By Kimberlea Miller
March is Washington Wine Month, so this month I’d like to cover a little Washington state wine history and then take a quick tour of our Snoqualmie Valley wineries.
According to the Washington Wine Commission, 2016 set a record for the most wine grapes harvested in state history — 270,000 tons. We’ve come a long way from the first grapes that were planted at Fort Vancouver in 1825.
The first known wine producers were German and Italian immigrants who planted their grapes between 1860 and 1870. By 1910, wine grapes were growing in many areas of the state. Then Prohibition came in 1917 and reduced the industry to a few growers selling to home winemakers.
The current industry started to blossom in the mid-20th century when some energetic professors from the University of Washington started a commercial endeavor, creating Associated Vintners, now known as Columbia Winery.
Two other early wineries, Nawico and Pommerelle, merged into what would later become known as Chateau Ste Michelle. Chateau became a driving force in the early modern wine industry and in premium wine production, currently defined as wines selling for $10 a bottle or more. In 1988 Chateau Ste Michelle was named “Best American Winery” and by 1989 five Washington wines made Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 List” for the first time.
The Washington state wine industry has since grown to over 900 wineries and more than 350 grape growers, making it the second largest premium wine producing state in the U.S. Part of that growth is evident here in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley. We sport some lovely examples of Washington State wine right in our own back yard.
Pleasant Hill Cellars sits on a little hill in Carnation. Larry and Bergat Lindvig are the owners and winemakers. I want to take a moment to brag about Larry, he is one of the few winemakers in the world to make a single-varietal wine from the Tannat grape, and it is beautiful. Tannat is a French varietal usually used as a blending grape. It is full of anti-oxidant properties comparable to the blueberry.
William Grassie is the owner and winemaker of WM Grassie Estates, a quaint little estate that sits on a hill in Fall City. Grassie has his own little private Pinot Noir vineyard sitting on his slope. He takes great pride in his wines, as well he should, they are lovely. He is a graduate of the viticulture program at South Seattle Community College.
Sigillo Cellars is owned by Mike and Candy Seal, with their son Ryan Seal serving as the winemaker. Sigillo has a gorgeous tasting room in the middle of historic Snoqualmie. The Seals make tasty Bordeaux and Rhone varietals suitable for any dinner table.
Piccola Cellars sits in the renovated old fire station in North Bend. They have joined with Danny Kolke and Jazz Clubs NW to not only provide delicious on-tap wine, but also a venue for premium jazz performances.
Pearl &Stone Wine Co. located on 6th Street in North Bend, is a fun partnership of three families with deep roots in the Snoqualmie Valley. Their signature wine is a wonderful Cab blend by the name of the Wandering Red.
Convergence Zone owner and winemaker Scott Greenburg has a lovely production facility in North Bend. Mr. Greenburg also graduated from South Seattle Community College from the viticulture program with William Grassie. His production has its own unique quality and he produces a lovely Chenin Blanc, a varietal which is making a huge comeback.
Cherry Valley Winery is a small boutique winery that lies on the outskirts of Duvall in a beautiful rural setting. Owners and winemakers Roger and Catherine Porter take great pride in hand crafting their award-winning wines.
All of the wineries in our valley have been recognized with distinguished awards for the wines they have produced. We are lucky to have such a vibrant collection of wineries contributing to our community and making our valley a destination for wine enthusiasts.
Take a tour of what we have available in our backyard and partake in this emerging and exciting scene.
Kimberlea Miller is the co-owner of Wildflower Wine Shop in North Bend.