Photo by Agne27

The Long and Wining Road

The view from the Washington Wine Road Trip.

Sometimes you need to get away to understand what’s right in front of you. That was my thought at the end of this year’s Washington Wine Road Trip, which I attended with industry professionals from other parts of the United States. Not only did a week of travels with these people offer some new perspective, but seeing some of the state’s more far-flung areas and vineyards fleshed out my knowledge. Here are a few of my most meaningful takeaways.

We’re further up the learning curve. Much of the initial planting and winemaking in Washington was done by trial and error. Varietal selection and vine-growing techniques were either outright guesswork or borrowed from other wine regions without knowing if they would work well here. Now, though, with four decades of results, growers and winemakers are far more certain about what and what not to do.

Faith in the land. More and more, winemakers are letting the state’s unique qualities play a leading role in their wines. Some are reducing their use of new oak barrels or fermenting with native instead of commercial strains of yeast; others are trusting lesser-known grapes, such as mourvedre or petit verdot, to be the principal star in a bottle, because they love the way the grape does in a specific site. Most of all, it’s a focus on making wine that is clearly reflective of where it comes from.

They blinded me with science. The new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland is more than just a place for aspiring winemakers to learn their trade. It is now one of the world’s most advanced wine-research facilities, dedicated to solving problems that challenge grape growers around the world as well as experimenting with varietals and clones that might not have obvious commercial applications, and thus would be unlikely for a vineyard to plant.

Washington is really, really big. No, I’m not just complaining about long hours on a bus. Our state is big, and the grape-growing region is spread all over its eastern portion. As such, winemakers checking on their grapes this time of year have to cover incredible distances, which might range from the eastern end of Yakima Valley all the way to the Walla Walla Valley in the southeastern corner of the state. While of course they can and do rely on the onsite vineyard team, a natural caution leads some to wake up well before dawn to do a circuit, often several times a week. That size means that everything from rainfall to temperature to soil composition is far more variable than we tend to think, and this fact was hammered home in just a few days, from sweating in Spice Cabinet Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills to sheltering from the rain in Stoney Vine Vineyard in Walla Walla.

Our wines are good. I already knew this, but this was also the overwhelming consensus from the attendees. Some were quite familiar with Washington wine while others were neophytes, but all were impressed and excited, and for good reason.

More in Eat Drink Toke

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

Getting Seniors Stoned

How the elderly have become the hottest cannabis demographic.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
A Little Look at Microdosing

Hailed as the next great trend in cannabis, is there any substance to the hype?

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
I Want My Weed Coffeehouses

We legalized marijuana in 2012, we should have figured this out by now.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Getting Ripped While Ripped

The latest trend in cannabis is working out while high, but is it a good idea?

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons

What to do when you get way too high.

Illustration by James the Stanton/@gnartoons
Fruit of the Plume

How do weed growers get strawberries, lemons, and cherries in your bowl?

Shattered Glass

What to do when your glass weed-smoking devices break.

Illustration by James the Stanton
Deep Purple

Purple weed looks cool, but is its beauty only skin deep?

Illustration by James the Stanton
How Many Drug-Sniffing Dogs Will Be Killed By Cannabis Legalization?

Spoiler: None. It just turns out an Illinois police department is full of doggone liars.

Deli Bellies

Seattle’s deli scene leaves a lot to be desired, but new options look to spice things up.

A special three-course dinner at Goldfinch Tavern is just one option for celebrating Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy Goldfinch Tavern
Mother’s Day 2018 Event Planner

Whether she’s an early bird or a night owl, there’s more than enough happening around Seattle to keep mom active.