W
ashington is really big. Liter-
ally. The state stretches from
the Pacific Ocean across
mountains and deserts, cov-
ering over 70,000 square miles. Fittingly,
the breadth of wines being produced is a
marvel, and can be daunting.
Sure, California is bigger. But it is
only relatively recently that there has
been excitement on both the industry
and consumer level about the wide vari-
ety of grapes and styles that state
can produce. Washington, on the
other hand, seems to have start-
ed with variety, and has yet to
give that up. From Syrah to Bor-
deaux blends, from Tempranillo
to Riesling, Washington is hard
to pin down. And instead of see-
ing that as a challenge for retail-
ers and restaurants to overcome,
we should see that as a blessing.
Washington seems to be able to
do it all, and that apparent lack of focus
results in a wide range of values for vari-
ous consumer palates.
“While from a marketing standpoint
it would have been more convenient to
settle on a couple of varieties… the real-
ity of the viticulture is that it is suited
to a wide variety [of grapes],” says Ted
Baseler, the president and CEO of Ste.
Michelle Wine Estates. “I think that
today it has become an advantage to
be more diverse.” Ste. Michelle Wine
Estates is the largest wine producer in
Washington, and if its CEO sees variety
as an advantage, then we had best get on
board, as it is unlikely to change.
So, if you can’t sell Washing-
ton based on one grape or a signa-
ture region, how do you do it? Eas-
ily: Washington is a gateway wine
region; it has the ability to bridge
the seemingly vast gap between
Old and New World wine. And
that’s how to sell it.
European wine styles are a
touchstone for many Washing-
ton winemakers, such as Corey
Braunel of Dusted Valley. Brau-
nel got into wine through a love
of France’s Rhône Valley. “Be-
cause we enjoyed drinking those
Upland Vineyards, below, is home to 35 varieties of vinifera
grapes, from Aligoté to Syrah to Tinta Cao, and supplies
fruit to 20 different wineries. RIGHT: Dusted Valley’s Stoney
Vine estate vineyard in Walla Walla.
Washington: The Big Picture
The State’s Vintners Aim to Do it All, and Do it Well
BY SARAH M. CHAPPELL
Ted Baseler, president and CEO
of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates,
which is the largest wine pro-
ducer in Washington
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