Snohomish teens brewed idea

  • By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
  • Friday, February 4, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

When Chinese President Hu Jintao dined at the White House last month, two Washington wines were on the menu — one from Snohomish.

Poured with the main course was a 2005 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon. With dessert was a 2008 Poet’s Leap botrytis-affected riesling, from Walla Walla.

Quilceda Creek Vintners, of Snohomish, can add the White House State Dinner to its long list of accolades.

On the guest list at

the Jan. 19 dinner were Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, our former governor. Those Washington wines must have made them proud.

Still, would a drink containing alcohol be a smart choice as our state’s official beverage?

The question of what we sip — officially — is out of the bottle as lawmakers in Olympia decide whether a bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Bailey, an Oak Harbor Republican, makes headway this session.

Coffee, that’s what House Bill 1715 would designate as Washington’s official beverage. Bailey didn’t cook up the coffee idea because she’s dodging more substantial issues. “I’m truly excited about some of my bills that I hope will make a huge difference in accountability and transparency in our budgeting process,” she said Wednesday.

No, she and her co-sponsors can thank two Snohomish High School seniors, Sierra Warren and Lora Suryan, for bringing the proposal before the Legislature. The teens are in Snohomish High government teacher Tuck Gionet’s classes. On Jan. 20, Gionet took 140 students to Olympia, where they became part of the process.

“We used to go down and tour the Capitol, but that was not a lot of fun,” said Gionet, who began class projects that include proposing bills. “We’ve taught kids how to write legislation, to pick whatever they want to lobby for, and to try to get somebody to sponsor their bill,” he said.

Other students have proposed bills this year involving drunken driving punishments and fire safety. The coffee bill was also proposed by Snohomish students a couple of years ago, but didn’t advance.

Sierra Warren said Thursday she isn’t a coffee drinker, but her friend Lora is. “If the coffee industry in Washington is booming, it would give us more sales tax,” Warren said.

The teens looked at a list of other states’ beverages. Many states claimed milk, but no others list just coffee.

Some purveyors and experts on other beverages aren’t thrilled by the choice.

Andy Perdue is editor of the quarterly magazine Wine Press Northwest. “Absolutely zero percent of the coffee that is served in Washington is grown in Washington,” said Perdue, who lives in the Tri-Cities area. “We have a large agricultural base in our state, and a long, proud history of agriculture.”

He said 75 percent of the nation’s hops used in beer-making come from the Yakima area. Also, he said, the Washington wine industry could use a boost. “Only 30 percent of the wine sold in Washington is made in Washington,” Perdue said.

Yet Perdue believes apple juice is the best choice. “If wine is the official beverage of Washington, it would probably cause some offense,” he said.

“The interesting thing about their choice of coffee is that none of the raw ingredients come from our state,” said Bob Maphet, president of Mukilteo-based Diamond Knot Brewing Co.

Maphet wouldn’t have been surprised if wine had been chosen over microbrews. “Our industry is used to taking a back seat to the wine industry,” he said.

“There are probably more coffee drinkers than beer and wine drinkers in the state, and it’s not an alcohol product so it’s probably the politically correct beverage,” Maphet said.

“It’s kind of a fun discussion. It gets our minds off the economy for a minute,” said Jeff Ericson, who runs Camano Island Coffee Roasters. He feels lucky Washington has so many fine offerings that it’s hard to choose one. “I don’t care what the state drink is, to me it’s coffee,” Ericson said.

The Snohomish teacher is waiting to see if the bill gets a hearing in the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs.

“It’s a great lesson for the kids to see the politics, and to see the opposition,” Gionet said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

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