The Pacific Northwest wine industry continues to build upon its reputation beyond its borders, and the latest example came today when the Walla Walla Valley was announced as America’s Best Wine Region as part of the 2020 USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice awards.
This year, the Walla Walla Valley ended the reign of New York’s Finger Lakes region as America’s top wine region. However, it’s the only Northwest representative in the news organization’s top 10 for 2020 and finished just ahead of Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe, south of Tijuana, Mexico.
“The Walla Walla Valley is no stranger to being recognized for the quality of its wines and the experience that awaits those who visit, including being recognized as America’s Best Wine Town in the 2018 Sunset Travel Awards,” Tabitha Crenshaw, board chair of Visit Walla Walla, said in a statement. “Given today’s proliferation of American wines and wine regions, this is a particularly proud moment. It is truly special when the very people who purchase and enjoy your wines, and who choose to visit our incredible community, validate the quality and experience you are striving to achieve.”
A panel of five wine industry experts nominated 20 finalists from a list of more than 250 American wine-growing regions. They did the same with other wine-related categories. The public then voted daily for its favorite region from July 13 through Aug. 12. This year’s panel included Florida sommelier/educator Tahiirah Habibi and journalists Jill Barth, Shana Clarke, Ziggy Eschilman and Dynie Sanderson.
Robert Hansen, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, noted, “I can think of no better way to honor wines from Washington state in general, and Walla Walla Valley wines specifically, than being recognized as America’s Best Wine Region by a vote of the public. It’s a testament to the outstanding terroir, meticulous craftsmanship, and to the men and women who are committed to elevating the Walla Walla Valley from both a wine production and tourism perspective.”
Last year, the Walla Walla Valley ranked No. 5 and was the only Pacific Northwest region ranked in the top 10.
Long Shadows Vintners tasting room ranks No. 4
Long Shadows Vintners, a member of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, placed No. 4 on the Winery Tasting Rooms list for the second year in a row. The internationally renowned project led by founder Allen Shoup and winemaker Gilles Nicault was named the Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine in 2018.
Stoller Family Estate’s acclaimed tasting room in Oregon’s Dundee Hills came in at No. 7 on the list, two years after it was voted No. 1 in the country. This year, Corner 103 in Sonoma, Calif., ranked as the best tasting room.
The Walla Walla Valley also is represented within the 2020 Best Wine Club. Dave Harvey, formerly of Bergevin Lane Vineyards, ranks among the cadre of winemakers behind the Naked Wines program. Also contributing to crowdsourced Naked Wines is the husband-wife duo of Justin and Katy Michaud in the Columbia Valley and Chris Baker of Ancient Cellars and Precept partner 12th & Maple Wine Co., in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants group led the Best Winery Restaurant category, which was otherwise dominated by California. (Ben Hummer, a former Precept executive based who was based in Walla Walla, is now COO for NexTerra Wine Co., the production facility for Cooper’s Hawk.)
The Restaurant at King Estate Winery near Eugene, Ore., cracked the top 10 for Best Winery Restaurant at No. 9. Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard in the Dundee Hills finished No. 9 in the Best Wine Country Hotel category.
Meanwhile, the Best Wine Festival category remains a head-scratcher on some levels, particularly in light of the wine festivals across the country that got scrubbed in 2020 because of the global pandemic. The Kapalua Wine and Food Festival, which was postponed this past spring and didn’t make the top 10 in 2019, was voted No. 1. Meanwhile, for the second straight year, no Pacific Northwest festival appeared in the top 10.
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