Sunday, October 18, 2009
WASHINGTON WINE ROAD TRIP, EPILOGUE: WOODPECKER'S GHOST
So what did I take away from this trip I have been waxing lyrically about for two weeks now (my coworkers are ready to tar and feather me ritualistically en masse)?
For starters, Washington IS a phenomenal state, and their wine industry IS legitimately on par with the rest of the great regions of the world. They (the WA winemakers and growers) have nothing to be timid about and everything to be proud of when it comes to their craft.
Columbia Valley IS NOT in South America, but in one of the most beautiful places on earth - Washington State. It was never all that noticeable before, but now, when I mention the region "Columbia Valley" to customers, they either think Chile, Argentina, or Oregon. Why on South America? I guess they think of the country, which is spelled C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A, not Columbia. And Oregon, well, so many wine textbooks have spent decades putting Oregon and Washington together as one subject, when they are two completely different regions (despite the fact that there are 3 AVAs the two states share).
The breadth in experiences amongst my fellow roadtrippers was awe-inspiring. Whether they realized it or not, I was seriously impacted and influenced by them, even though I only got to know a handful of them. A big shout-out to Doug Zucker (who ended up on most of the tours I was on), Director of Wine Operations at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, CT; D'Lynn Proctor (the baddest man in Texas), Sommelier and Wine Educator at Grailey's Fine Wine in Dallas; Patrick Brendel (my unofficial drinking buddy), from Atlantic Wine in Atlanta, Sean Chaudhry (the funniest man I have met in a long time); GM and Owner of Hinsdale Wine Shop, in Hinsdale, IL; Rhett Gadke, Wine Director at Bounty Hunter Rare Wines in Napa; Steve Hamm (I seem to see you everywhere), Wine Buyer for Whole Foods in Columbus, OH; Rachael Johnson, sommelier at David Burke's Primehouse in Chicago; Aaron Patrick (the man who never seemed to come down), Sommelier, Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale, AZ; Jay Yang, owner/wine buyer Smyrna World of Beverages, Smyrna, GA; and to everyone who "tripped" with me for a week.
There were so many M.S.'s, M.W.'s, C.W.E.'s, C.S.W.'s and the like on the trip, I almost felt like I'd choke to death on alphabet soup. It was extremely humbling and motivating at the same time and for the experience, I am indebted to all who participated.
There was a lot of talk about tipicity out on this trip. Soil tipicity that is. You hear about it so often when talking about European wines, and to a lesser extent, from other places in the New World of Wine. Yet, Washington, with all of its fledgling aspects of their wine industry, seems like they are unsure what "terroir" may be indicative of their wines. And while that question seems presently unanswerable, the real fact is that the wines of Washington State have enormous character of fruit and tannin, a testament to the love and passion the growers and winemakers of this region exert into their wares. Whether it be the value wines of Hogue, Covey Run, and Columbia Crest, to the ethereally-crafted higher-tiered wines of Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, DeLille and Cote Bonneville, the wines - red, white, sparkling, and dessert - are exemplary across the board.
While I admit, the trip has me a bit gobsmacked and awestruck. Yet I was a believer in these wines BEFORE I went. It is simply that there aren't that many available in this part of the country. Now, I am on a mission to bring as many of these wines to the market as I can. It won't happen overnight, and it will take some convincing - but as I show off these fantastic wines to my customers, there will be many a convert on the horizon, I assure you all.
Once again, thank you to Shayn Bjornholm, WWC Executive Director Robin Pollard, Marketing Director Chris Stone, Communications Director Gary Werner, Senior Communications Mgr. Ryan Pennington, Senior Marketing Manager, Madeline Dow, Marketing & Events Coordinator (and the Grand Marshall of the Road Trip Parade) Rob Andersen, and Communications Coordinator Erica Waliser, for an extraordinary experience.
To find out more about the Washington Wine Commission, and all there is to know about Washington Wines, visit http://www.washingtonwine.org/.