“Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used,” Shakespeare, Othello II, iii, 35 Washington (not D.C.) is considered one of the top producers of wine in this country and the home of many of our most stunning wines. Almost all of the vineyards are in the dry eastern part of the […]

“Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used,” Shakespeare, Othello II, iii, 35


Washington (not D.C.) is considered one of the top producers of wine in this country and the home of many of our most stunning wines. Almost all of the vineyards are in the dry eastern part of the state, separated by the Cascade Mountains from the wet west. Combined with blindingly abundant sunshine (some areas receive a joyous 17.9 hours per day), lower and more variable heat than Napa, and soil that is a combination of volcanic material, sandy loam and clean calcium carbonate, the area has the same winning formula for wineries as is present at the same latitude in Bordeaux, France.


The first wine grapes were planted by Italian and German immigrants in the 1860s and 1870s, and the area has grown steadily ever since. Today, there are 546 wineries, up from 145 in 2000, and a new one opens every 13 days. Within five years and with sufficient irrigation, the state’s annual wine production will best the production of Napa and Sonoma counties combined.


Now, on to a tasting of some of the state’s top wines. As has been the case in the past, I’ve rated these wines on my subjective “A”-“F” scale. These wines are available at most retailers in Milwaukee:


1. Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, $15.99: Light/medium body with a wonderfully light, flowery nose. Crisply tart with a touch of spritz (the French call it petillance). Long finish that dances on the palate with spicy notes of flowers and perfume. Grand! A

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2. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay, 2008, $11.99: Medium body with a medium-rich nose. Good, deep fruit with nice body. Long finish with softly acidic notes. B+


3. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, $13.99: Dark purple with medium-plus body and a tightly fruity nose. A fairly tight and young wine with some tannic notes. Clean, slightly peppery finish. B+


4. Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, 2006, $16.99: Deep purple color with heavy body. Spicy, deep and brooding nose. Deeply fruity taste with nicely spicy notes. Yells for steak or portabella mushrooms! A-


The winner by a length was the Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc 2008, a nice rocking chair wine. A close second was the beefy and bold Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah.

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