No, this isn’t about wine in a box – that’s a subject for another time. I’m thinking here of expanding our geographic horizons and moving a bit outside the areas we all know and love. For many American wine lovers that means California for Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot and Oregon for Pinot Noir. But, look at a map – head a bit further north and you’re in Washington State, where a lot of great wines are being produced to less fanfare, and often for a lower price, than wines from the two neighboring states. In fact, Washington is the second largest wine producer in the US (after California of course).
The new issue of the British wine journal Decanter calls some worthy attention to the great wines being produced in Washington State. Writer Stephen Brook notes that Washington wines often feature the fruit and wine lovers crave without the sometimes overpowering oak that affects wines from other West Coast regions. There is an elegance and balance to the best wines from Washington State that makes them great partners with meals, but also excellent to drink on their own.
I was intrigued to see that in Stephen Brook’s ranking of his 20 favorite wines from Washington State, his top two whites and his top red were all from one producer – Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. All three of the wines have won medals at our Best in Glass Wine Challenge. The red, a terrific blend called Col Solare took a gold medal this year and was featured on the by-the-glass list at several restaurants (it’s still available at Chill Wine Lounge in Fort Lauderdale if you want to try it). Brooks’ other two top picks were Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Chardonnay (lots of nice yellow and orange fruit flavors with enough acidity to keep it perfectly balanced) and the crisp and dry Ste. Michelle Riesliing from Columbia Valley.
Generalities are always dangerous, but I would venture that one of the appeals of many wines from Washington State is a certain lightness, not in color, but in weight. The reds often have a bit less alcohol than their California cousins and to me this makes them particularly appealing during South Florida summers when I want a Syrah or Merlot with dinner, but not a blockbuster more at home on a cool winter night.
To see Stephen Brook’s top 20 from Washington State, visit Decanter’s website here and to see our list of Best in Glass medal winners for 2013, just click here. And try some of the wines from Washington State – think of it as taking a road trip at the table. And let me know some of your favorites – I’m open to finding new wine adventures anytime!