Thursday, January 1, 2015

Washington Wines and the Northwest Wine Academy

Pike Place Tasting Room ~ Seattle 
California no longer continuously tops the list when someone requests an excellent domestic US wine. Washington State was one of the first US regions to cultivate wine grapes and those years of experience have been producing distinguished results for more than a decade.

Even European vintners are taking notice of Washington Wines, exploring the region for possible collaboration and development. In 2011, Paul Beveridge and his Seattle based Wilridge Winery represented Washington State in the Consorzio di Nebbiolo in Stressa, Italy. 


NWWA Monthly Release Tasting
Nebbiolo is an old and revered Italian grape with origins in Piedmont and Lombardy. So it was a particular honor that the Italians were impressed by the Wilridge Estate Nebbiolo and invited Paul to return the following year to speak about his success with cultivating Nebbiolo in the Northwestern United States.

Historians often credit the Hudson Bay Company with planting the first Washington vineyards around 1825. Unlike those cultivated around the Monasteries of California, the majority of Washington grapes at that time were the Concord variety destined for juice, jelly and some fortified beverages.

The earliest noteworthy Washington wines were produced in the 1900’s but were quickly quelled by Prohibition and other restrictive regulation. Meanwhile, in California, sacramental wine was allowed in spite of Prohibition so the Monks were given a market advantage they may have appreciated. 


Home winemaking in Washington, however, did quietly thrive over this period, establishing a dedicated group of family vintners and a small but appreciative audience by the end of Prohibition. 

Significant support for Washington Wines came when the State recognized the economic value of enology and began investing in the development of a world-class industry. The Washington State Commission was formed as a trade and business association in 1987.  
NWWA Alumni Award Tasting

The Commission's lobbying arm, the Washington Wine Institute, opened in 2003 and partnered with Washington State University to offer degrees in all aspects of the industry. 

Always expanding to meet demand for training, WSU is premiering a state-of-the-art Wine Science Center, located near Richland, in January 2015.





Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities from PixelSoft Films on Vimeo.

Students evaluating components of aroma
According to Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, there are more than 800 licensed wineries with an economic impact of nearly $8.6 billion in the State. "Washington wines now consistently outperform wines from other regions of the world," he said.

A 2013 cutting-edge addition to the Northwest Wine Academy (NWWA) on the campus of South Seattle College is also helping to propel Washington vintners to the top of global markets. 


Culinary School Confections
Granting both degrees and certificates in wine making, marketing and pairing with foods, NWWA is now home to a web ready teaching facility, connecting to partner programs around the world.  

Adding to its attraction, rows of gleaming steel tanks and spicy oak barrels also play host to weekly tastings and monthly releases of student and alumni wines. In conjunction with the South Seattle Culinary School, an array of paired delicacies, arranged to please the eye as well as the palate, accompany these public events . 

Anyone new to Washington wines or looking to augment their appreciation will find a comprehensive resource of news, events, history and education at the Washington Wine Commission website.  A great way to prepare for complete enjoyment!