“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Washington’s wine industry is huge, second in the nation behind California. Most of what you want to know about Washington state wines can be found at sites like this.
The wine industry in Washington is credited to a few “early” pioneers, primarily the Figgins family (Leonetti wine) and Woodward Canyon. The best of the Washington wine can hold its own with any wine in the world (Quilceda Creek in Snohomish County has received perfect scores from Robert Parker), but come at a premium price (although still a bargain compared to the top California wines (where prices have been driven up by the nouveau riche tech crowd) and the French wines (driven up in price by the Chinese)).
Washington also has a very large “affordable” wine industry, led by Ascentia, a wine conglomerate which includes Columbia Winery, and Ste. Michelle winery. The majority of the wineries are boutique wineries offering medium-priced wines ($30-$40 per bottle) although I would guess by volume the low-end is by far the largest.
For the most part, the grapes (particularly the red varietals) are grown in the eastern part of the state. The soil there is rocky with good drainage and plenty of low, rolling hills. During the summer the temperatures in the eastern part of the state (east of the Cascades) can get over 100 degrees, and in the winter it regularly gets below freezing. The growers have to take extra precautions in the winter to protect their plants. During the growing season the biggest issues is when they get rain and how much.
Although many areas in the state are now investing in wine tourism, the two main areas are Walla Walla in the southeast part of the state and Woodinville, outside of Seattle. For the latter, grapes are brought in from the eastern side of the Cascades during the fall “crush” season. In western Washington, workers work Tuesday through Sunday during the crush, because the predominately Hispanic workforce picking the grapes tends to be Catholic so they don’t work Sundays. As the grapes are trucked over the Cascades in the cool of the night, there are no grapes on Mondays as there would be no picking on Sundays.
As far as recommendations, it depends on the price range. For very affordable but good wines I would recommend Columbia Crest (regularly picked as a best buy by Wine Spectator), Columbia, and Ste. Michelle. For higher priced wines, I would recommend Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole, or DeLille.
Cap tip to one of my wine knowledgeable sibs for this piece. I wanted to place in in a place where I could find it again and share it with some friends who really know their wines.