While Washington has come a long ways in terms of recognition as a significant wine region, it still has a long ways to go to reach broader awareness.
The most recent case in point comes from a look at the 25th edition of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. Zraly’s book, always an enjoyable, high level read, is devoted to wines from all across the world. The book is 224 pages long. About seventy of these pages are devoted – deservedly – to wines from France. Looking to the south, California receives forty-plus pages. Washington? A mere two pages.
The section on Washington is really nothing more than a brief mention shoehorned in with Oregon and New York (each get two pages) before moving on to California. The section even begins “Before we tackle the exciting world of California wines…”.
Given the book’s ambitious aim to cover the globe between its covers, this is not too much of a disservice. However, a look at Zraly’s list of ‘Favorite Washington State Producers’ – an interesting list as such things always are – shows just how far Washington is from mainstream awareness. The list reads as follows:
Chateau Ste. Michelle
L’Ecole No. 41
Woodward Canyon Winery
Now one can always debate such lists. But Andrew Hill? That hurts (sorry folks. I’ve already reserved the website). I’ll let them expand Leonetti’s Cellar (it’s singular, not plural but looking at others on the list one can see where the confusion comes from) but…
Make no mistake. Washington will never be California or France taking up 40 or more pages of a book on world wine. Still, Zraly’s book serves as a reminder that Washington remains a small speck upon the wine world and in mainstream consciousness. To truly make its mark in a way that will demand more pages, there’s a lot more work to be done.
First, I'm a little surprised not to see Pacific Rim, just because it is widely distributed and marketed. Second, I'd like to see the Washington wine makers I've met become wildly wealthy, but not if it means I can't find my local favorites for great prices anymore. This commercial success thing can be tricky.
Yoo-hoo! Hey world, world class wines are HERE! In Washington! There are many more names to add to this list! Granted, we may not be worthy of 70 pages, like France, but 2?
How do we get the Kevin Zraly's of the world to Washington to try more of our wine? We are worthy of more than 2 pages (the same as New York?! really?). The challenge is New York is readily accessible to the media. Washington wine country is not. And in this economy, distributors are not anxious to take on new, unproven brands – so the wines, even some of the best, aren't quickly leaving Washington, either.
Where do we go from here?
I wonder if Kevin has ever come out here to tour around and taste the wines. There are still a lot of people on the east coast that simply do not know about Washington wine because a) it is not promoted enough or being pushed in restaurants (shouldn't the Washington wine commission be helping here??) b) prices for some of the wine are sky high. I have a good friend in Chicago that says the prices of Washington wine at major wine retailers is ridiculously marked up.
I would like to second Ben H.'s comment. WA wines that you can find in Texas, and its difficult once you get away from the mega-labels, are rediculously marked up. I have resigned myself to ordering my favorites straight from the wineries. The shipping kills and I can only have it shipped 6 mos out of the year but its better than not be able to get it at all. Here's a thought for the WA wineries esp those having trouble moving inventory – offer free shipping!
I think that Zraly's lack of WA coverage has more to do with Zraly than with Washington wine country. True, WA wines aren't readily available out East, but nor are NY wines available in Washington. In fact, as someone who has moved from NY wine country to WA wine country in the past few years, I'll attest that WA wines are better known in NY than NY wines are in WA. Yes, it would be great to see more WA wines out East, but it's a simple reality of small-production wineries — a category that includes most of Washington's best — that widespread distribution is difficult at best. The American domestic wine market is still at the stage of regionality. I'll be interested to see if that changes. For the time being, however, I don't feel the need to take Zraly too seriously.
Sean, I think Erika has it right. Zraly has NEVER had a clue about Washington. He's entrenched in the NY/East Coast wine mafia mindset that thinks California (meaning Napa) is the be-all and end-all of American wines (oh, along with the Finger Lakes and maybe Virginia). There are plenty of people in NY who know quite a bit about WA, including Gary V, Eric Asimov, even Lettie Teague for God's sake! Zraly doesn't know, doesn't care.