Taste Washington Honors 30 Years of the Yakima Valley AVA

Thousands of wine consumers gathered at CenturyLink Field Event Center this weekend for the annual Taste Washington celebration hosted by the Washington State Wine Commission and Visit Seattle. The highlight of the two-day event was a series of seminars led by top winemakers and leading wine experts; and this year’s seminars culminated with a 90-minute toast to the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which was established 30 years ago this month—the first in the Pacific Northwest.

Eighty people filled the room to learn about the taste Yakima Valley wines.

Eighty people filled the room to learn about the taste Yakima Valley wines.

Eighty people filled the seminar hall to capacity, as wine journalist Andy Perdue of Great Northwest Wine (greatnorthwestwine.com) moderated an all-star panel in sharing why the
Yakima Valley is the backbone of the Washington State wine industry. “Yakima Valley is the cradle of Washington wine,” said Perdue. “It’s where everything began, and it’s still where most regional wineries get their grapes. The Yakima Valley is the state’s largest appellation in terms of vineyard acreage, and the leader in many ways.”

Andy Perdue spoke with Yakima Valley grape grower Dick Boushey.

Andy Perdue spoke with Yakima Valley grape grower Dick Boushey.

Grape grower Todd Newhouse outlined the history of wine grape production in the Yakima Valley, including the remarkable tale of agricultural pioneer Bill Bridgman. “He really was
the grandfather of Washington wine,” said Newhouse. “Without him, I can’t imagine how far behind our regional wine industry would be at this time.”

Todd Newhouse, Upland Vineyard

Todd Newhouse, Upland Vineyard

Woodinville-based winemaker and Master of Wine Bob Betz noted, “The Yakima Valley has been, and remains, a source of wonderful fruit for winemakers across Washington State. You find incredible diversity in this AVA–geological, topographic, and climatic conditions that yield both a wide spectrum of varieties as well as very different expressions of any given variety.” Seattle-based Master Sommelier Thomas Price agreed: “I love the Yakima Valley for its diversity, and for the elegance and food-friendliness of its wines—across the board.”

Bob Betz, MW

Bob Betz, MW

Thomas Price, MS

Thomas Price, MS

W. Blake Gray, a San Francisco-based wine journalist and blogger on the panel said, “I’m an outsider here. I don’t know much about the Yakima Valley. But I really like the wines I’ve tried today. They’re balanced with very nice minerality. So there’s great terroir to be discovered here.”

Grape grower Dick Boushey explained why Gray and others know little about the Yakima
Valley. “In previous years, much of our fruit disappeared into big blends. Those wines were good, but the identity of their sourcing was lost.” He added, “Now I think the Yakima Valley is gaining some recognition because so many top winemakers are doing great things with our grapes. As well, we finally have significant age within our vineyard blocks, and they are really coming into their prime. We are all reaping the rewards of 30 years of work across what is a very special place.”

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