Erik Neilson on February 8, 2017 0 Comments Washington State is known around the world for many different reasons. From the illustrious city of Seattle and all of its cultural contributions to the state’s rugged coastline, there are reasons upon reasons to both visit and move to Washington. One thing that Washington is becoming more and more known for with time is the state’s excellent wines. Many people think of California when American wine comes to mind, but Washington is quickly becoming a solid contender. Wine in Washington State has ballooned to become a huge industry, and for good reason. If you’re new to what the area has to offer, here’s a primer to give you a better idea of what you’ll be in store for should you decide to give these incredible wines a try. A Quick Rise to the Top Take a moment to look at production areas such as the Loire Valley or Tuscany, and one of the first things that most people learn is that these locations have rich histories of winemaking that date back centuries — not the case for Washington State. On the contrary, the first wine grapes planted in Washington showed up under 200 years ago in 1825. What’s special about Washington is the fact that the state has seen such a meteoric rise over the course of even just the past 20-30 years. Today, there are more than 900 wineries in the state, with approximately four new wineries becoming established every month. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given these stats that Washington State is actually the second largest wine producer in the U.S., right behind California at 220,000 tons over more than 53,000 acres. The economic impact of this is understandably huge at over five billion dollars and more than 16 million cases of wine sold in 2015. Clearly, Washington is growing as a major production state and is far more than just a simple trend. The Grapes of Washington State At first glance, it appears as if Washington State is truly a “jack of all trades” when it comes to grape varieties. Interested in Malbec, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc? No problem. What about whites like Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Semillon? They’re all here, and these are just a handful of the many grapes grown in Washington. Interestingly enough, however, they don’t count among the most popular grapes in the state — those would be Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These grapes dominate production in Washington and serve as the pride and joy of what the state has to offer to the wine world, and there’s a fair amount of balance between whites and reds, with just about equal production of each. The style of wine produced in Washington is interesting to note, as it is a unique intersection between Old World and New World techniques. In other words, the bold, fruity qualities of New World wine that California has become known for are altogether present in the vast majority of Washington wines, yet they’re balanced perfectly with Old World structure and acidity. Those who haven’t experienced this type of intersection in other wines tend to be quite surprised when trying their first Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, which is rich and fruity, yet lean enough to drink without overwhelming the palate. Another important thing to note is that Washington wines tend to rate very high in comparison to those produced in areas such as California and France. Of wines rated by Wine Spectator in the past five or so years, nearly 50% have scored 90 points or higher. Considering the fact that the average price point of Washington wine tends to be lower than most other popular production regions (especially in America), it’s quite clear that some of the best deals in the country are to be found within the state. Bottles to Try It’s no secret that finding the perfect introductory bottle of wine for any region can be a true challenge if you don’t know what you’re looking for. That being said, there are plenty of bottles that are known to be high in quality and consistent enough to recommend to those who are new to the state — here are just a few examples to help steer you in the right direction. Woodward Canyon Winery 2012 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon There are few wines that truly exemplify the state of Washington quite like the Woodward Canyon Winery 2012 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush, deep and complex, this wine contains universes within itself, showcasing dark fruit characteristics and subtle spice. The winemaker decided to forgo producing a 2010 version of this popular Cab, further showcasing the integrity that makes putting a bottle or two of this in the cellar more than worth your while. The 2012 vintage is especially of note. Kung Fu Girl Riesling Finding a high quality Riesling can be easier said than done, especially considering the fact that so many bottles are overly sweet and quite difficult to drink. If you’re looking to save money in the process, you’ll have an even more difficult time. All of this has changed thanks to Kung Fu Girl Riesling, one of the finest you’ll find stateside and at a price point of only $15. White peach and green apple combine with crushed stone fruit to create a joyful presence on the palate, and at this price, why not buy a case? Seven Hills Winery 2013 McClellan Estate Vineyard Malbec Malbec may not be one of the most popular grapes grown in Washington, but the Seven Hills Winery 2013 McClellan Estate Vineyard Malbec speaks worlds for what the state’s soil is capable of. With rich fruit and bright acidity, this $30 Malbec rivals those from anywhere else in the world. Now’s the time to get into Washington wines, and the above are just a few examples of quality bottles to try. Over time, you’ll discover exactly what makes this region so special, and if you have any interest in collecting wines, it’s time to start filling your cellar with the best that Washington has available!