Nothing to whine about in this class

Your guide will be Ruth Arista, who has a decade of experience as owner of Arista Wine Cellars
By John Nadeau | Apr 18, 2013

This may come as a surprise.

Washington, known for enterprises like Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon, has become the nation’s second-largest wine-producing state.

Okay, with a 4 percent market share, Washington is a distant second to California.

In terms of actual production, California is doing about 3.7 million tons of wine grapes on about 500,000 acres, while our state is at about 190,000 tons on about 43,000 acres.

So that’s quite a gap.

“But we’re growing at double the national rate,” says Steve Warner, executive director of the Washington State Wine Commission, which has furnished most of the information for this column.

“When you look at the quality of our wines, they’ve been outperforming California, Oregon, and all the other states as a percentage of wines the Wine Spectator magazine rates at 90-plus points,” he adds.

He also notes that 26 years ago, we had fewer than 50 wineries; today we have more than 750 in 12 regions.

“As far as the most recent survey goes, the economic impact within Washington is $8.6 billion,”

Warner says. “In 2007 it was $3 billion, meaning in that short period, it nearly tripled.”

 

This survey also shows there are nearly 30,000 wine-related jobs in the state.

Tax revenue generated is around $240 million annually.

Tourism accounts for about a billion dollars in economic impact as visitors spend money on hotels, restaurants, and so on as they tour different wine regions.

While this is indeed big business, most of the wineries are small, family-owned operations, many of which are content to sell from their tasting rooms or through their clubs.

Is there really a place then for startups?

“Absolutely,” says Warner. “The quality bar has been set very high, though, so the newcomers will have to produce really great wine.”

Beyond that, they must also have a really great business plan to sell their product.

Getting shelf space is a major challenge, perhaps to be met by one of the biggest players in the market.

Last year, E. and J. Gallo purchased Columbia Winery, which has produced some of our state’s highly rated wines.

Chris Stone, also of the Wine Commission, thinks this is a good sign.

“It means Washington should find more shelf space around the country as Gallo’s powerful distribution and sales networks promote our superior wines,” he says.

Obviously, this discussion has focused on the business side of wine.

If you are a wine aficionado, however, you have a chance to learn from the consumer’s perspective about the geology, geography, and vineyard practices that give Washington wines their character.

Your guide will be Ruth Arista, who has a decade of experience as owner of Arista Wine Cellars in downtown Edmonds.

On two Wednesdays, June 5 and 12, from 1 to 3 p.m. she will conduct a course called, appropriately enough, Washington Wines.

The Creative Retirement Institute, the lifelong learning program at Edmonds Community College, is sponsoring the classes.

For more information about this and other courses designed for older adults, phone 425-640-1830.

 

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