washington wine may have a future!

Monday, September 03, 2012

A friend visiting us in Waitsburg recently passed along a yellowed copy of an article titled “Washington Wine” that ran in the Seattle Times magazine on Sunday, May 18, 1969. Author Richard Sawyer opened his chatty history of this state’s wine industry with these words:

“The fledgling Washington wine industry has been pushed out of the nest.”

The impetus for the article was the just-passed California Wine Bill, arguably the most important liquor legislation since the repeal of Prohibition 36 years earlier. What the bill did was loosen the taxes on imports – California was foreign country back then – and allow wine shops to exist, for the sole purpose of selling wine for consumption off-premise. Esquin and Champion Wine Cellars were, I believe, the first two Seattle-area wine shops to take advantage of the new laws.

Much of Sawyer’s homespun story revolved around an early vineyard on Stretch Island in Puget Sound. He overlooked (inadvertently I am sure) the fact that even before this went into the ground, migrant Italians, French and Germans had been planting grapes and making wine in the Walla Walla valley.

But the crux of the story is that the production of varietal wines from “noble” grapes was something to be anticipated, and Mr. Sawyer was quite right about that. “Until recently,” he wrote, “only one varietal wine – a Grenache Rosé – was produced and bottled in Washington. Late in 1968, a Zinfandel was also marketed [by whom? I have no clue!]. As recently as January of this year a Semillon was bottled and will be distributed after appropriate aging.”

A shout-out to Dr. Walter Clore’s ongoing research led to this conclusion. “In spite of its youth, previous encumbrances of awkward laws and internal growing pains typical of all new industries, it appears that Washington does have qualified gladiators in the arena of the noble-wine marketplace. Wine connoisseurs should drink to its future.”

We’ve come a long, long way in a very short time. On this lovely holiday, I’ll drink to that!

Here is a link to a more thorough article about early winemaking in the Northwest.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Check out the link--fascinating history. Can't wait to open a 1972(!!) LH Semillion from St. Michelle I acquired from the original buyer. It still has the price tag on it. $3.95 (I think-not near it just now.)

Anonymous said...

Love the AV label. Upon seeing this, I only had to spin my chair around to see the same vintage in Cabernet Sauvignon resting on my book shelf.

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