Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Magic of Woodinville

I was reading the Summer issue of Wine Press Northwest and in the unread ads in the back, I noticed that a lot of the Walla Walla wineries now have tasting rooms in Woodinville. I guess when Steve Burns left the Wine Commission he left Walla Walla high and dry.

How magic is Woodinville? It is hard to get a handle on. I hear of wineries having $30,000 weekends every weekend and I hear of wineries having $500 weekends and wondering how they are going to pay the high-priced rent. Chateau St. Mickey's is of course the big attraction with its ch√Ęteau and manicured grounds. I was told by an inside source (a big inside source) that this winery did over one million dollars a year in the tasting room in the early '90's - before they separated the tasting bar from the cash register. Things go downhill rather rapidly from beautiful Ste Mickey's to garage doors in industrial parks. How romantic is that? Or even the more upscale non-winery storefronts in a mini-mall - next door to Pan Gucks Wok and Chinese takeout. Does your wine smell of sesame oil or is that from next door?

I guess I am old school. I learned to love wine tasting in the Napa Valley in the early '70's. I have purchased a case of 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon from Joseph Heitz himself. Louis Martini has poured samples in my glass while sharing the experience behind the bar. Those old Italian guys were great!. No flaccid blonde broads saying, "This is our ultra-premium-hand-crafted-award-winning Cabernet." Unfortunately, I never met Robert Mondavi, but I toured his winery in 1970 when it first opened .I have had picnics at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park with fresh crab from Fisherman's Whorf, artisan bread, Marin County Cheese (Camembert to be exact), and local Napa Valley wine. I guess I just don't get the 'park your car and get shit-faced' wine tasting mentality of today. (Wine bloggers, here is your mention in order to up my hits. I know the only people who read wine blogs are wine bloggers. Please understand fully the content of this paragraph. Wine tasting is not about the wine, it is about the experience. Since mentioning the Bloggers Conference, I have had 89 visits and your average attention span is 41 seconds. Your attention span is pathetic, but on par with any twit on Twitter. How can you consider yourself a writer if you cannot take time to read? In addition, all of you were too chicken to comment. In case you don't get it, I am reaming you a new orifice.)

Now addressing the wannabe winemakers. Yes, those people who still want to get into the wine business as a 'life style.' If I were to do it over again what would I do differently? Remember, I have 25 years of experience in the business. I can't name all the wineries that have come and gone in those 25 years. Flaming supernovas that burned out fast. They listened to the Washington Wine Commission (Steve Burns), the Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, et al. They located their wineries in Seattle, Walla Walla, Prosser Flats, and the Dry Shitties - all the places that these people promote. Follow the crowd and it will follow you. Wrongo Buckwheat.

Well, I wouldn't do anything differently. I would still locate in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA near Zillah, the nearest REAL
WINE COUNTRY to Puget Sound. We are the pariah of AVA's to the Washington Wine Commission because as Paul Portteus says, "we have become successful in spite of the Wine Commission." We are two hours and fifteen minutes from Issaquah - about the same time it would take you to get to Woodinville on a clogged freeway. And, the sun is probably shining over here. It is the only AVA where you can experience the early '70's Napa Valley atmosphere where the owner pours the wine and the ambience is amazing with, yes, the grape vines that grow the wines. Duh, we have our vineyards around our wineries.

Do I want you to locate your wannabe winery here? Probably not. We already have over 20 wineries in the AVA, although some still want to designate their Bordeaux reds as vegetative Yakima Valley reds. (yes, I love weeds, green beans and asparagus - just not in my Cabernet Sauvignon.) There are 17 wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail Association. When it gets to 20, I will vote 'no' to all new applicants. In a weekend, you might realistically see 10 wineries. Twenty wineries in the organization still gives me a 50-50 chance of being visited. Get over 50 wineries like Wine Yakima Valley and you are so diluted you don't have a chance in hell of being visited - about one in five.

So, what are your chances of being visited in Walla Walla? Less than one in ten. (10/100 = 1/10) What are your chances of getting visited in Woodinville? About one in six, but it is hard to count the number of wineries in Woodinville (over 60) - and there are more every day. You do the math. I will go with 1 out of 2 in the Rattlesnake Hills.

I don't know why success makes me grumpy. I should really be happy, but I really hate to see people fail because of someone else's stupidity. I also hate hearing the same old story from the same old people over and over.

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