Some of Our Favorite Unique Wines
Did you know that the State of Washington is gaining popularity as part of “Wine Country”? Many people think of California as Wine Country, but Washington state has made numerous inroads to claiming that title as well. Washington offers many unique wines. The wines are unique due to the soil and climate of the region, as well as the unique production techniques designed to get the very best from these very special grapes. Read the story here.
Washington’s history of grape growing goes back about 200 years, but it is only over the past 40 years that the wine industry has kicked up the pace and become competitive. In the 1980s, the state only had about two dozen wineries, but today there are over 1,000, with at least four new wineries opening each month.
Due to the state’s favorable weather, rich soil, and environmental conditions, Washington state cultivates a wide range of grapes that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Many of these wineries are located in the Columbia Valley in the southeast corner of the state, traversing the Oregon border. Columbia Valley contains many important regions, including Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, Horse Heaven, and many others.
Columbia Valley is relatively new to unique world wines. First established in 1984, it has become the largest wine-producing region in the state. The area contains over 50,000 acres of vineyards (or about 99 percent of Washington’s wine country), making it even larger than NAPA Valley, which has 45,000 acres.
Today, Washington is the second largest producer of wines in the United States, making over 80 varieties from its 20 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). Out of the 80 wine varietals, there are five wines that make up nearly three-quarters of the region’s production, and they include Cabernet Sauvignon. Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Merlot.
While Cabernet Sauvignon and other red wines reign supreme, white wines are also fast catching on. In fact, Washington is the second largest producer of Riesling, only behind Germany.
The key reasons for the success of Washington wineries and their unique wines include a modern way of making wine, as evidenced by consumers who now prefer light, sweet, and low alcohol-containing wines compared to wines that have high levels of alcohol and tannins.
The 2016 Hahn Hill Vineyard Ice Wine Riesling is composed of grapes grown in the soil of Yakima Valley’s basalt bedrock. The Selenium Vineyard sits at an altitude of 1,200 feet above sea level and faces south. The frozen berries, harvested in December, are pressed together and the resulting concentration of juice is fermented with R2 yeasts while cold. Its taste is of lilac and lemon with biting acidity and high sugar level. Unique wines of this type pair well with bread and cheese.
The 2018 Hahn Hill Vineyard Chenin Blanc is, like the Ice Wine Riesling above, also composed of grapes fertilized in the basalt bedrock soil with wind-blown loess. The grapes are harvested from some of the oldest vines in Yakima Valley. The flavors in this Chenin Blanc choice are pear, grapefruit, and quince, with hints of melon and key lime. It is fermented with yeasts native to the area in stainless steel tanks, which helps preserve the crispness of its character. It is delightful with Mediterranean foods, fish, and cheeses.
The 2012 Selenium Vineyard Noble Wine comes from grapes grown in the Selenium Vineyard in Yakima Valley. The vines face south/southeast and have a thin soil base, which encourages them to dig deeply into the rich soil to find the nutrients they need. This choice among unique world wines is a very rare botrytized Riesling that is 100 percent true to its name. This wine can be aged 15 to 20 years if desired. It has a blended aroma of caramel, honey, and apricot while offering a taste of stone fruit with medium acidity and rich levels of sugar.
The 2018 Ramos Vineyard Gewurztraminer is perhaps the most awarded Gewurztraminer in North America. It has a stunningly intense aroma of rose petals, cloves, and lychee with a complexity of spices. Grapes from this magnificent choice among unique wines come from the celebrated vineyards of Columbia and Yakima Valleys in Washington state. It is crafted to present a unique sense of place. The fermentation process is quite complex and includes several steps and stages to get the wine just right. The resulting taste is akin to passion fruit, tangerine, and melon. It blends well with lemon chicken, spicy Indian dishes, and blue cheeses.
Any of these unique world wines would make a joyful celebration even more joyful.