By Andy Perdue
wine grape growers from across the state and throughout the Northwest descended
on the Tri-Cities for the Washington Winegrowers Association’s annual
convention and trade show Feb. 11-14.
members of the wine industry were expected at the Three Rivers Convention
Center and Toyota Center to attend seminars, learn about the latest research,
see the latest technology and meet with colleagues. The annual event gathers
all aspects of the industry, from winemakers to farmers, from educators to
began in 1994 at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel, where it stayed until it outgrew the
facility and moved to the Yakima Convention Center in 2001, returning to the
Tri-Cities in 2006 after the convention center was built. The convention has
continued to grow.
Visit Tri-Cities, the Washington Winegrowers Association provides a local
economic impact of $875,000. In addition to drawing participants from both
sides of the state, wine industry professionals from Idaho, Oregon, British
Columbia and California also attend.
The trade show
once again sold out this year, with more than 200 vendors showing off barrels,
bottles, tractors and irrigation systems.
As each year’s
convention draws more interest from attendees and vendors in the fast-growing
Washington wine industry, limited space at the convention facilities remains a
concern. The WWA staff has managed it so far, saying members want to keep their
convention in the Tri-Cities because it is centrally located in the heart of
Washington wine country.
for us right now, and it’s a great spot for the industry,” said Katlyn Straub,
communications manager for the grape growers.
The theme this
year was “Intentional From Grape to Glass,” which emphasized the role that
grape growers play in the quality of wines. Many growers now are able to
custom-farm vineyard blocks for winemakers depending on the style of what the
wine is going to be. This evolution in viticulture plays a major factor in wine
quality, boosting Washington’s place on the world wine stage. Washington is the
second-largest wine-producing state in the country, trailing only California in
size, with about 60,000 acres of wine grapes planted and purportedly more than
1,000 wineries crushing fruit each fall.
seminars, conducted in English and Spanish, included sessions on winemaking
techniques, agricultural tools and advances in technology, winery marketing,
product distribution and more. With the creation of the Ste. Michelle Wine
Estates Washington State University Wine Science Center in Richland and the
research conducted on behalf of the industry, there was also presentations on
some of the latest research and findings.
“It sums up
the work Washington growers and winemakers do daily being intentional in the
vineyard and the seller and building a thriving business,” Straub said. “So the
educational sessions are what they’re really focused on — taking a deep dive
into asking the ‘why’ behind one decision to make wine or grow grapes or do
both and to also think of that larger picture for the further growth and
strength of the entire industry.”
• • •
Griffin in Richland won a unanimous double gold medal in January at the San
Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in Sonoma County, the largest wine judging
in the United States. It marked the 13th time in 14 years that the winery’s
rosé has won gold or better in this judging. The 2018 vintage of the Rosé of
Sangiovese ($14) will be released on Valentine’s Day. Barnard Griffin is
experimenting with wine in a can. They will put their Rosé of Sangiovese,
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in 12-ounce cans. The wines also will be
available in standard bottles.
• • •
Washington wine country’s wine touring season kicks off the year with the Yakima Valley’s annual Red Wine & Chocolate weekend Feb. 15-17. Dozens of wineries from Zillah to Red Mountain will be open and offering their guests various chocolate goodies to accompany their red wines. Premier passes to the event cost $30, and they can be bought at any participating winery. For more information, go to wineyakimavalley.com.
• • •
Department of Corrections is looking to team up with grower/winemaker Jeremy
Petty of Walla Walla Vineyard Management to train inmates for work in the grape
and hop industries. The program ultimately will transition 5.2 acres of grass
into for vineyards and hops planted inside the fence at the state penitentiary.
It will employ up to 10 inmates at a time. Planting is expected to begin next
spring. Ultimately, the goal is to train prisoners to work in the wine and beer
industries upon release. Those working in the program will earn minimum wage.
There is a similar program at a Colorado penitentiary.
Andy Perdue, editor and publisher of Great Northwest
Wine and founding editor of Wine Press Northwest magazine, is the wine
columnist for The Seattle Times.
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