When you do the math on what it takes to make a bottle of wine, you can understand why the days of $10 Washington wines are slowly slipping away. So drink ’em while you can.
WITH TAX DAY looming this week, you might feel like you’re coming up a bit short on cash for a good bottle of wine.
And while Washington undoubtedly has established itself as a premium wine region, you can still find a few bottles for $10 or less. While many of these are white wines, red wines also can be discovered at the low end of the price range.
Making a $10 wine in Washington is not easy. Wine grapes are grown here for quality rather than quantity. So while grapes can be purchased for less than $300 per ton in California’s San Joaquin Valley (where they can be grown at higher tons per acre at lower quality), Washington wine grapes average $1,100 per ton. In fact, in 2014, the least-expensive grape grown in Washington was gewürztraminer at $737 per ton.
On average, a ton of wine grapes will make about 60 cases of wine, or 720 bottles. So just the juice to go into a bottle of Washington wine will cost on average $1.53. Add in the costs of bottles, labels, corks, barrels, tanks, rent, electricity and labor, and there isn’t a lot of profit left for the winery once the wholesaler takes half of that $10.
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That’s why the days of $10 Washington wines are slowly slipping away, so drink ’em while you can.
Six picks for $10 or less
Corvidae Wine Co. 2013 WiseGuy sauvignon blanc, Columbia Valley, $10: This bright, seafood-friendly white from Owen Roe in the Yakima Valley shows off bright flavors of green apple, lemongrass and lime, all backed by mouthwatering acidity.
Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2013 naked chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10: “Naked” means this wine saw no oak, leaving nothing but pure fruit aromas and flavors, including pineapple, mango, apricot and melon.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 gewürztraminer, Columbia Valley, $10: One might think this longtime German variety has fallen out of favor in Washington, yet Ste. Michelle makes 70,000 cases of this one, which offers classic aromas and flavors of pineapple upside-down cake, honeysuckle and rosewater.
Barnard Griffin 2013 fumé blanc, Columbia Valley, $10: Winemaker Rob Griffin is one of the last in Washington to use the term “fumé” for his sauvignon blanc (an old marketing ploy by none other than Robert Mondavi). This is one of the best you’ll find, thanks to aromas and flavors of lime juice, pear, minerality and hints of sweet hay.
14 Hands Winery 2012 Hot to Trot red, Columbia Valley, $10: This blend of merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon is one of the best deals in Washington wine. It provides delicious drink-now aromas and flavors of cherry, white chocolate, vanilla and caramel corn.
Washington Hills 2012 cabernet sauvignon, Washington, $9: This longtime winery now owned by Precept in Seattle continues to produce delicious and affordable wines. This cab is rich in fruit and complex spices. This is priced for easy, everyday enjoyment.