What a year 2009 has been.
Washington bonded its 600th winery in February. The number of licensed wineries now exceeds 650, up from about 150 ten years ago. Two new American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) were approved in 2009 – the Snipes Mountain AVA and Lake Chelan AVA. This brings the total number of Washington AVAs to eleven with more expected in the coming year.
2009 was a year of unprecedented recognition for the Washington wine industry. Wine Spectator listed Columbia Crest’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as its ‘Wine of the Year’ – the first time a Washington wine has been in the top spot. Spectator included a total of nine wines in their annual top 100, a record number for this publication.
Wine Enthusiast listed Charles Smith’s 2006 Royal City Syrah as their number two wine of the year. Enthusiast’s Enthusiast 100 included eleven wines, their Best Buy list included fifteen Washington wines, and their Cellar Selections list included four.
But the accolades did not stop there. Wine & Spirits named Walla Walla’s Charles Smith their ‘Winemaker of the Year’. Wine Enthusiast named Ste. Michelle Wine Estate’s CEO Ted Baseler ‘Person of the Year.’
Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast each rated a large number of Washington wines 90 points or higher. Wine Spectator also gave its highest ratings ever for a Washington wine to a white wine and also its highest rating yet for a Washington red.
The economy started putting pressure on eastern Washington wineries, and a number responded by opening tasting rooms west of the crest. Many wineries backed up on vintages, some chose not to make wine in 2009, and high end, mailing list-only wines appeared in quantities unseen on retail store shelves. While Washington wine sales increased nationwide, consumers started buying less expensive wines. The economy also affected the restaurant industry, perhaps most notably with five Walla Walla restaurants closing their doors at the beginning of the year.
Amazon.com decided to pull out of its foray into the wine selling business. Especially in a down economy, the effects of this will be far reaching on the Washington wine industry.
The 2009 growing season and harvest was more uneven than the state has seen in recent years, most notably due to the October frost. Time will tell what effect this will have on the wines from this vintage.
For all the happy moments in 2009, there were sad times as well including the passing of former Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake.
That’s it for 2009 folks. Have a great New Year’s Eve and a good start to the new year. Thanks reading the blog this year. Whatever 2010 may bring, one thing is clear. The future looks bright for the Washington wine industry. First post of 2010 will be next week.