Long revered by in-the-know aficionados and critics alike, Washington wines are finally getting the acclaim they deserve with the wider public. In fact, Charles Smith, the 2014 Wine Enthusiast Winemaker of the Year, hails from Walla Walla, where he owns the largest independent winery in the state.
We invite you to ignore Washington no more! When shopping for Washington wines, you’ll find all your favorite varietals, but with a slightly different flavor profile than you’re used to. Don’t worry — our palate primer on Washington wines preps you for a perfect pour every time.
Washington Wines for Your Must-Sip List:
One of the most widely-planted varietals in the state, you’ll find Rieslings from Columbia Gorge to Walla Walla. Riesling flourishes here, and you’ll find efflorescent tones and tons of juicy peach backed by a brisk mineral quality.
Wine to Try: Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Washington Sauv Blancs hail primarily from the Columbia Valley AVA and are ideal with the fresh seafood dishes for which the state is known. Often described as fruit-forward with a bracing herbal quality and lively acidity, these wines are the epitome of food-friendly.
Wine to Try: Chateau Ste. Michelle
Always one of the top-two wines produced in the state, you’ll find Chardonnays from large regions like Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley as well as smaller AVAs like Horse Heaven Hills. Styles vary, but Washington Chardonnays are known for being delicate, snappy and reminiscent of apples. Oak is used very judiciously here, with the preference being to allow the varietal character to shine through.
Wine to Try: Wilder Chardonnay
Syrah is still the new kid on the block, and it’s getting invited to all the parties. The growing conditions in Eastern Washington’s AVAs like Red Mountain, Walla Walla and Wahluke Slope are ideal for growing Syrahs with distinct flavors blackberries, roasted coffee, tobacco and leather.
Wine to Try: Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah
Until the 1970s most Washington Merlot disappeared into blends. Since being set free, it’s evolved into one of Washington’s most unique varietal wines. Grown in nearly every region including Walla Walla where it’s the second-most popular, Washington Merlot is full-bodied and bursting with berry and cherry flavors backed by heaping helpings of spice.
Wine to Try: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot
Just like California, Cab is also king in Washington. It’s grown across the state, but is most at home in Eastern Washington AVAs like Yakima and Walla Walla. Great with food or on their own, Washington Cabs offer an experience of black currants, cherry, chocolate, herbs and hints of bell pepper. The wines age beautifully, and it’s recommended to lay down most Washington Cabs for some time before opening.
Wine to Try: 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon
Washington winemakers have a rich and varied palette of wines to work with, and the resulting blended wines are nothing short of magnificent. Whether you love Rhone blends, Bordeaux blends or proprietary blends crafted by winemaking rock stars, you’ll find them all in Washington State.
Wine to Try: 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend
Image Source: Washington State Wine Commission
Ready to score a Washington pour? Shop our Washington wine selection in store to discover a whole new world of wine.