BY KIMBERLY FISHER
Another year is upon us and there is no need to stop your journey into the world of wine. Embrace your strides in 2014 with exploration and dabbling with varietals you may not have considered before.
To start 2015, let’s take a deeper look into the wines of Washington State. There are 11 American Viticulture Areas in Washington State giving one many opportunities to try dynamite producers unique to their region. To the east of the Cascade Mountains, where most of the state’s wine is produced, rainfall is between 8-12 inches of rain a year. In addition to this desert environment, each AVA offers a unique sense of place to the wines that are grown there.
Columbia Valley: Covering 10.5 million acres with only 7,000 acres planted with vineyards. The region encompasses six smaller sub appellations and also extends southward into Oregon State. Colombia Valley Vineyards are capable of producing consistently high yields of high quality fruit, resulting in wines that are admired around the world. Wine Suggestion: Chateau Ste Michelle.
Yakima Valley: Within the larger Colombia Valley, this appellation runs east to west and temperatures are typically cooler than those in the rest of the Colombia Valley. The Syrah varietal prospers in this area. At the eastern end of the Valley is Red Mountain which recently received its own appellation.
Red Mountain: North of the Yakima River, offering southern exposure with mineral soils that encourage deep penetration of the root system and good airflow which is especially beneficial for Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines deliver rich, ripe fruit flavors, and enough acidity to keep the flavors fresh and firm without harsh tannins thus allowing better development and aging of the wines. Wine Suggestion: Col Solare.
Rattlesnake Hills: Concentrating on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot providing grapes of full varietal character. South facing slopes and higher elevation up to 3,000 feet combine to give full ripeness with balanced acidity.
Snipes Mountain: Distinguished by ancient rock pebbles in the soil with south facing slopes, the grape varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah deliver stellar wines.
Horse Heaven Hills: Elevation up to 1,800 feet mediates against damage from frost and allows intense character to be achieved in red and white varietals. Some of the state’s most highly acclaimed wines come from this area. Wine Suggestion: Columbia Crest H3 Wines.
Wahluke Slope: One of the warmest areas in Washington producing exceptional ripeness with full intensity of flavor. Red varieties dominate here, but don’t forget to try Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Wine Suggestion: Indian Wells Winery.
Lake Chelan: One of Washington’s newest appellation and is the most northerly, sitting at the eastern end of Lake Chelan where it meets the Colombia River. This region shows promise for cooler climate white grape varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay.
Walla Walla Valley: In the southeast corner of the state, with parts of its acreage extending into Oregon and its eastern edge rising into the Blue Mountains. The warmer valley floor has proven successful for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot while the cooler hillsides show promise for Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Wine Suggestion: Spring Valley Vineyards.
Columbia Gorge: Adjacent to the southeastern end of the Colombia Valley, it varies with dry and warm to moist and cool. The cooler areas make white varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer a delight.
Puget Sound: This is the only appellation west of the Cascade Mountains which contains 25 wineries that are primarily small producers.
If you aren’t able to make it to wine country in Washington, exploring the region’s wines from afar is worth the journey. You will find compelling wines with moderate price point’s, and an expression of place like no other region. Take a moment to investigate and examine the uniqueness of the state.
Kimberly Fisher is the Director of Fine Wine sales for Badger Liquor – Wine & Spirits