Washington State Crushes Wine Grape Harvest Record

The state’s record for its wine grape harvest was crushed in 2016, according to a report released by the Washington State Wine Commission.

The commission’s Annual Grape Production Report showed 2016 had the biggest wine grape harvest in the state’s history: the 2016 harvest totaled 270,000 tons, a 22-percent increase over 2015 and easily surpassing the previous record harvest of 227,000 tons in 2014.

The largest growth came from Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 23,700-ton increase. This also meant that Cab Sauv was the top-producing variety grown in the state — 71,100 tons or 26% of the total. Merlot was ranked second, at 48,400 tons or 18% of the total. Syrah came in third of the reds, at 21,300 tons, followed by Cab Franc at 4,300. Malbec rounded off the top five reds at 2,700.

Overall, red varieties accounted for 58% of the total production, compared to 51% in 2015.

Chardonnay was the top white grape and third overall at 45,000 tons, while Riesling was right behind it at 41,300 tons. Sauvignon Blanc was ranked third among whites, trailing with 9,800 tons, followed by Pinot Gris at 8,700 and Gewurtztraminer at 2,600.

A sign of further growth — there are now more than 900 winery licenses in Washington State.

“2016 was a year for the record books,” said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Not only did we see our biggest harvest ever – but it was a great harvest. The weather in Eastern Washington cooled down a bit to extend the growing season and allow the grapes some extra time to mature on the vine. Our growers and winemakers are extremely excited about these wines.”

Further details are available in Annual Grape Production Report.

Cheers,
Margot and Dave

Lauren Ashton Scores Again

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 4.17.09 PM The motto of Lauren Ashton Cellars — “True Washington Character” — has been noticeable in every sip we have tasted of Kit Singh’s elegant wines in the last five years.

This continues to be the case in his two recent releases, which we were fortunate enough to sample last week, courtesy of the winery: 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée and 2013 Cuvée Estelle.

As with any new release, the wines are still young; but both are very approachable with decanting. They also have great aging potential.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Proprietor’s Cuvée ($65)
This is an elegant, complex and impressive Cab-based Bordeaux-style blend — 70.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.3% Merlot, 13.3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec — showing structure and balance immediately, followed by plush tannins after opening up. Luscious dark-fruit flavors follow a nose of violets, black cherries and plums. Pair this wine with beef, pork, lamb or any rich meat dishes. Kit wowed fans with the 2009 and 2011 vintages, and we predict that he is set to do the same with this stellar release.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Cuvée Estelle ($40)
This is another elegant Bordeaux-style blend, with Merlot (64%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Petit Verdot (9%). The Merlot brings aromas of violets and black fruit, the Cab Sauv adds depth and weight, and the Petit Verdot offers hint of spice to sweet cherry flavors. Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, or pour it as a stand-alone wine to enjoy with friends.

The bottom line: We highly recommend stopping by Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio in the Hollywood District of Woodinville or finding out more about these notable wines at their website.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

It’s Back! The Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo

The second annual Northwest Wine Encounter at Semiahmoo Resort will be held April 28-30, when some of the northwest’s most talented winemakers and viticulturists will be holding seminars, tastings and attending a gala dinner:

We have had the pleasure of meeting Mike Sauer, Chris Upchurch and Walter Gehringer in the past, and have tasted wines from all of the attending wineries and vineyards. We also attended last year’s inaugural Northwest Wine Encounter — so we can personally attest to the experiences awaiting you this year at Semiahmoo Resort.

The event is packed with educational and fun times, opening on Friday, April 28 with a “Winemaker’s Reception,” followed by a private beach bonfire with gourmet s’mores at the spectacular resort.

Saturday’s activities include educational seminars hosted by Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest, who is also a wine columnist for The Seattle Times. Keynote speaker will be retailer and collector Doug Charles of Compass Wines.

Participants will also have the unique opportunity to taste wines one-on-one with participating winemakers at Saturday’s “Wine Speed Dating.”

Saturday culminates with an intimate Vintner’s Dinner Gala — a five-course meal crafted by Bruno Feldeisen, executive chef at Semiahmoo Resort’s Pierside Kitchen, and celebrity chef Roy Breiman of Coastal Hotels. The courses will be paired by wines from all wineries in attendance.

Sunday’s seminar, “Importance of Place,” looks at the importance of a vineyard’s location (or a location within a vineyard) to the grape-growing process.

The entire weekend package — including two nights at the gorgeous resort — starts at $475 per person. Local residents can phone for more details: (360) 318-2000. Further information is available at Semiahmoo Resort’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

 

Happy 50th Anniversary to Chateau Ste. Michelle

This year marks an historical milestone for Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Washington wine industry — it’s the 50th anniversary of the oldest winery in the state, so let the celebrations begin!

Ste. Michelle’s anniversary activities include a commemorative Cabernet bottling, library wine releases, a special anniversary Summer Concert Series, the opening of a newly expanded visitor center and other events to honor the state’s founding winery.

According to the winery, “Chateau Ste. Michelle has become the number two premium domestic wine brand sold in the U.S. (Nielsen-Dollars), with wines available in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.”

“It is truly remarkable what Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Washington wine industry have accomplished in a relatively short period of time through a pioneering spirit, collaboration and hard work,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “With significant new vineyard plantings, industry investment in research and the education of future grape growers and winemakers, we can honestly say the best is yet to come.”

Here are the “50 cheers to 50 years” events and projects planned by the winery this year; you can also view the winery’s 50th Anniversary video or view a Celebration page on its website.

Special Bottling Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley 
In April, to kick off the anniversary celebrations, the winery will release a commemorative label 50th Anniversary special bottling of its Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (750ml, SRP: $15), which will pay tribute to the first 1967 vintage. In addition, a one-time magnum (1.5L) bottling will be released for retail and restaurants and serve as a great collector’s item.

Golden Cork Sweepstakes
From April 1 to Sept. 30, inside every 50th Anniversary special bottling of Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a chance to win one of 50 prizes. Four Grand Prize winners will be selected to win a trip for two to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.

2017 Summer Concert Series
From June to September, the winery will host its popular annual Summer Concert Series with special artists to be announced in April 2017. Launched in 1984, the Summer Concert Series has featured top artists including Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, John Legend, Harry Connick, Jr. and many more.

IMPETUS
In September, the winery will release 4,800 numbered bottles of IMPETUS (750ml, SRP $125) by Chateau Ste. Michelle, the brand’s wine showcasing the three varieties that are stellar in the Washington region but are not traditionally blended together (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec).

Chateau Ste. Michelle History Book
The winery will release a highly illustrated coffee-table style book to tell the rich story of the Washington wine industry and Ste. Michelle’s role in bringing it to the forefront, commemorating the winery’s five decades of tradition and innovation.

Newly Expanded Visitor Center
Targeted for August 2017, Chateau Ste. Michelle will unveil an expansion of the winery’s visitor center — the largest in the company’s history. Doubling the size to 22,731 sq. ft., the new visitor center will feature a modern 70-seat theater, an interactive blending room (where guests create their own bottle of wine from the winery’s iconic estate vineyards), private tasting salons, a Club Room, an Enoteca to sell wines from sister wineries in the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates portfolio, a new outdoor terrace and more. A grand opening celebration will take place during Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-3.

Congratulations and thank you, Chateau Ste. Michelle!

50 Cheers to 50 Years!
Margot and Dave

 

The Super Bowl of Wine Events Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Taste Washington celebrates its 20th anniversary in Seattle on March 23-26, with almost 300 wineries, more than 70 restaurants and top national chefs. It’s an explosion of tastes, fun and education, all rolled into one.

As far back as we can remember, we’ve always called Taste Washington “the Super Bowl of Wine Events” because it is the country’s largest single-region wine and food event. Period.

And this year’s expanded lineup offers four days packed with diverse activities. First up is “super-exclusive wine pours” at the VIP Red & White Party.

Taste Washington on the Farm gives you an opportunity to explore the northwest’s bounty, alongside farmers, chefs and winemakers. And then there’s The New Vintage with its trendy Rosé Lounge.

Don’t forget the super-informative and fun wine seminars, which include tastings and interactive panels, where you can find out — from top winemakers, Master Sommeliers and national wine personalities — why Washington state is a world-class wine region.

We love to go every year and encourage you to run, don’t walk, to get your tickets. If you’re planning to attend multiple Taste Washington events, you might be interested in The Connoisseur festival pass for four days of VIP access.

Note: Before you enter the Grand Tasting doors, we highly recommend that you develop a plan. Because once there, you will be hit with a massive amount of taste potentials — and it can be overwhelming.

For example, one year we decided to only taste Cabernet Franc, as a standalone varietal. Another year, we decided to visit booths of some of our tried and favorite wineries plus five new ones.

But we always leave room for some flexibility; chances are something will catch our eye as we walk through the aisles, and we’ll make an on-the-spot decision to deviate from the plan. There could be a new wine release that grabbed our attention or a mouth-watering dish, whose scent wafted our way.

Of note, we recommend tasting and spitting wine (or pouring it into the buckets at each booth) at this major event, but if you think you might want more than a sip or two, many hotels in the area are offering special weekend packages. Otherwise, be sure to have a designated driver, or take cabs or local transit home.

We hope to see you there!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Our Top 65 Washington Wineries

NYE WineHappy New Year! As we begin 2017, it’s time for our annual Top Washington Wineries List. Why 65 wineries? The list grew to 65 from 60 last year, and from 50 the year before, as we were introduced to new wines or new wine experiences.

The way to get on our list is fairly simple; we only have two criteria: wineries must offer great juice and good people who provide an excellent wine experience. Perhaps we had fun or learned something in a tasting room or at a wine event such as Taste Washington, Taste of Tulalip, Seattle Wine and Food Experience, Bellingham Bay Rotary Grape and Gourmet or Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival. Perhaps someone from the winery gave us a call, or sent us a personal note or samples. Or perhaps we were invited to an incredible winery party.

These people might be the winemakers or the winery owners; in some cases, they are the hard-working staff in a tasting room who went out of their way to make us feel welcome or the amazing workers in the vineyards where it all begins.

We welcome ten newcomers to our list this year, and thank you for the 2016 wine experiences you brought us — Ambassador Wines of Washington, CanvasbackDeLille Cellars, Matthews Winery, Mullan Road CellarsSavage GraceSpring Valley VineyardTildio Winery, Upchurch Vineyard and Two Vintners.

Write for Wine’s Top 70 Washington Wineries (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  2. Ambassador Wines of Washington
  3. Andrew Will
  4. Avennia
  5. B. Leighton
  6. Barrage Cellars
  7. Barrister Winery
  8. Bartholomew Winery
  9. Betz Family Winery
  10. Boudreaux Cellars
  11. Buty Winery
  12. Canvasback
  13. Chateau Ste. Michelle
  14. Columbia Crest
  15. Cooper Wine Company
  16. Cote Bonneville
  17. Darby
  18. DeLille Cellars
  19. DiStefano
  20. Double Canyon
  21. Dunham Cellars
  22. Dynasty Winery
  23. Efeste
  24. Ensemble Cellars
  25. Fall Line
  26. Fidelitas
  27. Fielding Hills
  28. Figgins
  29. Force Majeure
  30. Forgeron Cellars
  31. Gard
  32. Gorman Winery
  33. Guardian Cellars
  34. Hard Row to Hoe
  35. JM Cellars
  36. L’Ecole 41
  37. Lauren Ashton
  38. Leonetti
  39. Long Shadows
  40. Maryhill
  41. Matthews Winery
  42. Mercer Estates
  43. Mullan Road Cellars
  44. Obelisco Estate
  45. Otis Kenyon
  46. Passing Time
  47. Quilceda Creek
  48. Reynvaan
  49. Ross Andrew
  50. Savage Grace
  51. Seven Falls Cellars
  52. Sinclair Estate
  53. Sleight of Hand
  54. Spring Valley Vineyard
  55. Stottle Winery
  56. Tildio
  57. Two Vintners
  58. Upchurch Vineyard
  59. Va Piano
  60. Vin du Lac
  61. Walla Walla Vintners
  62. William Church
  63. Windy Point
  64. Woodward Canyon
  65. Woodhouse Wine Estates

To these people, we thank you; we support you. Cheers to Washington state wine!

Happy new year!
Margot and Dave
Write for Wine — it’s Wine O’clock Somewhere!