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« Love & Squalor 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley | Main

With Starbucks serving wine, local producers should benefit

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As a passionate consumer of Oregon and Washington wine, I am always eager to introduce folks near and far to our region's bounty, be it gifting favorite wines to scattered family and friends or sharing wine experiences with readers on this site. Not only do I enjoy introducing people to these wines, but I especially like seeing them become instant converts.

It's unfortunate that Washington and Oregon wines aren't more widely known and available in other parts of the country. I am frequently disappointed when traveling outside our region to see how under-represented (if non-existent) Pacific Northwest wines are on retailer shelves and restaurant lists. It really saddens me to know that so many consumers are unable to experience our local wines.

Tomorrow may very well mark the date in which this situation starts to change, benefitting wine consumers and local producers alike.

At its newly remodeled store on E. Olive Way, Starbucks will start offering wine (and beer) to patrons in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. More importantly, they will be serving a variety of Washington and Oregon wines, which eventually could be featured in other targeted stores around the country. After experiencing this new approach at a special event last Friday, I am convinced that serving wine at this type of Starbucks will not only be successful with consumers, but will also raise awareness for our region's wines, benefitting all producers.

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The new E. Olive Way store is the kind of place I would enjoy visiting for a glass of wine or even a beer. And if more Starbucks stores like this well-designed one are created featuring our region's producers, then this could be very big thing for Oregon and Washington wine.

With this new approach, I could see Starbucks influencing how Americans drink wine much in the same way they did with coffee over the last two decades. As a result, more people outside of our region will hopefully experience a Washington riesling or an Oregon pinot noir, encouraging them to become regular consumers of Pacific Northwest wine. That's a good thing for all concerned.

It appears those in our region's wine trade are thinking the same, as evidenced by various producers and distributors in attendance at Friday's event. Ted Baseler, president and ceo of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, was there along with members of his team pouring Chateau Ste. Michelle cab, Erath pinot, and Snoqualmie riesling - all will be featured at the E. Olive Way location.

In addition, Christophe Hedges of Hedges Family Estate was pouring his "La Bourgeoisie" merlot from The House of Independent Producers label. I really enjoyed meeting Christophe and learning more about the approach he is taking to produce (e.g., fruit from sustainable farming) and position (e.g., against 100 point ratings) this wine. And I very much enjoyed drinking it - in fact, I look forward to returning to E. Olive Way for another glass (or two) very soon.

See for yourself starting tomorrow afternoon when the E. Olive Way location becomes the first Starbucks store to serve wine (and beer). I am willing to bet you'll feel compelled to order a glass of local wine and linger a while.

Full Disclosure: While I have family and friends who work at Starbucks, I hold no financial interest in the company nor in the wineries mentioned in this post. For more information, please see my disclosure statement.

Related Links
First look inside the overhauled East Olive Way Starbucks
The New Starbucks | East Olive Way: Exploring Evolutions
Coffee City Article
Starbucks 'Coffee Theater'