Washington State has many claims to fame. The coffee giant Starbucks had its start in Seattle, the Microsoft head office is located in Redmond, Amazon calls Washington home and the State is the largest producer of apples in the U.S.
No can argue that apples are one of life’s great pleasures – but the State also produces another of life’s great pleasures – and one that has its origins in the soil of the State – wine.
Wine from Washington State has a long and storied history. The first grapes were planted in Washington during the 1800s, however, it was not until commercial plantings really took off in the 1960s that the wine from the region began to come to the notice of wine lovers across the United States. In the last decade wine from Washington has begun really begun to fire up the imagination of both consumers and producers. The statistics show that 40% of the vines in the State have been planted in the last ten years. Washington is now the country’s second largest wine producing State (after California).
The wines from the State are known for their variety. Although Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the State is characterized by the sheer various types of wines that it produces. Merlot and Syrah play their part and there are also smaller batches of Malbec and Petit Verdot that are today making their mark. Many of these are produced in Eastern Washington where the flavorsome red grapes provide wines with rich fruit and berry flavors. Bordeaux style blends are today perhaps what the State is best known for producing.
However, this is not to say that there is not a robust production of white wines. Consumers can enjoy the ever-popular Chardonnay and Rieslings (Pinot Gris is also popular), as well as some more playful bottles of Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner.
The Columbia Valley is home to the vast majority of vineyards and producers in Washington. However, the vast swathe of land means that if there is a single characteristic that would mark the production of wine in Washington it is the huge variety of products. Microclimates and enormously variable soil conditions allow skilled cellarmasters to explore the potential of blends – all produced with grapes sourced from this one (albeit extensive) region.
Some of the smaller batches of blends have allowed Washington to stand toe to toes with the behemoth that is California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma. For instance, there is the Yakima Valley. This is one of the most productive of Washington’s wine producing areas. Wines coming from here range from rich and flavorful Bordeaux reds, while Riesling and Chardonnay also have their origins in the Yakima Valley.
The exception to the rule that Washington produces primarily red wines is the region of the Columbia River Gorge. this region is far wetter and cooler than is the norm for Washington – and a growing number of producers in the area specializing in white wines can be found plying there trade in Gewürztraminer, Gamay, Albariño and Barbera.
The conclusion is easy. Washington State is a wine producing region that excels in variety. Consumers who want to take the steps outside of world-famous Califonia wine producing regions will be well rewarded for their efforts – and can obtain some excellent value.