Washington Wine Month is upon us, and while of course the state’s wines get attention the other 11 months of the year, I figured I’d take this opportunity to shine a bit of light on a few places in Washington that I think deserve a bit more attention: growing regions, winemakers and more.
Columbia Gorge. You might be sick of hearing about it, because in certain circles the Columbia Gorge AVA is considered the most promising region in the Northwest. As our scorching summer raises concerns about both heat units and water availability, the relatively cool Gorge appears to be a safer bet. The higher elevation and intense wind also serve to keep grapes cool, and they allow for the bracing acidity present in many of the wines from Analemma, Memaloose, Syncline and others. Additionally, the Gorge is home to some of the oldest vines in the state, vines which can deliver wines of compelling complexity and intensity.
South Seattle. From the longer-tenured wineries like Cadence and Fall Line to the newcomers like Kerloo and, of course, Charles Smith’s new epic Jet City winery, there’s no doubt that South Seattle is becoming a worthwhile wine destination unto itself. In talking with Smith about his new space, he spoke to using Seattle as a source of inspiration for winemaking, that there was some way to fuse urban vitality with what is, in essence, agriculture.
Lesser-Known Lights of the Rhone. The last few years have seen increased interest in Rhone varietals, especially beyond Syrah. Grenache, made as a red, rosé and white, has proven that it can achieve world-class status here in the state, especially in the hands of wineries like Rotie and Idilico. Even more impressively, Mourvedre is gaining a die-hard following, and when you consider the wines from Gramercy Cellars and Mark Ryan. On the white side of things, Viogniers from àMaurice and El Corazon have changed my perception that Washington struggles with preserving acidity in certain white varietals.
Rose. Holy crap, have Washingtonians gone nuts for rosé, and wineries are paying attention. More winemakers than ever before are setting aside grapes specifically for rosé, and most encouraging, we’re seeing the emergence of perfectly drinkable roses that can compete price-wise with the delicious and cheap roses of Europe, not just the higher-end roses that dominated the market a few years ago.
Growth. Most of all, there is so much wine being made in the state: more wineries than ever before making more types of wine than ever before. It’s amazing to walk through the shelves at a local wine shop, or attend an event like Taste Washington—there’s simply so much wine. While there will always be room in my life for great wines from around the world, it’s quite a treat to have so much wine so close to home.