WOODINVILLE, Wash. -- You could say that Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has started a war of wine words.

On Monday, while announcing funding for a new $5 million wine research center in Richland, she uncorked a story about a recent trade mission to Europe.

Someone asked me what about California wine, and I said they make jug wine. We make fine wine! Her comment drew cheers and laughter.

Washington is second to California in wineries, with more than 700, or double the number of five years ago.Columbia Winery Wine Educator Steven Petersen believes the governor has a good argument.

There are two hours more sunlight in (Washington) every day during the prime season than other parts of California, says Petersen, as he poured wine at the Woodinville tasting room Monday night. He says the affordability of acreage in Eastern Washington has helped to costs of quality wines low.

I would put up a $50 dollar bottle of Washington wine against a $50 bottle of California wine any day, says Petersen.

But Gregoire s comment has already prompted headlines in the Golden State. Gary Stemper, owner of Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles, CA told KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo, he found it hard to believe the Gregoire would say something like that.

Remember it was California wines that scored over French wines at the French Connection blind tasting, not Washington wines.

Christopher Taranto of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance told KBSY-TV, with his tongue-in-cheek firmly in cheek, Well, I wonder what that says about her exposure to wines of California that hasn't been encumbered by what is available through the great state of Washington's liquor control board?

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