The annual celebration of Washington’s $1 billion wine industry and the wines that put Washington on the world wine map is going on this month. So, what’s to celebrate you ask? Why do so many wine aficionados flock to wine country, producing $1.06 billion in revenue?
Well, for one we rank nationally as the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States with over 850 wineries, many who have taken home gold, silver and bronze medals nationally and internationally.
To date, we have thirteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), approved by the Alcohol & Tobacco Taxes & Trade Bureau. AVAs are distinct areas where grapes are grown not necessarily where a winery is located.
The first Washington AVA, Yakima Valley, was created in 1983, followed swiftly by Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley in 1984. I say swiftly because it would be another eleven years before a fourth was named and that was, drum roll please … Puget Sound in 1995, which includes the entire Puget Sound area from the Canadian border to just south of Olympia.
In 2001, came the powerful Red Mountain. Columbia Gorge was named three years later and Horse Heaven Hills in 2005. The Wahluke Slope where some of the oldest vineyards are planted was singled out in 2006. Other small but significant AVAs recently named are Rattlesnake Hills, 2006; Snipes Mountain and Lake Chelan 2009; Naches Heights, 2011 and Ancient Lakes in 2012.
There are over 40 different varietals produced. The top white varietals are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Semillon and Chenin Blanc, the grape that made Vouvray famous.
Leading red varietals are Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Lemberger.
With over 50,000+ acres of wine grapes planted, Washington State produced almost 12.5 million cases of delicious wine in 2014 from the largest harvest so far – 227,000 tons of vinifera grapes.
This is a great time to take advantage of the many specials offered by retailer, wineries, and restaurants. And don’t forget, the culmination of Washington Wine Month is Taste Washington – happening over four days, March 26th – 29th, 2015.
This gourmet experience begins with a Red & White Party, where magnums of Washington wine will be served with an arm long list of appetizers. An excursion to meet the producers at a new Taste Washington on the Farm and celebrate with The New Vintage Friday are a couple of other opportunities to taste the over 4,000 wines produced in Washington. Saturday and Sunday both have some interesting and Educational Seminars before the Grand Tasting. Tickets are available at tastewashington.org
Established 1995, the Puget Sound AVA has about 69 acres planted to vinifera grapes with about 45 wineries located within the greater Puget Sound region not all produce wines from this AVA. Only about a dozen actually produce wines from grapes grown in this AVA.
The Puget Sound AVA’s climate is a cooler maritime viticulture region. Some of the wine grape varieties grown include Pinot Noir, Madeleine Angevine, Müller Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Chasselas, Island Belle and the only Melon de Bourgogne in Washington State. This grape is also known as Muscadet and is the perfect wine to pair with oysters.
One local winery, Mosquito Fleet, located in Belfair is celebrating their Grand Release Event this weekend. On Saturday, March 14th and Sunday the 15th from noon ‘til 6:00pm, you can enjoy delicious appetizers and tastes of their newly released 2012 vintage. You can taste fruit sourced from some of the finest vineyards in eastern Washington State for their Bordeaux and Rhone blends and also a Port from the traditional Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grapes. Hope to see you there!