Washington wine tops at U.S. eateries

By Andy Perdue, Herald staff writer October 15, 2010 

WOODINVILE -- Chateau Ste. Michelle is America's favorite winery in chain restaurants.

The Woodinville winery, whose grapes come from Eastern Washington's Columbia Valley, ranked first in by-the-bottle and by-the-glass distribution in casual and upscale casual restaurants in the United States. It overtook Beringer of Napa, Calif., which had dominated the list on the strength of its sales of white zinfandel.

However, higher interest in riesling has pushed Ste. Michelle to the top spot, as Washington's oldest winery is the world's top producer of the white wine. Ste. Michelle makes up to nine different rieslings each vintage, with production closing in on 12 million bottles a year.

"This is an exciting milestone for Chateau Ste. Michelle," said Jan Barnes, vice president of marketing. "We credit our distribution growth to the rise in riesling's popularity over the last decade, along with the overall brand strength of Chateau Ste. Michelle. We are also seeing our investment over the last three decades in vineyard and winemaking resources really pay off with enhanced wine quality."

According to the report by Wine Metrics, riesling makes up 5 percent of both by-the-glass and by-the-bottle distribution, while white zinfandel comprises 3 percent of by the bottle and 4 percent of by the glass. Chardonnay, the top wine grape in America, captures 18 percent of bottle distribution and 19 percent of wine by the glass.

Ste. Michelle's' average restaurant bottle price was $29.21, while its average glass price was $7.31.

Hogue Cellars in Prosser was No. 18 on the list, and Columbia Crest of Paterson was No. 20. Columbia Crest is owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. The other wineries among the top 26 listed were from California, Europe and Australia.

Wine Metrics provides on-premise wine distribution information to U.S. businesses. It defines "casual chain restaurants" as those with 15 to 50 different wines by the bottle and "upscale casual chain restaurants" as those with 51 to 100 wines by the bottle. A report later this fall will rank wine distribution with fine dining establishments.

* Andy Perdue is editor of Wine Press Northwest, a quarterly magazine owned by the Tri-City Herald.

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