Five Reasons to Celebrate Washington Wine Month

Walla Faces Estate Vineyard

Walla Faces Estate Vineyard

What will you take home?

What will you take home?

March is Washington Wine Month, a month dedicated to the best of this region’s vineyards, wineries and drinks. But why celebrate Washington Wine Month?

1.  Wine is an important part of Washingtonian agriculture

Wine is the fastest growing agricultural sector of the state, with a 400% increase in the past two decades.

The state has 13 federally defined American Viticultural Areas, and 12 of those 13 are in Eastern Washington. 99% of Washington’s wine grapes are grown east of the Cascades. Thus, Eastern Washington is one of the largest producers of wine in the country.

Cumulatively, the state has over 350 wine grape growers. This wine growth adds up to 43,000 acres. As a result, Washington vineyards produce more wine grapes than any other state in the nation save for California.

2.  Wine is important to Washingtonian history

Wine grapes have been growing in Washington State since 1825. From there, they followed the moving settlers. German and Italian immigrants pioneered early winemaking in the 1860s and 1870s. By 1910, wine grapes were common throughout the entire state.

3.  Washington wines are diverse

Washington wines have huge diversity in both varietals and style. Unlike some areas, which may specialize in only a few varietals, our state offers high quality wine of many types. Whether you love Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling or Syrah and Chardonnay, Washington wineries have many amazing choices of your favorites.

Almost equal amounts of space are dedicated to red and white varietals, offering the maximum amount of choice for consumers.

Washington wineries produce virtually every style of wine. Rosés, sparkling wine, fortified wine and ice wines are all produced here. Furthermore, innovative winemakers in Washington state are eager to try out new techniques or re-introduce more classical methods with a modern twist.

Of the 12 million cases of wine that Washington wineries product annually, there is almost certainly something for everyone.

4.  Wine is an essential part of the Washington economy

Washington State has over 750 wineries, a number that has more than doubled since 2005.

The Washington wine industry employs 30,000 full time workers inside the state. Wine supports everyone from farmers to machinery suppliers to laboratories to retailers. It also serves as a catalyst for other forms of commerce, such as tourism. In Walla Walla, our amazing restaurant scene is supported by tourists who visit to find the perfect Cabernet or Syrah.

According to a 2011 report by the Washington State Wine Commission, our state’s wine has a $14.9 billion annual impact on the US economy.

5.  Washington wines are delicious

Anyone who is familiar with Washington wines knows that there are some damn good wines here. Paul Gregutt, wine writer for both the Seattle Times and the Wine Enthusiast, observes that Washington wines are characterized by their purity, their ripe tannins and their bright acidity.

So, will you celebrate Washington Wine Month with us?

As Washington State Wine Commission president Steve Warner points out, “Washington Wine Month is a time to commemorate the hard work of Washington’s more than 750 wineries and 350 wine grape growers”. This month also allows us to honor Washington’s heritage, economy and agricultural industry… and drink some amazing wines to boot!

Walla Faces encourages you to celebrate Washington wine month by visiting Washington state wineries and vineyards. If you make it to Walla Walla, be sure to visit us too!

Is Hyperdecanting All Hype?

 
Traditionally, decanting wine involves pouring the wine into a larger receptacle and allowing it to sit and “breathe”. This helps to reduce the taste of tannins and the astringency. Additionally, it will help bring out the natural aromas and flavors. Decanters made of metal or earthenware have been traced back to the Roman Empire.

Although most Walla Faces red wines do not need to be decanted, our bold 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, the Janice, benefits from sitting in a decanter for about an hour at cellar temperature. Unfortunately, many of us are impatient creatures. Waiting an hour for a glass of wine can be a slow torture. That’s where hyperdecanting comes in.

Master Chef Nathan Myhrvold, author of the colossal (an expensive!) cooking volume Modernist Cuisine proposed hyperdecanting as a quicker method for decanting your favorite wine.

Myhrvold outlines his technique, stating “I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it ‘hyperdecanting.’ Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.”

So we did!

I wanted to test which method of wine would yield the most delicious results for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: undecanted wine, traditionally decanted wine, or hyperdecanted wine.

To ensure that our preconceptions about decanting and hyperdecanting didn’t play a role, the tastings were done blind. Everyone tried all three wines, but they tried them in different orders and they didn’t know what version they were trying.

20 participants tried the wines, ranked them in order from least favorite to favorite, and offered their tasting notes. I then assigned each ‘favorite’ three points, each ‘second favorite’ two points and each ‘least favorite’ one point.
The hyperdecanted wine and the decanted wine were the best liked, receiving almost identical scores. However, they got very different comments from the tasters.

Although the hyperdecanted wine had the mildest tannins, participants reported a bitter, unpleasant taste. The traditionally decanted wine still displayed very strong tannins, but had a richer bouquet and fuller, more flavorful body and a more appealing mouthfeel.

Given these comments, it is clear that hyperdecanting does change the flavor of the wine significantly. However, it is NOT the equivalent of traditional decanting.

For individuals who appreciate bold red wines, traditional decanting will offer a much better product with more flexibility, since you can choose how long you decant the wine. Still, if you are very sensitive to tannins, you might want to give hyperdecanting a try on an inexpensive bottle of wine.