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The personal journal of technology journalist and conference speaker Randall S. Newton.

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Saturday, January 04, 2003

Shall I plant a vineyard?
Ten days of snow showers have given way to rain; our accumulation is quickly melting. Walking out to the road this morning to pick up the newspaper, I felt a strong urge to follow through one idea I have for my farm--plant a vineyard and eventually put a winery here.

Washington state is a well-known wine region, but the industry is in the southern part of the state, in the lower Columbia Basin, and near Seattle. There is one small active winery in Okanogan County, started two years ago by a large apple warehouse seeking to diversify (see www.golddiggercellars.com for more info). But only a few miles away in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, there are many wineries and vineyards and a thriving business and quite a few tourist activities to match.

If I start a vineyard and/or a winery, I will make sure to target a niche market. I am very interested in producing No Sulfites Added (NSA) wines made from organically grown grapes. I know of two wineries in Washington State already doing this, Badger Mountain Vineyard near Kennewick and China Bend Vineyard and Winery near Kettle Falls in the northeast corner of the state. Kettle Falls, like Loomis, is NOT currently known as a vineyard region.

Wine is harder to make without suflites, but the benefit is huge. There are many people who avoid wine because of a variety of uncomfortable reactions that have nothing to do with the alcohol content. If my wife, for example, drinks only a sip or two of wine, her entire face turns red and becomes uncomfortable. Last night we shared a bottle of Badger Mountain Chardonnay, and she had absolutely no reaction. If I drink more than about 1/2 a glass of wine, I get a light headache. I always assumed it was the alcohol content, but now that I've tried NSA wine I know it is the sulfites, not the alcohol. As more people become aware of their personal reactions to sulfites, the market for NSA wine will grow. Add to that the growing market for organically grown products of all kinds, and it seems to me starting a vineyard/winery to produce OG/NSA wine would be a pretty good use of my farm.

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