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Washington Wines and Wineries

Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide

Paul Gregutt
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Washington Wines and Wineries
    Book Description:

    During the thirty-five years wine critic and writer Paul Gregutt has lived in the state of Washington, its wine industry has ballooned from a mere half dozen wineries to nearly five hundred.Washington Wines and Wineriesoffers a comprehensive, critical, and accessible account of the nation's second largest wine-producing region. Gregutt, who has covered Washington wine in books, newspapers, and magazines since the mid-1980s, enthusiastically dispenses information along with his editorial opinion, displaying the depth of his knowledge of the area, the players, the regions, and the wines. He points out the best vineyards, the most accomplished winemakers, the must-have wines, and the newcomers to watch. He rates wineries-not wines-with a unique and detailed 100-point scale, providing an insider's view of the best that Washington state has to offer. As the global wine industry reinvents itself for twenty-first-century palates, Washington is poised to become as important and influential as California on the world stage.Washington Wines and Wineriesis the definitive reference book on the subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93315-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-10)

    Most wine books promise to take the snobbery out of wine, to cut through the “meaningless” ritual associated with wine, and to give you the inside scoop on what to drink with your hamburger. Some drown you in technical detail; others pretend to reinvent the art of food and wine pairing (imagine—fish with red wine!) or point you to the best value wines (usually corporate plonk). We’re not going there.

    This is a book about a special time and a unique place in the history of wine. It’s about a state whose meaningful exploration of vinifera grapes is barely...


    • 1 WHICH SIDE OF THE POTOMAC? A Brief History of Washington Wines
      (pp. 13-26)

      For many years Bob Betz, a Master of Wine (MW) who now has his own Betz Family winery, traveled the globe speaking to audiences on behalf of Stimson Lane (the corporate parent of Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle, among others). His standard spiel neatly encapsulated the story of the wineries, their vineyards, and the growth of winemaking in Washington. Nonetheless, he found that a certain amount of confusion persisted among a significant percentage of his audiences. At one particular East Coast appearance, he recalls, his audience seemed to be paying close attention, following his every word, carefully studying the...

    • 2 THE AVAS
      (pp. 27-48)

      The American Viticultural Area (AVA) system was instituted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in the late 1970s in order to regulate the use of place names on wine labels. Though widely viewed as an American version of the tightly controlled appellation systems in place in Europe, it really is nothing of the sort.

      In Europe the granting of an appellation generally brings with it specific rules regarding the grapes that may be planted, the sugar levels (and sometimes the actual picking dates) at harvest, prescribed (and outlawed) viticultural and winemaking practices, and other quality controls. In...

    • Maps
      (pp. None)
    • 3 THE GRAPES
      (pp. 49-80)

      What is Washington’s grape? Is it riesling, which has recently enjoyed a spectacular renaissance here, after being denigrated for decades? (Riesling—phew! Just a sweet, tasting room wine. Wine with training wheels. Or, the worst insult of all, one of the few wretched grapes that can be ripened in such a bitterly cold northerly clime.)

      Moving right along: What about sémillon? Perfect for Washington, n’est-ce-pas? Sémillon is a grape no one else really claims as a varietal and that makes some very nice wines in Washington. Sadly, with one or two exceptions (notably the sémillons of L’Ecole No 41), these...

      (pp. 81-110)

      Sometimes the French give us a wine word that is so appealing and so easy to pronounce that we can’t help ourselves; we must have it.Burgundyis such a term. “We love this word,” we think to ourselves. “In fact, we love it so much we’ll just make it our own. Let’s stick it on any bottle of red plonk that has a jug handle and a screw cap and confuse consumers for all eternity!” Voila! Generics are born.

      Then again, sometimes the French give us a word that no one can pronounce, likeFenouilledes. So we just gargle...


      (pp. 113-144)

      Rather than do a catalog-type listing of every winery in Washington, I elected early on to focus this book on the top 25 percent. By historic and global standards, that is a generous slice. Look at any country or wine region in the world and you will find that the list of recognized, globally significant wineries is but a tiny fraction of the total number of producers.

      When I wrote my first guidebooks to Washington wines some years ago, it was enough merely to list everyone making wine in Washington and to make a few comments about perceived quality. The...

      (pp. 145-185)

      I call the 30 exceptional wineries discussed in this chapter specialists, not necessarily because they make just one or two wines (many make a full range), but because they have a focused excellence. They have risen to this book’s second tier because the rating system I’ve developed rewards longevity, consistency, and style. The longer a winery has been in business, demonstrating a clear and distinctive style vintage after vintage, the higher its ranking will be.

      In practical terms these are wines and wineries you can rely on virtually 100 percent of the time. They may not always be the newest,...

    • 7 THE BENCH
      (pp. 186-213)

      In baseball, the bench consists of players who have some special skill that can help the team in certain situations. These are not your “five-tool” players, but they have at least one valuable and exceptional strength: They hit left-handed pitching, or they steal bases, or they don’t commit fielding errors. The 30 wineries in this chapter are all candidates to move up in this book’s pecking order in the future. They have all made the cut. I have indicated particular strengths and in some instances areas in which I think there is room for improvement. The thing to remember is...

      (pp. 214-246)

      The number of Washington wineries has increased fourfold in the past decade and now has moved past 500, with few signs of slowing down. As impressive as this number may seem, it is important to realize that almost all of these wineries are producing fewer than 1500 cases of wine annually. Three-quarters of them have been through fewer than five vintages. Only a handful actually own their own vineyards. Though quality is surprisingly high, many of these wines are, for all practical purposes, unavailable, unless you visit the tasting room, sign up for the mailing list, or own a wine...


      (pp. 249-268)

      Statistically Washington is second only to California in terms of domestic wine production. But let’s face it. it’s a mighty distant second. However, by quality measures, the state lays solid claim to its place and, by some value metrics, even outranks its better-known rival. Year-end “Top 100” lists, a popular feature in many wine magazines, regularly include a disproportionately large number of Washington wines. In 2005, for example,Wine Spectatorplaced two Washington wines in its list, andWine Enthusiasthad five, including two in the top ten.Wine & Spirits’list of the year’s 100 best wines mentioned four from...

      (pp. 269-292)

      Is Washington the Blanche Dubois of wine regions? One might well look at the industry’s unprecedented growth and uncertain future and conclude that its fortunes are, indeed, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Sadly, the locals have been rather lukewarm in their support. Until very recently, it was almost impossible to find a restaurant in eastern Washington wine country that featured Washington wines. Even in trendy Seattle, it’s far easier to find a sommelier praising some sultry Côtes-du-Rhône than it is to find a true believer in the quality and value of Washington’s products.

      The most prestigious (and longest-running) awards...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 293-305)