Yakima Valley Tourism Awarded 2015 Tourism Champion by the Washington State Wine Commission

WSWA 2015 Black LogoWashington State Wine awarded Yakima Valley Tourism the 2015 Tourism Champion of the Year at the Washington State Wine Awards in Seattle Monday January 26th.

“We are honored to be recognized as Tourism Champion of the Year,” said John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “The team at Yakima Valley Tourism works hard to elevate wine tourism for the Yakima Valley and to champion our exceptional wine industry.”

Started in 2002, the awards recognize industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service and promotion. According to Washington State Wine, the Washington State Restaurant, Retailer and Tourism Champion of the Year are the most prestigious awards, recognizing industry leaders who show the strongest support for Washington State wine. More than 130 nominations were received for the 2015 awards.

“The winners of the Washington State Wine Awards perform a vital role in shaping Washington State as both a favored destination and a favored home for those who enjoy premium wines with superior quality,” said Steve Warner, President of Washington State Wine.

The 15 businesses and individuals recognized as leaders by the Washington State Wine Awards will be featured in a full-page ad in eight key publications and media outlets: Food & Wine, Travel &Leisure, Town & Country, Seattle Met, Elle Décor, Real Simple, Sip Northwest, SeattleTimes.com as the 2015 Washington State Wine Tour Guide.

Yakima Valley Tourism is the official destination marketing organization for Yakima and the Yakima Valley. A non-profit organization, the mission of Yakima Valley Tourism is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

Washington State Wine (also known as the Washington State Wine Commission) represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, the commission provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines.

Yakima Valley Tourism Professional Recognized For Wine Tourism Efforts

WA State Wine Tourism Award 2014John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism, was presented the 2014 Tourism Concierge of the Year Award by the Washington State Wine Commission in recognition of his service to the wine industry and wine tourism.

Started in 2002 by the Washington Wine Commission, the Washington State Wine Awards acknowledges industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service. The Tourism Concierge Award recognizes an individual that represents the tourism or wine industry with the highest professional standards, serves as an example to peers and a mentor for new tourism industry professionals, advances the wine tourism industry as a whole and advocates for its causes.

“I am honored to have been nominated and selected,” Cooper stated. “I give credit to our staff at Yakima Valley Tourism and the wineries in the valley. They also deserve recognition for all they do to advance wine tourism.”

The mission of Yakima Valley Tourism is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel. Cooper has been with organization since 2007.

Author of “Sideways” and “Vertical” Novels to Speak in Yakima Washington

Rex Pickett_11142010_090-Edit Author and screenplay writer Rex Pickett will be the featured guest and presenter at BLEND, a  reception and wine event April 18th, 5:30 p.m. in the Yakima Convention Center  hosted by the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau.

Pickett has written many screenplays for both film and television. He wrote the novel Sideways, which was made into the famous Oscar-winning film of the same title by Alexander Payne. In 2011 he wrote and independently published his Sideways sequel Vertical. It won the prestigious Gold Medal for Fiction from the Independent Publishers Book Awards last year.

Rex has now has turned Sideways into a critically-acclaimed play. After a successful six month run in Santa Monica, “Sideways” the play will now go to the La Jolla Playhouse where it will be prepped for its Broadway run. Rex is currently the wine columnist for Town & Country Magazine and is writing a pilot for HBO titled The Nose. He also blogs for Huffington Post Books. Inklings Bookshop will have copies of Mr. Pickett’s books available for purchase  and autographs after his talk.

BLEND is open to the public and includes the opportunity to meet and hear Mr. Pickett, enjoy wine by Yakima Valley wineries plus sumptuous appetizers and more.  Cost is $25 per person. To reserve call 509-575-3010 or email laura@visityakima.com. Online tickets are available here (small transaction fee applies).

Participating wineries include Two Mountain Winery, Kana Winery, Milbrandt Vineyards, Gilbert Cellars, Airfield Estates, Sleeping Dog Wines, Treveri Cellars sparkling wine,  Knight Hill Winery, Kestrel Vintners & Cultura Wine.

Sponsors to date include the Holiday Inn and Oxford Inn and Suites of Yakima. Riedel stemware sponsored by Paul Berndt, Prudential Almon Realty








  • Airfield Estates Winery
  • Cultura Wines
  • Gilbert Cellars
  • Kana Winery
  • Kestrel Vintners
  • Knight Hill Winery
  • Milbrandt Vineyards
  • Sleeping Dog Wines
  • Treveri Cellars
  • Two Mountain Winery


Building Wine Tourism in Yakima Valley Washington

Wine tourism is an important part of the tourism brand for the Yakima Valley.  The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) recently implemented a series of projects to build wine tourism for the Valley and beyond. Here are a few examples:

  • The Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities VCBs took over managing the Washington Wine Country regional branding organization.This organization brands and markets the region from Yakima to Walla Walla, where more than 90% of Washington’s wine grapes are grown
  • The Yakima Valley VCB took the lead to get the ‘case of wine flies free’ on Alaska Airlines program (Taste and Tote) expanded from Walla Walla. Now Alaska customers can check a case of wine free from the Yakima, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla airports.
  • In partnership with those communities and dozens of businesses we promoted the Taste and Tote program through table tents, in-flight and consumer magazines, travel and lifestyle media plus social media channels. The media exposure alone reached nearly nine million readers and yielded more than $54,000 in media value.
  • We also redesigned and promoted our VCB wine tourism micro-website. It includes an interactive wine map, events, winery listings, suggested tasting routes, AVA information, wine country history and more. It and other sites of the VCB were made mobile ready for smart phones.
  • We launched Winedoggies.com, a new website for visitors traveling with their dogs.  Highlights include a ‘doggie bloggie’ hosted by a local dog, an interactive map of around 50 dog-friendly businesses, Twitter account plus a section where guests can add pictures and stories of their dogs enjoying our region. The Western Association of CVBs awarded the bureau a Best Idea Award for the site in the 2012.
  •  Our multi-channel marketing campaigns had a strong wine and culinary focus. In the spring we ran a radio campaign on Seattle radio stations. It reminded folks on the ‘wet side’ of the state that the sun does shine and that there are many reasons to visit our wine country. It was a finalist for the national Radio Mercury Awards. To hear the radio spot click http://budurl.com/FindSpring
  •  In November 2012 we launched Sip, Ski and Savor, a winter campaign that included wine related events and other activities. A focus of the campaign was a weekend getaway contest. Since the program launched, we’ve seen a 25% increase in web visitors, 1,500 requests for information, and 2,000 new Facebook fans.
  • We had a busy year working with the media to place features on the Valley. Many of these had a focus on wine related events and attractions. Stories were placed in National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Bend Bulletin, Wine Enthusiast, Seattle Magazine, Sip Northwest and many other outlets. Our efforts resulted in 95 travel media articles with an advertising value exceeding $1.56 million in value. For samples check our Yakima Valley in the News section of our website.
  • Underlying our marketing and advertising was a coordinated social media strategy across a variety of platforms.

The end result has been a greater awareness of the Yakima Valley and Washington Wine Country as a wine and culinary destination and more visitors.

Visitors Bureau Receives Wine Award

WineAwardsSeal_kThe Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau was recognized yesterday with a Grand Award by the Washington Wine Commission at it’s tenth annual Washington State Wine Awards ceremony in Seattle.  The event recognized industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service.

After a decade of honoring restaurants, the commission expanded its prestigious award program to celebrate additional industries and individuals whose work raises the profile of Washington State wine throughout the state and beyond.

Monday’s ceremony at McCaw Hall in Seattle showcased exemplary retailers, tourism professionals and distributors for the first time, along with restaurants. Winners were selected from more than 100 nominations and were chosen for their impressive menus, innovative educational programs and marketing efforts, and commitment to excellent service.

“The nominees and winners of the Washington State Wine Awards perform a vital role in shaping Washington State as both a favored home and destination for those who enjoy outstanding wines,” said Commission President Steve Warner.

Walter Clore Honorarium: Doug Charles (Anacortes)

Restaurant of the Year: Visconti’sof Wenatchee

Sommelier of the Year: Thomas Price of Metropolitan Grill(Seattle)

Best Event Featuring Washington Wine: Urbane(Seattle)

Independent Restaurant of the Year: Copperleaf Restaurant at the Cedarbrook Lodge (SeaTac)

Best Restaurant Group: Mackay Restaurant Group, operator of El Gaucho restaurants (Western Washington)

Tourism Champion of the Year: Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tourism Concierge of the Year: Anne Peavey, of Seattle’s Convention and Bureau Visitor

Hotel of the Year:  Hotel Vintage Park(Seattle)

Retailer of the Year: Metropolitan Market (Seattle, Kirkland)

Retailer Group of the Year: Yoke’s Fresh Markets (Eastern Washington)

Independent Retailer of the Year: Wine World and Spirits (Seattle)

Retail Steward of the Year: Doug King of Metropolitan Market

Distributor of the Year: Young’s Market Company(Western United States)

Distributor Salesperson of the Year: Kris Patten of Young’s Market Company (Seattle)

Washington Wine Tasting During The Harvest

The season has turned. Nights are cooler and as the sun rises, there’s a mist on the valley floor.  Gold and red trees dot the distant hills.  It’s harvest time in wine country.   If you plan right, fall is a great time to visit and immerse yourself in the wine making process.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy Washington Wine Country during the harvest:

  • Plan ahead: In wine country many visitors come during the harvest and crush. That requires extensive advance planning for lodging, dining and activities.  Here in the Yakima Valley the weekend traffic is manageable and there are great activities like the Prosser BalloonRally, the Wine Yakima Valley Catch the Crush event in October or the Thanksgiving in Wine Country event the weekend after Thanksgiving.
  • Check the website of the local tourist office: They’re a wealth of information, especially about harvest and wine events.  Also, regional and state wine associations are a good source to help you plan. In the Yakima Valley check the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail or Wine Yakima Valley for updates and information.
  • Learn before you go: Visit websites and videos about the regions and wine making process. Brush up on the art of tasting and basic wine terms. And if you use Twitter, try hashtags to follow the online conversations, like #WAwine.
  • Wine regions are agricultural regions: With a few exceptions, most vineyards and wineries are located on rural back roads. That’s part of their charm. During harvest though expect more traffic, especially farm equipment. In the Yakima Valley the wine grape harvest coincides with other fruit harvests. Be patient and obey the rules of the road.
  • Designate a driver: Basic rule for any season. Be sure to reward them for the duty though, like buying the lunch or a bottle for later on!
  • Pace Yourself: Plan on visiting up to five wineries a day. Your palette will go numb if you try to tackle too many wineries. Plus, during harvest you may want to linger to watch what’s happening.
  • Expect a different mood: It’s very different at wineries in the fall. There’s a tension and excitement as the winemakers and staff work to bring in the grapes. The hours are long and all hands are on deck. Ask questions about what’s going on, but be respectful if they have limited time to chat.
  • Prepare for the weather: And remember the wine! It may be cooler, but on sunny mild days the temperature inside a trunk or car can climb to a level not good for wine. Bring a cooler or two.
  • Get involved: Many wineries have programs where you can actually work the harvest. You wear your grubbies, get an assignment and work the fields harvesting or other tasks. It’s a great way to gain a greater appreciation of the hard work that goes into making wine plus learn directly from the winemakers.
  • Learn about dog friendly wineries: A great resource in Washington Wine Country is winedoggies.com
  • Fly to Washington Wine Country: Your Vacation to Washington Wine Country Just Got Easier – with the Taste and Tote Program. Check your first case of wine free from Yakima, Tri-Cities/Pasco or Walla Walla on Alaska Airlines. Enjoy waived rental car drop fees from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Show your Alaska Airlines boarding pass for waived tasting fees at participating wineries.  Extra Benefits for booking your Taste and Tote Flight between September 1-15! Airlines to Yakima, Pasco/Tri-cities, or Walla Walla and save 10%! It’s easy; just enter EC2451 at alaskaair.com in the discount code box. The discount will be applied automatically. Travel September 1, 2012 – November 15, 2012, book by September 15, 2012. Not valid for travel from Mexico, Hawaii, or Prudhoe Bay. Additional terms, conditions, and restrictions apply.

With the right planning and attitude, a visit to a wine region during the harvest and crush is an exceptional way to learn about fine wines. Enjoy!

Wine Country Taste and Tote Program Gets Media

On August 17th, Taste and Tote was launched, where visitors to Washington’s wine country can fly out on Alaska Airlines/Horizon with one properly packaged case of wine checked for free, plus have tasting fees waived at 130 wineries with a current boarding pass. Enterprise Rent-A-Car will also waive car drop-off fees for cars rented and returned within Washington wine country (Pasco/Tri Cities, Yakima or Walla Walla).

Since then there has been a lot of publicity on the program:

The Yakima Herald Republic ran a story on the program that was condensed and picked up by AP Wire Services. The AP version has been picked up by numerous outlets including the San Francisco Chronicle the Seattle PI  and Seattle Times online, The Olympian plus numerous TV and radio station websites across the USA.

The Yakima Herald Republic followed up with an editorial regarding the program on August 22nd.

USA Today reporter Ben Mutzabaugh blogged the Yakima Herald/AP story in his column Today in the Sky.

The Tri-City Herald ran a piece that was also picked up by the Tacoma News Tribune online.

Local TV and radio stations covered the news including KNDO TVKIMA TV,  KAPP TV and KIT Radio in Yakima.

And there have been a lot of posts on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ll update this column as more stories come along. In the meantime, tell your friends and family to come fly Alaska/Horizon Air to Yakima and enjoy the great wines of the Yakima Valley!

For details on the program visit www.tasteandtote.com

Washington Wine Country Promotion Announced

Yakima, WA- (August 17, 2012)The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention BureauTourism Walla Walla  and Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau announce the launch of a new collaborative effort with Alaska Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to promote Washington Wine Country. Launching September 2012, Washington Wine Country Taste and Tote will make it easier and more affordable to taste and travel the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla Valley wine regions.

As part of this new partnership, Alaska Airlines will expand its existing wine check-in program “Taste and Tote” to the Yakima and Pasco/Tri-Cities airports.  Originating in the Walla Walla Valley in late 2011, this program allows outbound passengers to check their first case of wine free on their return flight. In addition, Enterprise Rent-A-Car will waive car drop-off fees for visitors flying on Alaska Airlines into Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla regional airports who wish to fly out of one of the other two airports.

“The ‘Taste and Tote’ program has been a big success in Walla Walla and we feel our expansion to the Pasco and Yakima airports shows our dedication to being Washington Wine Country’s airline of choice,” said Clint Ostler, Alaska Airlines’ manager of retail advertising and sponsorships. “Washington State’s tourism and wine industries are so closely connected and we are committed to making it easier for travelers to visit our award-winning vineyards.”

Other features of the new program will allow travelers to sample wines at participating wineries and pay no tasting fees when they show a current Alaska Airlines boarding pass from one of the three airports.

“This is a great partnership for everyone involved, especially our visitors,” said John Cooper of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau. “This program gives travelers the opportunity to spend an extended vacation in Washington Wine Country and not pay extra during their stay, either in car rental, airline baggage or wine tasting fees.” The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau initiative the cooperative effort to expand the program beyond Walla Walla.

The majority of visitors to Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities region and Walla Walla Valley wineries come from the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas. Organizers hope that with these added incentives, visitors from these destinations and others served by Alaska Airlines will utilize air service for their trip to Washington Wine Country. Additional details on the Taste and Tote promotion are available at www.tasteandtote.com.

About Washington Wine Country

Founded in 2003, Washington Wine Country is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wine-related tourism by fostering collaborative regional partnerships throughout the wine growing region of Eastern Washington, where 98 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes are grown. For more information, visit www.winecountrywashington.org.

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve more than 90 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Seattle to Walla Walla Regional Airport twice daily ; to Yakima Air Terminal three times daily ; and to the Pasco/Tri-Cities Airport five times daily. Starting Aug. 27, the carrier will begin new daily service between Pasco/Tri-Cities and Portland, Ore..  Connections can be made beyond Alaska’s Seattle and Portland hubs to destinations in Alaska, the lower 48, Mexico and Canada. To purchase tickets, visit www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR.

About Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enterprise Holdings, through its regional subsidiaries, operates more than one million cars and trucks, the largest fleet of passenger vehicles in the world today. Enterprise Holdings is North America’s largest and most comprehensive service provider in the car rental industry, operating the Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands.

Visitors Bureau Hosts Annual Lunch and Presents Awards

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau held its Annual Lunch today at the Yakima Convention Center. Making one of his first speaking engagements in Washington was Steve Warner, the new Executive Director of  the Washington Wine Commission. Mr. Warner started work with the commission in March, previously working for Merck & Co., Inc., where he was Managing Director based in Bucharest, Romania. Prior to that, he held General Manager and marketing positions in global and regional marketing in the Asia Pacific region and led teams while living in Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; and several domestic markets. Mr. Warner holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from East Tennessee State University and a master’s of business administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University.

Born and raised in Washington State, including living in the Cle Elum and Roslyn areas of Central Washington,  Mr. Warner graduated from West Seattle High School. He served in the United States military’s Special Operations Command, first as a Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and then as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy.

At the event he discussed the commission’s new Strategic Plan, the future of Washington wine and its role in tourism.

In addition, the Visitors Bureau presented the Chairman’s Award to Al DeAtley and Janet Leduc of Washington Wine Country. The award recognizes outstanding contributions made by an organization or individual for generating economic vitality for the Yakima Valley.

Special recognition awards were presented to the Yakima County Commissioners for their support of new signing to the wineries and David McFadden of New Vision-Yakima County Development Association for coordinating the sign project with the wineries and Yakima County staff.

The mission of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

Economic Impact of Washington Wine Industry

Washington wines are well-known for their quality. Now a recent study confirms the industry is also a growing powerhouse for the state’s economy.

Commissioned by the Washington State Wine Commission and conducted by Stonebridge Research, the study shows Washington wine contributes $8.6 billion annually to the state economy and supports nearly 30,000 jobs.

The study analyzed wine related data by county. The Yakima Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) and sub AVAs like Red Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills are located in two counties (Yakima and Benton). These two counties combined have 42,193 acres of wine grapes and produce 51% of the wine in Washington. They also account for $1.45 billion in direct and indirect economic impact from the wine and related industries while supporting 8,341 jobs.

According to the report, the Washington wine industry produced 11.2 million cases of wine in 2010 and generated more than $237 million in annual tax revenues in Washington.  In addition, direct winery revenue topped $1 billion in 2010 and generated wages of nearly $1.2 billion within the state.

The study had a number of things of interest. At the time of the report there was 739 licensed wineries. Readers should be cautioned that a license does not necessarily mean they have a tasting room. Some of those wineries are not actively in production, others hold multiple licenses while some are producers who focus on wholesale to retail outlets.

As for tourism, wine is crucial to our industry, in particular here in Eastern Washington, ‘where the grapes are grown.’ The report estimates that there are 2.4 million visitors to Washington wineries, resulting in $1.05 billion in wine related tourism expenditures.

I did take exception to one broad comment that the researchers made:  “Many of Washington’s wine regions do not track visitor numbers and, unfortunately, like many U.S. wine producing regions, do not develop the targeted visitor promotion strategies which such information permits.”  It is difficult to count visitors, but tracking their numbers alone does not lead to targeted promotional strategies: gathering good data on your visitor does. Maybe the researchers meant ‘track’  in the sense of gathering data and research on wine visitors.  Here in the Yakima Valley, our organization, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau, conducted studies of our visitors in 2010 (the majority of which were at wine events and wineries). This data, along with other research and industry data, has helped us to craft very effective and targeted wine tourism marketing efforts.

Some interesting facts from the Washington Wine Commission report:

  • While the five largest producers represent more than 70% of wine production, the next 30 wineries account for about 20% to 25% of production, with several hundred very small producers delivering about 5% of the state’s total production.
  • Except for the largest producers, the majority of the wine produced in Washington is
    sold in the Pacific Northwest, with 35% or more sold within the state.
  • Not only are visitors to wineries and vineyards important sources of wine sales themselves but,
    perhaps most importantly, research has repeatedly found that such visits have major, sustaining
    impacts on both visiting consumers and trade. These visitors become the winery’s “brand
    ambassadors,” passionate advocates for their “discoveries.”
  • The wine consumer “demographic” is a very attractive consumer segment: affluent, well-educated and adventurous.

The bottom line is Washington wine has come a long way, is a powerhouse for our state’s economy and holds great potential for the future.

Here’s a link to the full report:

John Cooper