Wenatchee newspaper helps promote North Central Washington wines

By on June 5, 2013
North Central Washington wine

Barb Robertson, a Wenatchee-area wine professional, evaluates wines during the North Central Washington Wine Awards. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Periodicals have a long tradition of sponsoring wine competitions. There’s the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in Sonoma County, the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition in Texas and myriad competitions put on by Vineyard & Winery Management magazine in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The Wenatchee World – a newspaper that is proud to boast its place in the Apple Capital of the World – entered the fray three years ago, launching the North Central Washington Wine Awards. The competition helps to promote wineries in Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Chelan and other communities in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties.

Cal FitzSimmons, editor of the World, said the paper’s 2011 launch of a lifestyles magazine called Foothills spurred the decision.

“We saw a need to highlight the great stuff that was going on here,” FitzSimmons said. “We went from a burgeoning industry with OK wines to lots of wineries with great wines.”

North Central Washington wineries perform well in 2011, 2012

north central washington wine awards

Wines are recorked out of sight of the judges at the North Central Washington Wine Awards competition. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

In 2011, the inaugural NCW Wine Awards drew an impressive 230 entries from 35 wineries, more than half the producers in the newspaper’s circulation area. That year, tiny Beaumont Cellars near Quincy won best in show for its 2009 Syrah, not bad for a new winery.

In 2012, 33 wineries entered 210 wines, and Icicle Ridge Winery in Leavenworth earned the top award with its 2011 The Blondes Gewürztraminer.

This year’s competition, which takes place today in Wenatchee, will be about 220 entries from 38 wineries. Great Northwest Wine is helping the World conduct the judging. Results will be announced Aug. 10 at a gala event.

Rick Steigmeyer, a longtime staff writer for the World, helps organize the competition and writes most of the wine-related articles for the paper and Foothills magazine.

“This is a good way to showcase the wineries in our region,” he said.

Steigmeyer writes a blog for the World’s website, called Winemaker’s Journal. He uses this platform to not only write about the growing wine scene in North Central Washington, but also his own winemaking and grape growing exploits. Steigmeyer is an amateur winemaker who produces about 30 gallons of wine for his own consumption. He also has about 100 grapevines in his backyard. Both of these experiences help him become a better wine writer, he said.

“It’s been interesting to know the winemaking steps on a more personal level,” he said.

The Aug. 10 event will be at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, where the results will be released – along with the latest issue of Foothills magazine. The publication goes into the newspaper but also reaches wine lovers regionally as well as in the Seattle area.

FitzSimmons said the paper doesn’t charge an entry fee for the competition in the hopes of having the widest number of entries. The World does sell tickets for the Aug. 10 event, which helps it break even on the competition. The cost is $40 per person for the food-and-wine affair.

“The World is trying to bring exposure to the wine industry,” FitzSimmons said. “We have some outstanding wineries here and across the state. Our wines and wineries have risen to the same level as some of the best.”

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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