It was a fascinating, news-filled 2014 in the Pacific Northwest wine industry. We saw record warmth, huge harvests, big investments, anniversaries and sad losses.
Today and Saturday, we will look at the top 20 wine stories in the Pacific Northwest. Today, we will unveil stories 20 through 11.
Here they are:
20. Idaho wine video pokes fun at potatoes
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California’s Central Coast has “Paso Man,” and the Idaho wine industry followed suit by creating a hilarious online video campaign that pokes fun at the nation’s most famous tuber.
In January, the Idaho Wine Commission unveiled a YouTube video called “Idaho … More than Just Wine.” It focused on the premise that everyone thinks of Idaho for its wine industry, not those famous potatoes or beautiful outdoor adventures.
So far, the video has been viewed a respectable 11,600 times.
19. Panther Creek reopens under new ownership
Panther Creek, one of Oregon’s most respected and recognized wineries, had fallen on difficult times through the past few years.
It began more than a quarter-century ago by Ken Wright, who gained fame with the winery and later launched his eponymous operation.
In 2013, Bacchus Capital Management purchased Panther Creek (and also heavily invested in Wine by Joe in Oregon and DeLille Cellars in Washington). By midyear, Bacchus was ready to reopen Panther Creek with a tasting room in downtown Dundee, Ore.
And as a nice nod to the winery’s rich history, consulting winemaker Tony Rynders collaborated with Wright on one of his first new wines for Panther Creek.
18. B.C. wines available for sale in Washington
One of the greatest frustrations for Northwest wine lovers is the inability to purchase British Columbia’s stellar wines south of the Canadian border.
Though a few B.C. wineries have attempted to sell their wares in the Seattle market over the years, the best solution has often been to drive to Canada, buy the wines at stores and bring them back. Basically, it’s been easier for someone in Washington to buy a bottle of Tasmanian Pinot Noir than a B.C. Riesling.
But in 2014, we saw a couple of cracks through which B.C. wines are slipping through the international border.
In May, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards near Oliver, B.C., began selling several of its award-winning wines through a California-based company called Ship It Home, which is able to import the wines, then sell them direct to consumers. Fans of Tinhorn Creek may purchase a case at a time and pay a reasonable flat shipping rate.
And in October, Whole Foods began a pilot project in which it brought in eight B.C. wines from different wineries to sell in its 15 Washington and Oregon stores.
The B.C. Wine Institute served as a liaison for the promotion.
17. Winery launches mobile tasting truck in Portland
Union Wine Co. has been all about innovation since it launched in 2005. First, the winery put Oregon wine in a can. Now it’s taking its tasting room on the road.
Owner/winemaker Ryan Harms retrofitted a 1972 Citroën H Van to serve as a mobile tasting room and took it for a test run during the International Pinot Noir Celebration in late July. It operated on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and also has been available to rent for private events, corporate functions, weddings and parties.
16. 30th anniversary of Walla Walla Valley AVA
In 1984, the Walla Walla Valley because Washington’s second American Viticultural Area, approved a year after the Yakima Valley. It also became the first AVA to dip into Oregon (later, the Columbia Valley would do the same thing – and encompass the Walla Walla Valley).
The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance recognized this milestone with a special event in March. It included a tasting of new and old wines from several valley producers, as well as a roundtable discussion with many of the region’s legends, including Gary Figgins (Leonetti), Rick Small (Woodward Canyon), Eric Rindal (Waterbrook), Marty Clubb (L’Ecole No. 41), Casey McClellen (Seven Hills) and Norm McKibben (Pepper Bridge).
15. Duckhorn releases first Red Mountain wine
It was with much fanfare in late 2013 that one of the Napa Valley’s top producers chose to create a winery using Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington’s Red Mountain.
Duckhorn Vineyards continued to make headlines in 2014, first when it planted grapes on its 20-acre vineyard high on Red Mountain, then released its first wine: the Canvasback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Duckhorn managed to plant its vineyard even though water was not yet available. It did this through an arrangement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which co-owns Col Solare next to Duckhorn’s Longwinds Vineyard and went out of its way to be neighborly.
The first vintage of Canvasback arrived in stores just after Labor Day, and the 2,000 cases were selling fast, with the company expecting it to vanish from shelves in the first quarter of 2015.
14. WSU Wine Science Center construction
One of the biggest developments in the past three years has been Washington State University’s Wine Science Center. The $23 million facility is being built next to the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland – in the heart of Washington wine country and more than two hours from the main campus in Pullman.
Construction started in late 2013, and it was largely completed by December 2014. The first classes at the state-of-the-art facility are expected to begin this August.
13. 14 Hands continues to expand
14 Hands Winery continues to be a Northwest phenomenon.
The brand, owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, was launched in 2005 as a restaurant-only brand. Today, the winery is at 2 million cases with no signs of slowing.
In April, the new 14 Hands tasting room in Prosser opened its doors in grand style, with more than 100 grape growers, winemakers, consumers and company executives on hand. It took over the space once occupied by Snoqualmie Vineyards, also owned by Ste. Michelle.
Also in April, the winery announced that it was returning as the wine sponsor of the Kentucky Derby – which plays into 14 Hands’ tie-in with the wild horses that once roamed Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills.
And if that wasn’t enough, Impact magazine named 14 Hands one of the nation’s “Hot Brands.” It was the only non-California winery to earn that distinction.
12. Walter Clore Center opens
More than a decade after the man it honors passed away, the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center opened in the cradle of the Washington wine industry.
Named for Walter Clore, considered “the father of Washington wine,” the center was more than 10 years in the making. It opened its doors in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Clore came to Washington state soon after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and he moved to the Yakima Valley town of Prosser in 1937 as an agriculture researcher for what became Washington State University. In the course of more than three decades, Clore convinced farmers to begin growing grapes and was involved in research on both the growing and winemaking sides of the business. After retiring, Clore continued to live in Prosser and worked as a consultant for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. He died in 2003 at the age of 92.
The Clore Center is a tasting room and event center that maintains a busy schedule of educational seminars and industry events.
11. Aquilinis buy Horse Heaven Hills vineyard, prepare to plant on Red Mountain
The Aquilini family made a huge splash in 2013 when it swept into a Red Mountain land auction and purchased 670 acres of land – much to the chagrin of many Washington and California players hoping to get a piece of Washington’s most valuable vineyard land.
In April 2014, the Aquilinis, who own the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and have no previous experience in the wine industry, bought Windy Ridge and Aldercreek vineyards in the southern Horse Heaven Hills. Unlike the undeveloped Red Mountain land, the Aquilinis’ latest purchase already has more than 300 acres of vines planted.
In 2015, the Aquilinis plan to plant a reported 250 acres of vines on their Red Mountain property, now that water is available. The Aquilinis are buying so many vines, other wineries in the Washington are unable to get ahold of plant material. For example, Betz Family Winery in Woodinville must wait until 2016 to plant its newly purchased land in the SeVein project of the southern Walla Walla Valley. Ironically, Betz owner Steve Griessel was one of those bidding on Red Mountain property – and now must wait a year because the Aquilinis have bought all the plant material.