By Kori ~ September 30th, 2009.
When most people outside of the state think of Washington wine, they only think of Walla Walla. That’s a great tribute to the marketing prowess of the Walla Walla community and its Wine Alliance but hardly an accurate statement about Washington State wines. In fact, the Walla Walla wine industry was built on the back of Columbia Valley fruit.
Even today, when you buy a bottle of wine from a Walla Walla winery, I’ve found that it is just as likely to carry a Columbia Valley designation as a Walla Walla Valley designation. In fact, when Gary Figgins bonded Leonetti Cellars in 1977, the first modern-era winery in Walla Walla, there were almost no Walla Walla vineyards. The fruit was sourced from elsewhere in the Columbia Valley. When the Walla Walla AVA was approved in 1984, there were just four wineries and 60 acres of vineyards, most of it in the Seven Hills Vineyard.
It was the early 1990’s before the Walla Walla Valley’s second decent sized vineyard, Pepper Bridge Vineyard, was planted, and in early 1995 there were still only seven bonded wineries in Walla Walla. Today, there are almost 100 wineries and 1,600 acres of vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. That is certainly significant but small in comparison to the total of over 650 wineries and over 32,000 acres of vineyards for the entire state of Washington.
Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to downplay the significance of Walla Walla to the Washington wine industry nor the quality of its wines. But I believe it’s important to also visit wineries in and taste wines from the other Washington State AVA’s, Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Puget Sound, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Yakima Valley, and the all-encompassing Columbia Valley to really and truly understand and appreciate Washington wine.
Today, the second largest concentration of Washington wineries after Walla Walla may be in Woodinville, just 17 miles north and east of Seattle. Home of the state’s oldest, largest, and most well-known wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery, the Woodinville area now boasts over 40 other wineries but no vineyards. Almost all Woodinville wineries grow their grapes in the warm, arid climate of Eastern Washington including the Walla Walla Valley.
If you are a regular reader of Wine Peeps, you know that we visit wineries and taste wines from all over the state in our quest to be your link to great QPR wines from Washington. Walla Walla, Spokane, Chelan, Tri-Cities, Prosser, Red Mountain, Yakima, and Woodinville have all been on our travel itinerary in 2009, not to mention our attendance at a number of Washington wine tasting events. The easiest way to find our take on Washington wines is to peruse our Washington State Wine category and read any of the 130 posts we’ve done on Washington wines.
Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine