraison in Sangiovese on this same date in 2013, a warm vintage.

Meanwhile Hillary Sjolund of Wine Boss and Sonoris Wines reported seeing veraison in Merlot at Quintessence Vineyard on Red Mountain on July 18th. Ryan Driver of Tertulia Cellars also reported seeing veraison in Tempranillo in the Walla Walla Valley on July 20th.

The start of veraison can only mean one thing - that harvest is not far off!

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Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the founding of Washington Wine Report as an on-line site (it existed as an email list two years prior that). I sincerely appreciate everyone following along over the past decade, and I thank you for your support. It's been amazing to watch the industry grow these past 10 years. Here's to the next decade of Washington wine!

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Below are my Wine Enthusiast reviews for June 2017. Wines are listed alphabetically by winery. Read additional information on how I review wines here. All of these reviews are freely available on-line at the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide. There is also a freely available Wine Enthusiast Tasting Guide app. See previous Wine Enthusiast reviews re-published in this space here. Search Wine Enthusiast's on-line database here.

188 wines reviewed in the June issue of Wine Enthusiast. They include two high quality wines from Avennia (Avennia 2014 Gravura Red Blend Columbia Valley $3591 pointsAvennia 2014 Justine Red Blend Columbia Valley $4092 points).

The 2014 Bordeaux-style releases from Betz Family Winery do not disappoint, including the Betz Family 2014 Clos de Betz Red Blend Columbia Valley ($6092 points); Betz Family 2014 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley ($7593 points); and Betz Family 2014 Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain ($11093 points).

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