2010 was a breakout year for Washington with continued accolades and high scores. Of note, Gramercy Cellars was named Food & Wine magazine’s ‘Best New Winery in America’ – the second year a Washington winery has won a major award from the magazine. Wine Spectator devoted a cover story to Washington wine. The magazine also gave its highest scores ever to a Washington red wine – 97 points – for the Charles Smith 2006 Royal City Syrah, Cayuse 2006 Armada Vineyard Syrah, Grand Reve 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Owen Roe 2007 Red Willow Syrah. All things told Wine Spectator rated 17 wines 95 points or higher – ‘classic’ in the publication’s definition. No other year has seen a number remotely close to this. Wine Spectator was not alone with Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate also giving numerous Washington wines high scores.
The number of wineries in Washington officially topped 650 in April. The number subsequently crept over 700 (unofficially) later in the year, but with the economic downturn, it’s not clear if it will stay there. While several wineries including Yellow Hawk Cellar and Nicholas Cole did close in 2010, the industry did not see the mass closings some had feared.
The Great Recession continued to have a strong effect on the Washington wine industry. Consumers purchased wines at much lower price points. Price slashing worldwide made the environment extremely competitive of the state’s wines. Many Washington wineries tried to move down-market, focusing on ‘glass pour’ wines in the $15 to $25 range.
Eastern Washington wineries continued to move into the Woodinville area, now home to over 70 wineries and tasting rooms, to try to take advantage of Seattle’s large consumer base during the tough economic times. The Internet was also awash in ‘mystery wine’ offers as producers looked for creative ways to move juice.
2010 saw one of the more unusual growing seasons in decades (see a series of harvest reports here). The year was cool with several areas seeing a good deal of precipitation during the summer. A late September/early October warm front – which one grower referred to as a “multi-million dollar gift” – averted a potential disaster. A freeze in late November has led to some concern about how next year’s vintage may be affected, particularly in the Horse Heaven Hills and colder parts of the Walla Walla Valley. Stay tuned.
There was a heated battle over liquor privatization in Washington State, with two initiatives on the November ballot. Both subsequently failed. No word on what may come next, although Governor Gregoire has said that she is ‘open’ to the idea of privatization.
The 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference was held in Walla Walla. The state subsequently saw a sizeable bump in posts and on-line discussion about Washington wine. 2010 also saw a great deal of expansion in the use of Twitter by the Washington wine community. Tweet-ups became commonplace. There were also several Washington-focused Twitter events including #WAMerlot and #WAwine which brought attention to the state’s wines.
The bizarro story of the year was the theft of the first year of Mourvedre grapes from Grand Reve Vineyard on Red Mountain. The head trained vines had been meticulously cared for by hand for three years only to have someone steal the grapes ten days before they were ripe. The case remains unsolved.
That’s it for 2010 folks. My sincere thanks to all those who followed the blog this year. Have a great New Year’s Eve. See you in 2011!