The effects of the internet on any given market are remarkable.  The wide web’s effect on the world of wine is no different.  In the last few months I have encountered a great number of people, places and wines as a direct result of the forces of twitter, facebook, blogs and the people behind them.

On Thursday, September 23 my suitcases were barely unpacked as I had just moved to Seattle.  I sat down at the dining room table with my just purchased bottle of Townshend Cellars Vortex Red and signed onto Twitter.  Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report organizes monthly “virtual tastings” on twitter.  By searching the already set hashtag of #wawine, anyone who has a twitter handle can tune into the virtual tasting stream.  Anyone participating that night had already purchased the bottle for themselves and was at the keyboard ready to sniff, swirl, sip, and comment.  As a result of this tweet-up virtual tasting, Townshend Cellars sold a few more bottles of their wine and got their twitter handle thrown around a bit around the internet that evening.  You can read a review of the wine and the virtual tasting here.  This was the first time that I participated in a VT and truly enjoyed it.  I tried a wine that I probably would not have tried otherwise and I got to review it with other wine aficionados.  Um… cool!

A couple of days later I was checking out tasting rooms in Woodinville, WA, about 25 minutes from Seattle.  Woodinville is really a place all of its own.  The vineyards for a majority of Washington-produced wine are grown east of the mountains and forests and into Yakima, Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys.  Here, the vineyards are significantly protected by the rainshadow effect and therefore get much less rain than those of us living west of the mountains; a mesoclimate much more conducive to grape growing.  There are a great number of wineries and tasting rooms throughout that portion of the state.  Woodinville is full of wineries whose grapes grow out east.  The grapes are trucked into the area, transformed into wine and then showcased and sold in tasting room.  I visited a couple tasting rooms per recommendation, then drove around looking for more.  (There are over 70 in just the Woodinville area.)  I noticed a sign for Efeste.  I did not know anything about them, never tried their wine, didn’t even know how to pronounce their name (say it just like the letters F-S-T, the last initial for the three owners) but I recognized their logo and sign from following them on twitter.  I parked, paid for a tasting, found who is behind their twitter handle and earned myself and invite to check out everything behind the scenes.  I bought some of their wine, talked them up to some other wine Washington people and here I am writing about them!  It’s a cool place with some exceptional wine; read a recent post by Clive Pursehouse from The Oregon Wine Blog about Efeste here.

On October 5, I had the pleasure of a attending a Washington Pinot Noir blind tasting hosted by Bean Fairbanks of notable blog Wine and Beer of Washington State.  Eleven different Pinot Noirs were poured, myself along with nine fine Washington wine folks were given score cards.  We sat, we sniffed, swirled, tasted and talked about our impressions.  And we tweeted up a frenzy.  Pinot Noir from Washington state is nothing to write home about, I’ll be honest.  The general consensus was that only three or four of them were drinkable.  Otherwise, I found these Pinots to be unbalanced, often very high in acid, and overflowing with oak tannins.  The favorable choice was the 2008 Syncline.  This wine is very smooth with medium tannin and great notes of your typical Pinot Noir cherry accompanied by rose petals.  It’s good.  A close second was the 2008 Kyra.  I thought this wine was a bit high in acid for a Pinot Noir, but otherwise a nice balance of leather, cherry & flowers.  Number three in our general ranking was the 2007 Benson.  This wine improved a lot when paired with food.  Again, a bit high in acid, but a nice simple wine that is great with a dinner at home.  Interestingly, the 2008 Benson was included in the blind tasting and its ranking was much lower.  Pinot Noir is a very delicate varietal from start to finish.  Unless it is a real specialty for a winemaker in WA, the Northwest should let Willamette Valley continue doing its thing.

Twitter and such easily accessible facets can be easily cheapened.  Classy practice and use of, however, can result in valuable free marketing and connections.  Go #wine.