With the holidays fast approaching, it's time for me to think a little about making sure the wine cellar holds a bottle or two for when company comes calling. Personally, I don't drink that much wine myself. I would love to have a glass with dinner every evening, but the problem I have is that it's just me drinking the wine, and before I can finish a bottle it starts to turn on me. When I do drink wine, this year I have been treating myself to the wines of Washington State. I decided that if I wanted to learn more about wine, I should start with a region, and become familiar with what I like and what I don't like. Let me tell you, not enough people are talking about Washington State wine.
The first time I went shopping for Washington wines, I encountered some confusion on the part of the staff at the store. Why did I want just Washington State wines? These ones from (fill in the blank) are perfectly delightful...followed by a quick dismissal because I was stubborn. I wanted Washington State wine, and clearly, I had no idea what I was doing. I forged ahead, and was a little surprised to find that one of my favorite wines already was actually from Washington State. This was going to be a good experiment. Disclaimer: I am far from a wine expert, what is going to follow here is completely my opinion, so take it as you will.
My favorite wines fluctuate, I go back and forth between whites and reds, I really like them all, and to nail down a favorite...well, I'd just as soon choose a favorite child, you know? Lately, my favorite has been Riesling. Riesling is a delightful, crisp white wine, and if it's done poorly, you know. But when it's done well...it's like a song in a glass. The winery who makes what is hands-down the best Riesling for me is made by Chateau St. Michelle, the oldest winery in Washington State, actually. Their Rieslings are perfection and are perfect any time of year.
A close second for me, also from Chateau St. Michelle is their Gewurztraminer, although in all fairness, the Gewurztraminer is bottled under the Columbia Valley label. The Gewurztraminer is a German style white wine that packs some spice to it. If you want to try it at it's best, try it with your Thanksgiving turkey- it's the perfect pairing for the turkey dinner and all the trimmings. I know that's what we'll be having this year. If you've never had a Gewurztraminer, you're missing out- find the nearest wine shop and pick up a bottle from Columbia Valley- trust me, it's a good one.
Another wine label from Washington State who makes exceptional wine is the Columbia Crest winery. I enjoy Columbia Crest for their red varietals specifically. They do them very well, and I confess another difficulty in choosing a favorite. I think it would be a tie, specifically for their 2004 Reserve Syrah and their 2003 Reserve Merlot- although now that I'm thinking about this, the 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvingon is not bad either, just not my favorite. All of their red wines that I've had are smooth and delicious. But don't ignore Columbia Crest white's either- their Chardonnay clearly stands on it's own two feet.
And finally today, an honorable mention to the Andrew Will Winery. Their wines are difficult for me to find around here, but I did find myself a bottle of their Champoux- I'm not sure of the reserve, and it was a great wine. Full of flavor and nuance, and a complexity that I don't think I've really experienced before. If you can find Andrew Will wines near you, it would be well worth checking out.
There are many other wines available from Washington State. In fact, I believe the last count is somewhere over 500 wineries, but one thing is very clear. Those Washingtonians know their wine, and the grapes grown their are wonderful. I am clearly far from finished when it comes to exploring Washington State wines, but so far, I am completely impressed and can recommend them without reservations.