Wine columns, including this one, are too often guilty of using the words domestic wines and California wines interchangeably. There is a wine boom across America, with production centers in at least 26 states. While few would question the superiority of the vinifera wines from California's best wineries, at least one out-of-state producer shows no hesitation about stepping into the ring with the big boys.
Chateau Ste. Michelle (until recently Ste. Michelle Vineyards) is a superbly euqipped modern production center near Seattle in Washington. It offers an impressive array of front-line wines and appears to have the resources and marketing operation to have an expanding impact on the national scene.
Ste. Michelle's president, Wally Updlike, led a delegation here to the East Coat Washington this spring to show off some of the wineries new or upcoming releases. Although most were white, it is not out of place to point first to the 1975 cabernet sauvignon - due here this fall. It may not be saying much to call it, as the winery does, "the most significant red wine yet to come from "Washington vineyards," but this wine can stand on its own merits. It appears to have intensity and character and should cause a lot of surprises in blind tastings.
Another non-white wine that showed well was the 1977 Grenache Rose. An experiement in processing technique resulted in what Updlike termed a "too flabby wine" in 1976, but the newer vintage has the fullness and character that set earlier editions apart as among the most distinctive of American roses.
The whites, all of 1977, were sauvignon blanc (the chateau's fist), semillon blanc, Johannisberg riesling, chenin blanc and a dessert-style riesling made from botrytis-infected grapes. All are 100 percent varietal, Updlike siad.
The chenin blanc, relatively dry with a forceful nose, showed well. The Johannisberg riesling, with 1.5 percent residual sugar, tastes somewhat sweeter. The whites should sell in this market for $3.79 or loss. Notes
Last week's article on California limited-production wines brought two quick nominations of local restaurants that should be listed among those making an effort to showcase West Coat wineries. The Old Angler's Inn. On MacArthur Blvd. in Potomac, numbers 19 California wines among the 60 in its list. The Prime Rib. on K Street in the District, offers 15 American cabernet sauvignous and is said to welcome comments and requests.
A week from this coming Satruday, Aug. 26, is the date set for the annual. Wine Festival in Middleburg, Va., sponsored by the Vinifera Wine Growers Association. Three vineyards are included in the $9 tour, which offers tastings, films, a seminar and a grapestomping contest. For further information call (703)754-8564 or go to the Festival Center in Middleburg on the Aug. 26 and purchase tickets there.
Bruce Cass, the wine instructor from Palo Alto, Calif., who had scheduled classes here last month, was forced to postpone them. He now is negotiating with the Continuing Education Department at Georgetown University to schedule a program here next February or March.
"Viva Italia" isn't just the title of a current film; it appears to be a loud chant of American wine consumers as well. The Italian Trade Commission reports that in the first six months of this year, 48.6 percent of the wine shipments imported into the United States came from their country. This reflects an increase of 53 percent over the previous year. French wines, the Italians noted, accounted for a mere 18.8 percent of the imports.
In reference to Italian wines and a tasting conducted by The Washington Post (results of which were published in the Food Section of July 20), a reader pointed out an error. The Vernaccia Strozzi was incorrectly identified with the Marches region, he wrote, giving the long and honorable linkage of the Strozzi family and their Varnaccia with Tuesday.
The Roma Restaurant will hold its annual grape harvest festival at the restaurant, 3419 Connecticut Ave. NW, at 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 11 through Thursday, Sept, 14.