World-class wines emerging
from Washington and Oregon
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
IN THE DISCUSSION of
wines made in the United
States, California has it all: It’s
the largest wine-producing state
(and all 50 states have at least
one bonded commercial winery), and wine lovers worldwide
recognize the Golden State as a
top producer of quality wines.
But if you limit your wine
explorations to California,
you’re missing out. In the
great Pacific Northwest,
you’ll find an abundance of
quality offerings from Washington and
Oregon. Since moving to Washington in
2005, I have become a huge fan and advocate
of the wines from this beautiful area.
The wines of Washington
Washington is the second-largest wine-producing state, behind California, with a
growing number of wineries that now tops
700 statewide. Its wine-growing appellations
consistently produce world-class wines.
Most vineyards lie east of the Cascade
Mountains, where arid plains provide unique
growing conditions for wine grapes. Washington features 11 American Viticultural
Areas (AVAs), each with distinctive microclimates, soils, elevations and orientations.
These dry areas rely on irrigation from the
greater Columbia River basin, and the vines
benefit from nearly 17 hours of sunlight during the peak growing season—as well as large
drops in temperature at night that produce
healthy acid levels in the fruit. The result: An
excellent balance of ripeness and acidity that
creates balanced flavors and aromas.
Top wine critics have given Washington
wines exceptional scores and accolades.
“Washington wines are
wonderfully crafted and have
some of the highest ratings for
the lowest price in the world,”
notes Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste.
Michelle Wine Estates, the
largest producer of Wash-
ington wines. “The wines are
complex, flavorful and can
stand up to many world-class
Red grape varietals domi-
nate in the state, which shares
latitudes with the world-class
Merlot flourishes in Washington, devel-
oping flavors of plum and dark berry fruit.
Merlot is bottled as a single varietal with lus-
cious, approachable fruit characteristics, or
blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften
the fruit and oak tannins.
Syrah has proven extremely versatile in
Washington. It ranges from concentrated
dark “jammy” fruit (think Australian Shiraz)
to a more reserved Northern Rhône style
with earthy pepper notes and hints of dried
meats and delicious blackberry flavors.
Oregon’s cool Willamette Valley is home
to some of the country’s finest Pinot Noir.
inant red grape variety grown in Oregon.
Preferring cooler climates, this wonderful
grape can be fickle and difficult to ripen. But
Willamette Valley producers have risen to the
occasion and excel with what are arguably the
finest Pinot Noirs in the country, featuring
complex flavors and beautiful acidity that
really captures the grape’s unique nuances.
Many of the wineries in Oregon are family
owned or small boutique operations producing exceptional wines. Their commitment to
Pinot Noir has produced a range of styles and
prices. The wines range from reasonably
priced, fruit-forward, lighter red berry wines
to complex, intense, fruit-flavored wines that
are elegant, age-worthy and expensive.
As I continue to taste the wines from the
great Northwest, I become an even bigger fan.
Chances are that you will too. Cheers! C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s wine,
beer and spirits program.
Featured at Costco
TO FIND which Costco warehouses carry
wine, go to Costco.com, click on “Costco
Connection Magazine,” then “Beer, Wine &
Spirits Locator.” You can also find notes on
Kirkland Signature™ wines under “Kirkland
Signature Wine Connection.”
The trail to Oregon
Oregon, with 16 AVAs, has about half as
many wineries as its neighbor to the north. In
contrast to the hot growing areas of eastern
Washington, most of Oregon’s vineyards are
in the cool western river valleys and therefore
nurture different grape varieties.
Many compare Oregon to the Burgundy
region of France. Both are positioned on the
same latitudes, experience cool, damp climates and concentrate on similar grape varieties. Oregon’s most famous wine-producing
area is the Willamette Valley.
The king here is Pinot Noir, the predom-
You’ll ;nd these ;ne Paci;c Northwest
wines at select Costco locations:
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, OR Item #260827 ;
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot
Horse Heaven Hills, WA Item #211400
Kestrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Yakima Valley, WA Item #269314
Nine Hats Syrah
Columbia Valley, WA Item #613186
Hedges Family Estate CMS Red
Columbia Valley, WA Item #91413
Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain
Red Mountain, WA Item #63412