The commission, which promotes the state's wines, created the Washington Wine Quality Alliance to set higher quality goals for local wineries and clear up consumer confusion about terms used on wine labels. All of the state's major wine companies have agreed to participate, including Stimson Lane (whose brands include Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest), Corus Brands (which includes Columbia and Paul Thomas) and Hogue.
The group's voluntary rules, which take effect with the 2000 vintage, limit wineries' use of "reserve" to no more than 10 percent of their production of a given variety or 3,000 cases, whichever is greater. All the grapes used to make a reserve wine must come from official Washington viticultural areas (including some that extend into northern Oregon). The wine must also be among a winery's higher-priced bottlings, a clear response to several large California wineries' use of the term on low-priced wines.
The new rules also discontinue the use of European place names on generic wines, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne and Johannisberg (in front of Riesling).
Any wineries that agree to abide by the new rules automatically become members of the Washington Wine Quality Alliance and can use a WWQA seal on their wine bottles. According to Steve Burns, director of the Washington Wine Commission, 55 of the state's 125 wineries have signed on already.
To learn more about Washington wines, read Harvey Steiman's reports from the Nov. 15, 1998, issue:
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