Maybe it’s my dry January resolution that has me thinking about wine non-stop this month. Maybe it’s the thought of a romantic Valentine’s Day just a few days away. Either way, wine is on my mind. What better place to indulge in a glass than Washington state—an unsuspected leader in amazing, American wines. I’m no expert, but I can suggest a few wines that top my current list of Washington wine favorites. Prices vary, but you’ll find a wine for every occasion.
Everyone knows California is thee place for wine in the United States, right? Perhaps traditional wine country is a bit further south, but the Pacific Northwest is a ripe platform for some wonderful wines. No doubt the latitude has something to do with it. Washington wine country is located on approximately the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The dry climate, sheltered by the Cascade mountain range, makes for a prime wine-growing region on the eastern side of the state.
The number of Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade, making it the second largest wine-producing state in the country. The most notable regions include: Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, and Yakima Valley—all of which can be found in the list below.
#1 14 Hands – Hot to Trot Red Blend (Approx. $12)
This is my absolute favorite red right now. There isn’t a single party I’ve shown up to this year that didn’t have a bottle of Hot to Trot on the counter. The secret is out, and almost everyone I know in Washington state agrees that this red is a true star when it comes to everyday red wines. And by everyday, I mean you can drink it on a Tuesday night for the helluva it or bring it to a party on the weekend as a hostess gift. It’s a delicious, smooth, red wine for every occasion. I’m dying to get down to Prosser to visit this winery and taste what other delectable libations this winery is bottling.
Region: Columbia Valley
#2 Novelty Hill – 2013 Viognier (Approx. $23)
I had no idea what a Viognier was, let alone how to pronounce it (vee-ohn-yay). It is “the most-planted white Rhone varietal in the United States” with a fruity aroma and bright taste. I tried it out of pure curiosity, and bought two bottles out of pure love. It was lovely on it’s own, but apparently pairs very well with spicy foods due to the strong aroma that can hold its own against a curry or hot pepper. I can’t wait to taste it in the warmer months when it will no doubt be even more refreshing with some fresh Puget Sound seafood.
Region: Columbia Valley
#3 Columbia Winery – Chardonnay (Approx. $15)
I’m a fan of the whole experience of Columbia Winery. It’s my favorite winery thus far in Woodinville, a famous wine city just 30 minutes from downtown Seatte that boasts almost 100 wineries. In the summer, you can sit outside on the lawn and enjoy a glass or four while listening to a live band. You can also choose to sit under the shaded, wrap-around porch and have a small bite. Whatever you choose, their crisp Chardonnay will satisfy. I’m not normally a Chardonnay drinker, but I really enjoy this one and don’t hesitate to use it for soaking or serving with mussels and clams.
Region: Columbia Valley
#4 Boudreaux Cellars – 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Approx. $100)
The Boudreaux Cellars Tasting Room is easy to overlook, but not to be missed, in downtown Leavenworth. The room shares a space with a charming little shop, so unless you know what to look for, you might miss this tasting room among the more obvious wineries and breweries in Leavenworth. However, this small tasting room had me tasting liquid gold when I was granted the opportunity to taste the 2008 Reserve. You may not have the dough to buy the bottle, but definitely buy a taste.
Region: Walla Walla
#5 Plain Cellars – 2012 Summer Solstice Red (Approx. $30)
I’ve already detailed my visit to Plain, WA, and have only good things to say about this small, family-owned operation. The husband-wife team that started this winery made the 2012 Summer Solstice Red for their daughter’s wedding, but bottled a little extra for visitors too. It’s a blend of Malbec, Cabernet, and Syrah that has been barrel-aged in French and Bulgarian oak. I found it delightful. My boyfriend loved the Cab Sauv, but I had to take a bottle of this red blend home. With two red blends on my list, I guess I’m starting to appreciate the complexity of a combination wine done right.
Region: Red Mountain and Yakima Valley
Let it be known that my long-standing, most-purchased wine has always been the Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon. Even before I moved to Washington state, this was always on my wine rack. Their wide distribution and mid-range price (Approx. $15) makes it a great choice no matter your location or occasion. I’ll also give a shout-out to the 2011 Artist Series Meritage (Approx. $65) as I distinctly remember loving this brightly-colored bottle for it’s smooth finish when I tasted it early last year. Seems like no Washington wine list would be complete without the mention of Washington’s most famous and visited (for its beautiful grounds) wineries.
This is in no way a definitive list of the top wines in Washington (though it could very well contain a few). I couldn’t claim to have sipped nearly enough wines to give my readers that list—yet. It is, however, a few favorites from a 20-something in search for good wine across the evergreen state. I can’t wait to continue exploring our rich wine regions and adding to the list. If you’ve got a recommendation of a winery or a specific bottle, please share in the comments below. What’s in your wine cellar?