I was talking to one of my sales reps the other day about trying to get more Washington State wineries into our market, and was met with a response I should’ve expected but didn’t. Washington’s a tough sell, he said, a lot of expensive wines. Really, I thought? Not in my stores. Granted, the Washington Wine Commission stroked my ego and wined-me-and-dined me back in October, yet I saw firsthand how phenomenal and VALUE-ORIENTED the Washington wine industry is.
And I am not just referring to Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Hogue Cellars (the big three of the state’s blossoming wine business – two really, since CSM and CC are the same company). Wines like Bookwalter Subplot, Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Airfield Estates Bombshell Red, Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon, Hedges CMS Red, the Rieslings of Pacific Rim, Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc and Riesling, Substance Merlot, Buty Semillon-Sauvignon, Sleight of Hand The Spellbinder, L’Ecole No. 41 Semillion, Dusted Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Bergevin Lane Calico Red, Gordon Brothers Syrah, Three Rivers Red, Brian Carter Abracadabra, Maryhill Zinfandel, Mercer Estates Chardonnay, Syncline Rose, Tamarack Firehouse Red, Waterbrook Melange, and Terra Blanca Sauvignon Blanc are just some of the amazing values that Washington State is producing.
I’ve actually entertained the idea of becoming a broker for Washington State, yet that takes money, and last time I checked, my nickname was M.C. Broke as F%$#. So that sort of puts the kibosh on that idea.
Anyway, in our stores, we’ve actually increased the sale of Washington State wines dramatically, simply with generating a little buzz within the stores, putting the wines on our tasting tables, and otherwise, convincing customers that Washington is a safe bet to wager. Our #2 selling wine (and #1 selling red) has been Columbia Crest Two Vines Vineyard 10 Red for well over a year, and with the addition of Airfield Estates and Terra Blanca – wines I browbeat our distributor into bringing in – have been performing well, and customers are coming back for more. My Top 40 (which became a Top 50 this year) was capped at #1 with Bookwalter The Protagonist, one of a number of incredible red blends that I’d put in league with any classified growth Bordeaux or cult-status Napa Valley wine, at at least half the price of those wines. I am managing to convert a lot of die-hard Napaphiles into Washington State believers, so I know it doesn’t take much to change perceptions – the proof is in the bottle.
My wish list for more Washington State wine is pretty long, and with some persistence (which can borderline on annoyance I am told) on my part, it will get done soon enough.
And I am not alone in this revelation. The critics are and have been on board with the concept for some time. Check out Issue 185 of Parker’s Wine Advocate, or just look at the 2009 Top 100 lists from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Impressive reviews which have all been much-deserved and long-overdue, I am confident you too will find some new favorites from this up-and-coming region.
If you happen to be a Washington state producer, I’d love to hear from you. And if you love Washington state wines as much as I do, tell your retailer. Let them know you want to see more of them on the shelves.