THE DEUCE GETS BENT OUT OF SHAPE: OPINING THE LACK OF VISION, OR PLEASE MR. MIDDLEMEN, BRING IN SOME MORE WASHINGTON STATE WINERIES

So those of you who have been reading my rants and raves these past 3 years know that I am a huge fan of Washington State wines.  I would venture to say that Paul Gregutt – the Washington writer/reviewer for Wine Enthusiast and fellow blogger – has my dream gig of covering the Pacific Northwest.  But staving off the green-eyed monster, my latest soapbox platitude comes courtesy of the latest edition of the aforementioned Wine Enthusiast’s latest article, “Washington State Cult Wine.”

Believe me when I say you don’t know where I am headed with this rant… yet.

My beef comes at the fact that of all the wines mentioned in the September 2011 issue – 18 total – only 3 are available here in the state of Kentucky (ironically, they are the most expensive ones – Leonetti Cellar and Quilceda Creek, along with Woodward Canyon), with perhaps an additional 3 available in Ohio, just a few minutes north across the bridge from us.

It isn’t for lack of trying.

Ever since my trip out to Washington in 2009, and even before that, I have been a big proponent of Washington Wines, and with my recent trip to Seattle and Woodinville this past May, I have only strengthened my resolve to promote these amazing wines.  Yet the reluctance of wholesalers here in the region to take on many of these brands goes beyond the obvious economic slowdown and need to trim inventory.

Many of the wines in the WE article from producers such as Buty, Efeste, Gramercy Cellars, Mark Ryan and Sparkman are wines I have
pursued, harassing my sales reps and their superiors to take a serious look at these offerings, only to find my requests forgotten, ignored, or filed away under “K2 is fucking annoying.”

I realize that there are at least a quarter-of-a-million SKUs out there jockeying for a place in a supplier’s portfolio, yet if ever there was a region that overdelivered, it is Washington State.  And the variety of wines being made in the Evergreen State is astonishing.  Red Blends, Syrah, Merlot and Riesling are the obvious flagship wines, yet everything from Pinot Noir, Barbera, Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Gris, and so much more is showing remarkable promise.  The excuse that Washington doesn’t make “value-oriented” wines – with the exception of big boys like Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Hogue Cellars – is utter B.S.  Mark Ryan’s The Vincent line, Airfield Estates, Pacific Rim, Bergevin Lane’s Fruit Bomb label, Barnard
Griffin, Dusted Valley’s second label Boomtown, Mercer Estates, Buried Cane, and wines like Sleight of Hand’s The Magician, Owen Roe’s Sharecropper’s Red, Tamarack Firehouse Red, Bookwalter Subplot, and much much more.

For once, I would love to see this market be a bit more proactive when it comes to Washington State wines, especially on the Kentucky side of the river.  I give huge props to Ohio distributor 55 Degrees as they are adding more and more Washington State wines all the time (unfortunately they have yet to come to Bluegrass territory).

Anyway, I will continue beating up the middlemen, and hopefully, one day soon, they’ll be a bigger selection of Washington State wines in our region.

3 Comments

  • Diana Wilson
    August 16, 2011 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

    K2 – Thank you for your rant and posting this. I am a big fan of the WA wines and have had the opportunity tasting some of the ones you listed in your “rant”. Of course, I didn’t buy those wines here, but directly through the winery – either through a winery visit or as a member of the winery’s wine club. That’s not always economically feasible.

    I do wish distributors would get “on the band wagon” and start carrying more than the typical brand names you have listed for both OH and KY.

    Until then, I’ll need to begin planning my next trip to the Pacific Northwest.

    Cheers.

  • August 16, 2011 - 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t given up the fight. I will keep making the case that WA wines are not to be missed. It’ll just take time. And I can’t wait to get back out there myself.

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