Yesterday marked the beginning of the 2013 edition of Regional Wine Week. This sixth annual event was started by DrinkLocalWine.com, a non-profit organization dedicated to "wines from lesser known areas — not because we don’t like California, Oregon or Washington wines, but they get plenty of coverage in the major wine magazines." Regional Wine Week is a chance for writers, bloggers or just regular consumers to share their thoughts and experiences on regional wine with the world. Accompanying Regional Wine Week this year is a photo contest. You can participate in the contest by sharing a picture, or three, on DLW's Facebook page. It can be a photo from a visit to one of your favorite local wineries or a bottle of regional wine you recently enjoyed with a good meal. Just take a picture, describe it in less than 100 words, and post it to their Facebook wall for all of their friends to see, like, share, and comment on. Include the hash-tag #DrinkLocalWine with each entry so everyone can easily find your post.
I'd also ask you to do two things for Regional Wine Week. First, share a bottle of wine from one of your favorite local wineries with someone that might not be familiar with it, or even familiar with that region. Recommendations from friends can be very powerful. It doesn't take a positive critical review from Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator to make a wine worth drinking. In fact, those reviews might be harder to come by for regional wineries as Wine Spectator recently changed its policy on sample submissions and will no longer accept wines without prior approval from the tasting department. This means wines that aren't widely available across the country (i.e., small, family-owned regional wineries) won't as easily get in front of James Molesworth to be reviewed. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is another impediment for regional wineries to join the mainstream wine industry. If you have a local wine that you think your friends might enjoy, they'd probably take your recommendation over Molesworth's anyway.
My second request is to try a new wine from a local winery or from a region which you may have not yet tasted. There are always new wineries starting up, so finding a new winery might not be as difficult as you think. However, finding the wine might be. Today's no-name winery could be tomorrow's Screaming Eagle. Go to your local wine shop and ask for something local. If they don't carry any, suggest that should and tell them you'll be back to buy some when they do. Or better yet, look up wineries near you. You might be surprised to see a winery just down the street. Go in and visit them in person. Small wineries love to meet their local customers. Also, don't be afraid to try a unusual variety or blend. Many wineries not bordering the Pacific Ocean make different wines than you'd find in traditional wine country. If the wine is good, let them know by buying a few bottles. If the wine isn't so good, let them know as well. Be nice about it, but constructive criticism is the only way some wineries will be pushed to improve their product. Too often people do not let winemakers know when their wine isn't up to par. Also, never feel obligated to buy a bottle of wine that you don't like.
If enough people do these two little things (share a bottle with a friend and try a new wine or winery) it can make a real difference to regional wine as a whole. All 50 states have wineries and half of the country's wineries are located in a place other than California. These wineries just need a little encourage and support to make a name for themselves. And that is what Regional Wine Week is all about.