Washington State wine hosts control states

RICHLAND, WA — The Washington Wine Fall Harvest Tour, which took place from September 29 to October 2, was the first winery tour and tasting event coordinated by Washington state agencies and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA). Eastern Washington’s rapidly developing wine region was highlighted during the trip, and about 30 members of U.S. and Canadian control jurisdictions attended. In addition to NABCA, the trip was hosted by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), the Washington Department of Agriculture, Community Trade and Economic Development and the Washington State Wine Commission.

In front of a vineyard in the Red Mountain region are, from left, Lynn Walding, NABCA President; Merritt Long, chairman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board; Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, Washington State Representative, 46th District; and Washington State LCB members Vera Ing and Roger Hoen.

During a welcoming address, WSLCB Chairman Merritt D. Long said, “The purpose of this tour is to educate the attendees on the quality of our wines and to get buyers and sellers together.” The tour had been in the making for about a year and a half, he said. “We wouldn’t be here tonight if it weren’t for NABCA. And we had tremendous support from the legislative side, as well. The control states should work together to help each other out. That’s why we invited the various states to join us.”

Long also underscored the economic importance of the wine industry to the state of Washington. “Wineries are part of the overall economic development strategy for our state. You can see its impact on catering groups, trucking companies, gift stores, local tank companies and hotels booked,” he stressed.

Tour attendees included members of the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, New Hampshire State Liquor Commission and the Utah Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Also in attendance were members of the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions (CALJ), the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, and the New Brunswick Licensing and Compliance Authority.

NABCA President Lynn Walding, told the attendees, “You are all part of a pilot project. I fully expect other states to step forward.”

The Washington Wine Commission’s newly appointed executive director, Jane Baxter Lynn, also attended the tour. The commission plans to roll out a new ad campaign over the next few years, called “Washington State: The Perfect Climate for Wine.”

Visiting Six Wineries

Attendees visited the facilities of six wineries during the three-day tour. The opening reception was held at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinsville. “Washington is the number two premium wine state in the U.S.,” said Ted Baessler, President and CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle. “The state has been growing grapes for 150 years, yet the wine industry is only 30 years old. In 1991, there were 75 wineries; today we have 300. And I expect we’ll have 500 in the next five years.”

The group then visited the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities areas of Washington. A tasting was held at APEX Cellars in Sunnyside, and later that day attendees explored the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain region. Klipsun provides grapes for wineries in Washington and Oregon, but so far makes none of its own wine. An outdoor tasting and dinner followed at the Barnard Griffin Winery. On the last day of the tour, attendees enjoyed a visit to Hedges Cellars, followed by lunch at Hogue Cellars.

In addition to the winery visits, participants also attended an educational program and tasting of Walla Walla area wines, held at the Courtyard Marriott in Richland. The final tasting and farewell dinner was at Columbia Crest, in Patterson.

Several attendees said the tour gave them the opportunity to get to know the area better and to order Washington wines as well.

Merritt Long, president, Washington State LCB, toasts Jane Baxter Lynn, the new executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, at Columbia Crest.

Liza Gallia, specialty liquor purchasing agent at the Pennsylvania LCB, said that Washington wine sales already account for roughly 20% of her state’s total wine sales. However, she bought several different wines as a result of the tour. “From APEX, I’m buying regular cabs and their single-vineyard cabs from Klipsun. I’m also trying to do something with Hogue’s reserve merlot,” she said. In addition, Gallia ordered Bernard Griffin’s dessert wines. “I’m very familiar with this winery, and I bought 3,000 cases of their wine this year. I think it’s the next up-and-coming value producer.”

“We just ordered some Washington wine this week,” said Barbara Winsor, president and CEO of the New Brunswick Licensing and Compliance Authority. “We bought 20 cases of red Col Solore and the same amount of riesling. We also ordered 86 cases of Columbia Crest.”

Tony Gann, a specialty wine buyer at the Utah Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control, where he’s worked for 15 years, said, “Wine buying from Washington has grown over the last few years.” Stores in Utah “already carry Hedges, Hogue and Chateau Ste. Michelle. But we’re always looking for new wines. We seek variety, and something for everyone,” Gann said.

Business Briefs

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