Washington holds the number two spot, as the nation’s second largest wine producing state, with over 650 wineries and 32,000 acres of vines culminating in 20 million gallons of wine per year. With generous grape-growing geography, fairly predictable climates (at least east of the Cascades) and plenty of sunshine (up to 17 hours per day), Washington state is positioned to continue to be a key market player on the international wine scene for years to come. Below you can find some stellar examples of Washington wines, all of which are well-distributed and should be easy to access in most markets.
Merlot Rockets Washington onto the Wine SceneMerlot takes full credit for initially putting Washington into the regional wine spotlight, but varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay have since claimed portions of the spotlight for themselves and are now working collectively to focus consumer attention on Washington wine as an ever-rising star.
Why Washington Wines?Washington wines enjoy steady growth and a healthy reputation for quality, varietal-accuracy and precise, fruit-driven wines. The white wines tend to be highly aromatic and full of fresh, varietal personality – displaying pure fruit and optimal levels of acidity on the palate. Washington’s red wines are often characterized by clean, vibrant expressions of fruit with tannins that typically yield to the fruit foundations without forsaking the wine’s structure and overall balance. With Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc being grown at record numbers, there are plenty of opportunities for experimenting with the famed Bordeaux blends in Washington. What you’ll frequently find is skillfully, blended Bordeaux styles at honest prices.
Hogue Cellar’s Director of Winemaking, Co Dinn, believes that Washington wines are unique because the majority of the vintner's have a deep respect for the region's fruit and avoid overmanipulation of the wines. This is certainly the case with the 2006 Hogue Cellar’s Genesis Syrah which features the inviting aromas of cherry laced with mint and clove. On the palate, bing cherry makes its second debut, this time accompanied by ripe raspberry fruit and an earthy undercurrent, finishing with an exotic mix of vanilla and cinnamon. This is a well-planned Syrah, with malleable tannins, a full body and a rich, engaging palate presence. The finish is persistent, carrying both elegance and depth.
Washington’s largest producer, Chateau Ste. Michelle, has partnered with Germany’s Dr. Loosen (from the famed Mosel wine growing region) to reveal Riesling in all of its glory. “Eroica” is the result. A fascinating wine from a dynamite vintage, this is a delicious off-dry Riesling born of a partnership between two of the wine world's most prominent Riesling estates. Guaranteed to be a palate pleaser from start to finish, the Eroica Riesling brings beautiful balance, unmatched elegance and food-friendly acidity to every sip.
If Riesling is on your wine radar, then carry on with Pacific Rim’s 2007 Wallula Vineyard Riesling - another shining example of what this varietal can bring to the table. Produced by self-proclaimed “Riesling zealots,” the grapes that go into this Washington Riesling come from a vineyard located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Plenty of stone fruit and apple nuances fill the palate from this ultra dry Riesling, with a dash of minerality and a good dose of mouthwatering acidity to boot. Delish!
For a well-developed Washington Chardonnay consider the 2007 L’Ecole No. 41, from Washington's esteemed Columbia Valley. This bright, sophisticated white wine screams "White Burgundy" and backs it up with complex minerality and earth-driven flavor sensations, along with subtle citrus and ripe pear on the palate. A delight from lively, persuasive start to persistent finish.
Another Chardonnay worth seeking out is the 2007 Mercer Chardonnay. It is the savory result of a collaborative partnership between Washington's Mercer and Hogue families. This Chardonnay brings ample apple and ripe pear in both aroma and again on the palate, along with a splash of melon. There is a distinct "Old World" presence in this particular wine - the minerality, complexity and richness of French oak all provide compelling Old World characteristics to this delicious, full-bodied white wine find. Certainly try this Mercer Chardonnay with seafood or chicken topped with a creamy, butter-based sauce. If you are looking for a tasty cheese pairing, then opt for baked Brie or a French Camembert.
Gordon Brothers makes a fine Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2006 Gordon Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon offers a delicious, jammy, fruit forward red wine experience. The tannins are soft, supple and well-placed. The fruit is ripe, juicy and centers around dark cherry and blackberry all wrapped up in a vanilla finish. This Cabernet Sauvignon will pair nicely with grilled bounty, veggie or meat kabobs and dark-chocolate based desserts.
The 2007 Covey Run Gewurztraminer is a refreshing, spicy white wine with plenty of delicious fruit to jazz up many a meal. This off-dry Gewurztraminer enjoys high-powered honeysuckle aromas, with delicious citrus fruit and a good splash of spice. A perfect pairing would include sushi, Thai food and Asian fare with a spicy kick. There is enough sweet in this wine to cut the heat of red pepper spice.
Cherry and cocoa dominate this quintessential Merlot. Super supple tannins do their part to keep the wine inline and able to handle the juicy fruit. Expect a full finish and impressive overall balance. Another fantastic value-priced wine from Washington State.