The Washington Wine Commission has finally recognized that locals drink wine and wants us to uncork more locally produced bottles. The group has come up with something called a World Class Value Pass, a sort of "Yes in my backyard" promotion that saves money on purchases of local wine. (Download it here.)
There are tie-ins with October's Restaurant Week, discounts on wine purchases at tasting rooms and retail stores, even a smart-phone app. The Wine Commission is spending $100,000 to support the campaign, the first time it's promoted Washington wine in-state.
Meantime, a fanfare, please, for the out-of-state delegation about to disembark: celebrity visitors like the sommeliers at Michael Mina (the San Francisco restaurateur, eyeing the former Rite Aid space at Fourth Avenue & Pike Street for his first foray into the Northwest), for the half dozen or so of Master Sommeliers, for the guys who buy wine for Costco. They're arriving Sunday (Sept. 26) for a weeklong visit that includes meetings with grape growers and wine makers as well as hands-on experience in the vineyards and cellars.
The ulterior motive, explains the Commission's Gary Werner, is to harness some of the $750 million in buying power represented by the 45 visitors. Give them a pair of secateurs and turn them loose on the semillon, and you've made a lifelong fan of Washington wine, the thinking goes.
It's an excellent approach to new markets (and new sales): Invite the opinion leaders to your house and pour the good stuff. Your correspondent will be spending the coming two weeks in France, invited for just that reason — to see and taste what's new in one of the undervalued sub-appellations of Bordeaux and, the following week, what's tastiest along the Upper Rhine Valley (Alsace, southern Germany, Switzerland). Then, at a trade show sponsored by the French Tourism Promotion Agency, I'm on a panel evaluating the French response to wine tourism. The notion that you need to educate wine buyers back home might seem a bit, well, foreign to the French.