Your Easy Guide to Washington Wines

And it's only 572 pages.

Most Washington wineries are small and hold tastings on limited days, and so when I've made the rounds of tasting rooms, I've had to carefully plot my course by checking Web sites, printing out directions, and calling wineries to learn about their hours, always thinking that there had to be a lazier way. Now there is: Wine Trails of Washington by Steve Roberts. Roberts, a small-business health-benefits provider and self-professed wine novice, self-published this guide. After searching bookstore shelves for a decent guide to Washington wineries—one that simply detailed tasting-room hours and other basic information—he came up with the idea for Wine Trails. He bought a digital camera and some notebooks and set out on a series of road trips to gather information, visiting every single winery in the book. His 572-page guide, which came out in late 2007, lists only the Washington wineries that are open to the public for tastings. Each entry has detailed contact information, wine-tasting hours, and a little entry on the winery's history or specialty. The book is organized by route, such as "Wenatchee to Wilbur" and "Whidbey Island to Port Townsend." This is not a perfectly tailored book; pictures fall far short of photojournalism, and Roberts includes unusual details about mascots and winemaker résumés. But that's what makes it so special. Usefulness is the key of this book, and it took a man outside the wine industry to write and publish it all by himself. Any trade publisher would have slashed Roberts' full-page musings on every winery, leaving just the facts and none of the depth. As a wine professional, I was taken by Roberts' fair approach to the wineries. To him, every stop is a potential good time, and rightfully so. "I tried to avoid saying this wine is good or better than another, and to show the merits of all," says Roberts. No wine wonk could write a book like this without sneaking in a few opinions, or several hundred. When I talked to the author, he was quick to say—apologize, even—that he wrote Wine Trails for the lay drinker. He has nothing to be sorry for. Wine knowledge aside, Roberts managed to write a completely utilitarian wine book, and for that I salute him. I also appreciate anyone taking a plucky "knowing any better would have stopped me" approach to life. The custom publishing firm Seattle Publishing worked with the author on the book's graphic design and production. Wine Trails makes a fine case for self-publishing because the guide's ease of use trumps the importance of slick production. Because all the author's raw data is still in that database, second and third editions will be a snap. "There are already four new wineries in Woodinville since last summer," he marvels. You can find Wine Trails (which costs $19.95) at Elliott Bay Book Co., the downtown Barnes & Noble, select QFC stores, Capers in West Seattle and Fremont, Verve Wine Bar in Columbia City, and the Chateau Ste. Michelle tasting room. You can also buy the book directly from the author at Keep it in the car, next to your 100 Hikes books, and never be thirsty on the road again.

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