Northwest wine stories of the year: Nos. 20-11

By on January 2, 2014

It was an exciting and interesting year in the world of Pacific Northwest wine.

We went through the hundreds of stories we wrote in 2013 and chose the top 20 stories. During the next two days, we will review those stories.

Here are Nos. 20-11:

20. Walter Clore Center prepares for opening

walter-clore-center-front-entry-featuredMore than a decade after the idea of honoring the father of the Washington wine industry began, the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser, Wash., is becoming a reality.

More than a decade after the idea of honoring the father of the Washington wine industry began, the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser, Wash., is becoming a reality.

The newly completed 15,000-square-foot facility will play host to its first event this month, and the public grand opening will take place this spring.

Read more.

19. Winemaker changes: Co Dinn leaves Hogue; Marcus Notaro leaves Col Solare

Col Solare

Marcus Notaro has been head winemaker at Col Solare on Red Mountain since 2003. He took over winemaking responsibilities at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley. (Photo courtesy of Col Solare)

Change happens in every industry. This year, two significant winemaker changes occurred in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

In May, Marcus Notaro left Red Mountain for Napa Valley. The winemaker at Col Solare took over the head winemaker position at the iconic Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Both wineries are co-owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington and Marchesi Antinori in Italy. Notaro was the head winemaker at Col Solare for 10 years and began his winemaking career in 1995 at Columbia Crest.

Read more about Marcus Notaro’s move to Napa Valley.

In June, longtime Hogue Cellars winemaker Coman Dinn left the Prosser giant to launch his own winemaking consulting business. The Texas native came up through the business in California before arriving at Hogue in 1996. He had been Hogue’s director of winemaking since 2007, overseeing a half-million cases in wine production.

Greg Winter, winemaker at Valley of the Moon in California, succeeded Dinn at Hogue.

Read more about Co Dinn’s departure from Hogue Cellars.

18. Recommendeuer brings humorous marketing message of Washington wine

The Recommendeuer is portrayed by actor Greg Proops.

Actor Greg Proops portrays “The Recommendeuer,” a character in a new iPad app for the Washington State Wine Commission.

In October, the Washington State Wine Commission unleashed “The Recommendeuer,” an iPad app targeting wine professionals such as retailers, sommeliers, wholesalers, critics and journalists.

The centerpiece for The Recommendeuer is a plaid-clad character played by actor/comedian Greg Proops. He uses humor in several videos to tell the story of Washington wine. The app also is loaded with useful information about the wine industry.

This was a bold play for the Washington wine industry, and feedback from the app — now also available for the iPhone — has been almost universally positive.

Read more about The Recommendeuer.

17. Celebrate Walla Walla kicks off successfully

Celebrate Walla Walla Wines horz

The Walla Walla Valley brought the world of wine to Washington to celebrate Cabernet Sauvignon in June. The three-day event included winemakers from California and the Walla Walla Valley to discuss, taste and commemorate the king of wines and wine of kings.

This year, Celebrate Walla Walla will focus on Syrah and will bring together winemakers from Walla Walla, California, Australia and France.

Read more about Celebrate Walla Walla.

16. Washington tops 50,000 acres of wine grapes

The Wahluke Slope in Washington state is one of the Columbia Valley's key grape-growing areas.

Workers harvest wine grapes on the western Wahluke Slope in Washington’s Columbia Valley. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

In 2013, Washington exceeded 50,000 acres of wine grapes for the first time, as the state solidified its position as the No. 2 wine-producing region in the United States behind California.

Two big areas for additional plantings have been in the Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope, while the Yakima Valley continues to be Washington’s largest grape-growing region.

Read more about the growth of Washington vineyards.

15. Elkton Oregon AVA established

Elkton Oregon AVA

The Elkton Oregon AVA was approved by the federal government in 2013.

In February, the federal government created Oregon’s 17th American Viticultural Area with the approval of the Elkton Oregon AVA. The 75,000-acre region is within the Umpqua Valley AVA in Southern Oregon, in and around the wine village of Elkton. About 100 acres of wine grapes are planted in the AVA.

Elkton is a cool-climate region, perfect for growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau. It is 35 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and while it is easily the wettest location in the Umpqua Valley, most of that precipitation occurs during the winter and spring. It also is less susceptible to frost than many regions.

Read more about the Elkton Oregon AVA.

14. Idaho reaches 50 wineries

Idaho wine

Grapes are harvested in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. (Photo courtesy of the Idaho Wine Commission)

One day, the Idaho wine industry will look back at 2013 as the year it turned the corner. Idaho has topped 50 wineries, a tipping point that should give the Northwest’s smallest wine region a boost.

Thanks to a bit of critical mass, Idaho wineries are having an easier time selling their wines and attracting more visitors and critical acclaim. It has even spurred an upcoming documentary film.

Read more about the growth of the Idaho wine industry.

13. Chateau Ste. Michelle now largest winery at 2.7 million cases

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington state's largest and oldest winery.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington’s oldest winery. And once again, it is the state’s largest, as it now makes more than 2.5 million cases per year. (Photo courtesy of Chateau Ste. Michelle)

Washington’s oldest winery is once again its largest. Chateau Ste. Michelle, whose roots go back to the repeal of Prohibition, has overtaken sister winery Columbia Crest as Washington’s biggest winery. The Woodinville producer now makes 2.7 million cases of wine, compared with 1.7 million for Columbia Crest.

Both wineries are owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Chateau Ste. Michelle traces its history to 1934, when Pommerelle and National Wine Co. launched soon after Repeal. The two rivals merged in the 1950s and eventually were renamed Chateau Ste. Michelle when the French-style manor was built in 1976.

Columbia Crest has been Washington’s largest winery for at least 15 years, but Ste. Michelle’s increased production in Riesling (1.2 million cases) helped propel it ahead of the Paterson winery.

Read more about Washington’s largest winery.

12. Oregon passes wine growler law

Winter's Hill Vineyard is in the Dundee Hills in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

A new law allows wine retailers to sell Oregon wine in growlers.

Thanks to a new law, Oregonians may now buy wine in refillable containers. The “wine growler law” became law in April after Gov. John Kitzhaber signed off on the legislation.

Now, any Oregon wine retailer, wine bar or restaurant that offers wine on tap may also sell wine or hard cider in bulk directly to consumers.

Read more about the Oregon growler law.

11. Alan Busacca takes over Walla Walla wine program

walla walla community college

Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology & Viticulture. (Photo courtesy of Walla Walla Community College)

Alan Busacca, the world’s leading expert on the Ice Age Floods and how they affect winemaking in Washington, is the new director of Walla Walla Community College’s vaunted viticulture and enology program.

Busacca, a retired Washington State University geology professor, took the helm of the 13-year-old program in July. Walla Walla CC’s Center for Enology & Viticulture was launched by Myles Anderson in 2000. Anderson has retired from the college – and returned – multiple times. He says he will stay retired this time and focus all of his energy on Walla Walla Vintners, which he co-founded in the 1990s. Busacca also owns AlmaTerra, a boutique Washington winery.

Read more about the Walla Walla Community College wine program director.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. 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 the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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