The Washington wine industry’s trophy case is is Merlot as it should be grown…it’s bright, less Washington is the second-
getting fuller with each passing year. The momen- structured and more delicate than Cabernet, but largest premium wine pro-
tum began with The Wine Enthusiast magazine’s just as complex.” ducer in the United States.
2001 awarding of the Wine Region of the Year honor Those high-profile accolades are noteworthy,
to Washington state, the first U.S. region to earn that to be sure. But I keep thinking back to the biggest
annual recognition. compliment I heard during my VinExpo trips. It
In blind tastings conducted in 2001 by the came from a small Champagne producer, among
Washington Wine Commission, wine journalists, the many who had no knowledge of Washington
sommeliers and experts across the country sampled wines before walking up to our booth but who
Cabernet Sauvignon–based wines from Washington, walked away new members of our fan club.
Napa Valley and Bordeaux. The surprise favorite was a “Il n’y a pas mieux que ça,” he told me, “it doesn’t
Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Washing- get any better than that,” referencing one of our red
ton’s Columbia Crest winery. At a retail price of just wine blends. On the last day of the exposition, when
$29, it beat out even the revered Château Mouton we were starting to pack up glasses and dismantle the
Rothschild, which goes for $145 (a nod to the value of booth, the same gentleman appeared again. This
many other Washington wines as well). time, he had a bottle of his Champagne in hand. He
One Washington vineyard—Klipsun—even had sought me out for a little trade. We both went
made it onto Wine & Spirits magazine’s 2002 list of home with more than just what was in each bottle: a
top 25 vineyards in the world. The magazine show- great Washington wine story to tell. C
Cynthia Nims ( www.cynthianims.
com) is the author of nine cookbooks, most recently Salmon,
published by West Winds Press.
A resident of Seattle, Cynthia has
had her fair share of fine wines
from Washington state.
COLUMBIA VALLEY Mountain, Walla Walla, Yakima grown here, including Cabernet
PUGET SOUND Valley and Horse Heaven Hills, Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah,
fall within the boundaries of Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese.
Yakima • Columbia Valley’s appellation. Horse Heaven Hills:
Many different grapes are grown The newest appellation in the
VALLEY here, notably Merlot, Syrah, state, established in August 2005,
HORSE HEAVEN HILLS
• Walla Walla Chardonnay, Cabernet features 6,000 acres of vineyards
Sauvignon and Riesling. growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley: Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet
Also established in 1984, this Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
VITICULTURAL REGIONS OF region counts about 1,200 acres Columbia Gorge: Lying in
of vines, with key production in the foothills of the Cascades,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot along the Columbia River, this
and Syrah. A small portion of appellation extends across the
this region extends across the river into Oregon. Grapes grown
border into Oregon. here include Chardonnay,
AS THE WASHINGTON wine- vineyards are east of the Cascade Yakima Valley: The oldest Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot
making arena grows and Mountains, where hot, dry, viticultural region in the state, Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet
changes, so does the designa- grape-friendly conditions are established in 1983, Yakima Valley Sauvignon and Sangiovese.
tion of the state’s distinct viti- quite a contrast to the cooler, is also the second largest, with Puget Sound: The only
cultural regions. In these damper western part of the state. 11,000 acres of vineyards. They appellation west of the Cascades,
microclimates, grapes have Columbia Valley: This is produce largely Chardonnay, this region hugs both sides of
attributes different from those the largest wine region in the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Puget Sound and has fewer than
grown in other regions. state, established in 1984 and Riesling and Syrah grapes. 100 acres of planted vineyards,
Most bottles of wine from extending north from the Red Mountain: including Pinot Noir and Pinot
Washington have a regional spec- Oregon border through the cen- Established in 2001, this small Gris. It is home to a few dozen
ification, called an appellation, ter of the state, with more than subset of the Yakima Valley is wineries, most of which pur-
which indicates where the 16,000 acres of vineyards. home to some 700 acres of chase their grapes from east of
grapes were harvested. Most Four other regions, Red grapes. Chiefly, red varieties are the Cascades.— CN