Should Local Food Restaurants Serve Local Wine?

August 26, 2011

With local food restaurants becoming more and more popular, and menu descriptions getting longer and longer to detail the provenance of each ingredient, is it hypocritical for these dining establishments not to show the same attention to regional wine? Does it defeat or detract from the mission or ethos of a restaurant touting locality in their cuisine if the majority of the wines offered are shipped across oceans? Living in Washington State, a region awash in hundreds of wineries to choose from (many with highly regarded local, national, and international reputations), it's an issue that has come up with some regularity.

In an interview with Seattle Weekly, Madeline Dow, Marketing Director of the Washington Wine Commission, pulls no punches with her disdain of local food restaurants that don't show the same support for local wines. Conversely, she heaps effusive praise on ones that do show support of local wines from Washington, as reflected in a high percentage of offerings on their wine lists. (Which, of course, is her job and clearly she does it with enthusiasm.) My feeling is that if a privately owned business wants to offer hyper-local wines or import them from Siberia, that's their choice and customers can vote with their pocketbooks. And though there are thousands of wines made from a myriad of grapes in Washington, I think the global competition at the price range conducive to being featured by the glass is pretty compelling. It's also a little unfair, considering government subsidies, generations of land ownership, and other factors contributing to the low price of imports.

But the lingering feeling I have from this interview is that it would have been so much more productive to use the space that was spent negatively singling out a restaurant to point out all the positive developments with Washington wines, and all the success in many (if not most) restaurants in this state. It's a bright future, and it should be celebrated.

(Eater has a response from the chef/owner of the restaurant in question.)


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