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Wineman’s Toast: Expanding vineyards boosts grape harvest

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2013 was a good year for growing wine grapes.

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The official numbers aren’t in yet from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but state wine grape officials have estimated this year’s crop at a record-crushing 218,000 tons. Washington’s previous record crop was 188,000 tons harvested in 2012, which was 32 percent larger than the previous year.

The increase is largely due to new vineyards that were planted in recent years and are now coming into production, said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, based in Cashmere.

Washington is the nation’s second leading wine grape and wine producing state, behind California. The economic impact of the state’s 2011 wine production is estimated at $8.6 billion, according to the Washington State Wine Commission.

Scharlau said vintners were expecting a large crop after summer estimates put the crop at 213,000 tons while the grapes were still on the vine. The new estimates are based on actual tonnage of the grapes as they came into the winery crush pads and should be much more accurate. The numbers show the crop to be even larger than expected and larger than any Washington crop before. The trend of larger crops each year is the result of continued planting to keep pace with wine industry demand and public demand as more Americans discover wine, Scharlau said.

Ste. Michelle expects growth every year,” she said. The state’s largest wine producer by far, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates hopes to see wine grape acreage grow by about 10,000 acres in next couple of years. Washington now has about 43,000 acres of vineyards.

Many large growers are getting contracts for bigger crops each year and not just from Ste. Michelle, Scharlau said. Other large wineries from California and elsewhere are getting into the act. The increased demand and guaranteed contracts encourages farmers to replant land that may have been planted to riskier crops.

One thing that could slow the wine boom down is the early December cold snap that sent temperatures plunging close to zero. Scharlau said it’s too soon to know if there will be any damage to crop or vines from the cold.

I haven’t heard anything yet. I don’t think anyone will really know for sure until spring,” she said.

One thing that is known is that wine made from the 2013 crop will be the best in many years. Growing conditions provided by a hot spring and summer followed by a cool, long ripening fall were near perfect.

Look for some good things in the bottle from this year,” Scharlau said.

Region’s wines rank in Top 50

Five North Central Wines were picked to be among the Seattle Times Top Northwest 50 Wines list for 2013.

Wine writer Andy Perdue singled out premier wines from Silvara Vineyards, Milbrandt Vineyards, Jones of Washington, Chateau Faire le Pont and Tsillan Estates in his Nov. 24 column for the Times. Perdue said the top wines were selected from more than 5,000 he tasted from Washington, Oregon and Idaho over the past year. All were picked through blind taste tests, meaning he had no knowledge of label, price or reputation to sway his choices.

All of the NCW wines picked were also top winners in this past year’s NCW Wine Awards organized by Foothills Magazine and World Publishing. Perdue coordinated and was a judge for the event.

To view the whole story and list of all 50 wines, go to http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2022245011_1201grapevinexml.html

Here’s the list of NCW wines and the rank where they appeared on the list:

9) Silvara Vineyards 2010 Quartet, Peshastin, $42

16) Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Mattawa, $25

24) Jones of Washington 2012 Riesling, Quincy, $12

38) Chateau Faire le Pont 2009 Carmenere, Wenatchee, $40

48) Tsillan Cellars 2010 Estate Sangiovese, Chelan, $28

Holiday wines great all year

You had the turkey, yams, rolls, cranberry sauce and pecan pie for dessert. But what wine did you pull out for that special holiday that revolves around great food and family?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of those dinners where wine is not only appropriate, but an essential part of the warmth and holiday glow that defines perhaps America’s most special and personal traditions.

The nice thing is you don’t have to stress over picking something rare and pricey to go with traditional holiday dishes. Don’t worry. Be happy.

A slightly sweet or off-dry white — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or an unoaked Chardonnay — will go nicely with turkey or other roast fowl. If reds are more to your liking, stay with a lighter wine like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc. A young Beaujolais or crisp Rose also works well. All will complement salmon as well, if that’s your preference.

Champagne or other sparklers are always a good choice for such a festive occasions. Don’t forget sparkling apple juice for the kids and non-alcohol drinkers.

This winter, if your meal is centered around a juicy steak, roast or lamb, then you will want to pull out your wallet and select a great, full-bodied, dry red wine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah or red blend really intensifies any red meat meal.

If there’s a big gathering planned, my choice is always to open bottles of white and red wine so people can choose what they want. If you can’t decide, just buy a couple bottles of Chateau Ste. Michelle or Columbia Crest Grand Estates wines of both colors and call it good. It will be.

Here’s a short list of some easy to find, mostly affordable, local and Washington wines that are among my favorites.

Whites

  • Saint Laurent Lucky White, on sale at many stores for a bargain $5.
  • Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, both the dry and off dry version of this wine are great and reasonably priced at about $7.
  • Jones of Washington Riesling, NCW Wine Awards Gold Medal winner, $19.
  • Rio Vista Viognier, a wonderfully fruity option, $18.

Blush

  • Jones of Washington Rosé of Syrah, Best Rosé at 2012 NCW Wine Awards, $13.

Sparklers

  • Domaine St. Michelle, hard to beat at about $12.

Lighter Reds

  • Ginkgo Forest Pinot Noir, award winning pinot from Mattawa may be hard to find, but it’s one of Washington’s best, $24; other good local Pinot Noir is made by Tunnel Hill, Benson Vineyards, Tsillan Estates, Vin du Lac and Lake Chelan Winery in Chelan, and Violá Winery in Cashmere.
  • Stemilt Creek Transforming Traditions Cabernet Franc, Jones of Washington Cabernet Franc.

Heavier Reds

  • 37 Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Boudeaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Ryan Patrick Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Silvara Vineyards Syrah, Dutch John’s Wines Riverbend Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyards Mosaic Red Blend.

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