StateWays - March/April 2016

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays n n March/April 2016 40 but they're quickly realizing the same math benefi ts them in upper echelons as well. Many of Napa Valley's power play- ers, like Cakebread, Duckhorn and Pine Ridge, have launched Washington ventures in recent years, undoubtedly noticing the one-two punch of top scores at fair prices to be had from the region. But there's more to Washington's steep trend line than number-crunching alone. "Washington is famously progressive," says John Sportelli, general manager at Columbia Winery. "Around the country, people associate Washington with creativity and innovation. Just look at what this state has done with coffee and craft beer! A key segment of wine consumers is always looking for some- thing new, something different. Washington, with its diversity and its own unique style, has something very valuable for wine lovers to explore." Acquired by E&J Gallo in 2012, Columbia's wines were relaunched in a higher tier more in keeping with Washington's quality-focused growth, with frontline prices in the $15 to $18 range. "What we love about our new wines is that this is ex- actly where the market is going with all the right varietals," Sportelli says. "With Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and a red blend in the lineup – we can offer what something like 78% of wine drinkers are shopping for." OREGON Despite considerably smaller volume, Oregon is also smoking the fi ne wine competition. According to Oregon Wine Board communications manager Michelle Kaufmann, "New data from Nielsen shows that in 2015 Oregon wine sales were up just over 13% in national dollar volume, as compared to 5% in total table wine category growth." The driving forces are different here, though: a growing reputation for excellence in luxe Pinot Noir and a growing supply of affordable versions for the masses. Oregon has 45% less vineyard acreage than Washington, but the yields per vine are so much lower that it produces 63% less wine. "Oregon hangs its hat on Pinot Noir of greatness," says David Adelshieim, co-founder and president of Adelsheim Vineyard, "but in climates like ours, there is a direct relation- ship between crop yields and wine's concentration. If you need to get below 2 tons per acre to make a serious wine of com- plexity, your main selling point can't be low cost. Prices need to be north of $25 or $30 per bottle to make this kind of farm- ing economically viable." But insatiable thirst for economical Oregon Pinot has led to signifi cant expansion in entry-level offerings, many sourc- ing from outside established AVAs. Launched in 2002, A to Z WASHINGTON GRAPES TO WATCH Malbec – It's increasingly apparent that Washington Malbec is a rising star. "Malbec is in many ways what Merlot was before the great Merlot crash - it has an ability to satisfy the consumer but also makes good business sense," says Chris Sparkman. "Malbec fermentations are like nothing I've seen. It's dark on day two." Initial plantings in the aughts have proven so successful that more vintners are mak- ing a serious commitment to Malbec, from single-vineyard specialists like Sparkman to larger brands like Waterbrook. Riesling – What's old is new again with a resurgence of Riesling in Washington. Popular with entry- level consumers and high-falutin' somms alike, Riesling's comeback dovetails with growing consumer enthusiasm for lighter, more refreshing wines. The Washington State Wine Commission reports a steep increase in plantings and production over the last five years. The growing number of ambitious cuvées from larger specialists like Pacific Rim and Chateau Ste. Michelle, as well as little independents like Dunham and Januik, are well worth exploring. Ste. Chapelle Winery

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