Meet the Winemaker

With any luck, the tangled hedge of state regulations separating local consumers and producers will get a little more penetrable this summer. Introduced by state Sen. Pat Thibaudeau (University District and Madison Park) and Rep. Eric Pettigrew (the west shore of Lake Washington from Madrona to Renton), SB5265/HB1459 is designed to let Washington winemakers sell their wares at neighborhood farmers markets alongside fisherfolk, poultry persons, and purveyors of greengrocery. Odds of passage are better than average because the proposed legislation was drafted with all stakeholders—market managers, wine producers, and the all-important State Liquor Control Board—round the same table. One question from reading the proposed legislation: It's clear enough who's a "farmer," but just who's a "winemaker," anyway? As far as the bill's language goes, Ste. Michelle, which produces 60 percent of all Washington wine, is just as qualified to sell at farmers markets as the boutique vintner who measures output by the single case. In practice, though, that's not about to happen. All markets have specific rules about how much space any one merchant can lease, not to mention what kind of mix of goods can be sold. Even if big kids like Ste. Michelle or Columbia wanted access to the granola-oriented neighborhood market customers, they wouldn't be able to sell enough wine for it to be worth participating. A TOUCH OF WINE Maison de Tain was already at the top of the French winemaking heap 10 years ago when Michel Chapoutier took command of the family firm. Today it's even more admired as one of the most progressively managed companies in a country and business not known for much tolerance of innovation. Hermitage-based Chapoutier has acquired or formed affiliations with vineyard properties all over the south of France, raising standards and putting them on the quality-wine map for the first time. He's also embarked on an ambitious expansion into les vins biodynamiques—wines cultivated according to the quasi-mystical super-organic principles of anthroposophy. But outside France, he's probably attracted most attention for a small but devastatingly intelligent change to his labels: They're embossed in Braille for the convenience of the visually impaired shopper. Legend has it that Chapoutier made the change because one of his winemakers is blind; whatever the reason, there's every reason for other producers round the world to emulate him. Know any who have? GET THIS Myles Anderson's Walla Walla Vintners 2000 cabernet sauvignon is a unself- conscious, coltish beauty of a wine, supple and firm on the palate, only revealing its understated style and fruit as its flavor fades, like a lovely woman's perfume on the air. Around $35 ordered directly from the winemaker at www.wallawallavintners.com. rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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