Washington State Wine goes from strength to strength

Horse Heaven Hills could be the next region from Washington State to take the wine world by storm, according to an industry expert.

Walla Walla is probably the most famous Washington region in export markets, while Red Mountain and Yakima Valley are also renowned among consumers around the world.

Doug Mashall, senior international marketing manager for Washington State Wine, believes Horse Heaven Hills could be next.

He told Drinks International: “In terms of an up and coming region that the average consumer can get on board with and understand, Horse Heaven Hills. I think you are going to see a lot more marketing coming out of Horse Heaven Hills. It’s a beautiful, interesting region, and you’re seeing some of the biggest wineries putting investment into those spaces. I could see that becoming quite relevant.”

Exports of Washington wines hit an all-time high in 2019. Sales to export markets have grown by almost 70% over the past five years, with Canada, the UK, South Korea, Japan and Scandinavia leading the charge.

The domestic market has taken a hit during the coronavirus crisis, but Marshall praised the resilience and compassion shown by the state’s winegrowers.

He said: “We have seen a big shift to grocery, as well as more independent shops. New delivery programmes have been set up. Wineries have been doing curbside delivery. There have been a lot of unique responses.

“The thing I am most proud of, and that speaks to the spirit of Washington State, is that everybody likes each other. They are all friends, working together to grow this region, and you saw that in our response.”

He hailed producers such as Kiona Vineyards for putting out press releases urging consumers to buy from smaller wineries instead during the crisis. He said winemakers have collegiately to support one another, while donating to charity and remaining agile and creative to maintain a strong supply chain.

 “We developed something called Sip Glocal, as a direct Covid response,” said Marshall. “Our job was to promote [the initiatives launched during the crisis] to the world, but also to bring the world into it.

“We developed a programme that was built on encouraging other wine regions to share the stories of what was happening in their region, and it worked incredibly well. Over the course of a month we grew to 1,300 followers.

“We had a highly engaged group. People from all over the world were engaged in dialogue about wine, and reminding people to support local and restaurants. I thought that was pretty special, and it really speaks to the ethos of Washington State.”