Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pursuing the 1%

Let’s face it; much like wines of Oregon, the origins of Washington Wine can be predominantly traced to one specific region in the state. In Washington this area is identified as east of the Cascade Mountain range. In fact, eight of the State’s nine official American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) are located in this general area. These include the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain area, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills area, Wahluke Slope, and Rattlesnake Hills regions. Data as recent as 2006 suggests these eastern regions grow 99% of Washington’s wine grapes. The one western AVA you ask? The Puget Sound Region.

Why bore you with mind-numbing Washington Wine facts? I have a purpose!

Take a stroll down any wine aisle advertised as “Washington Wines”, and the number of varietals with “Columbia Valley”, and “Yakima Valley” roots can be overpowering. I’ll argue with no regrets, that wines from these regions are what placed Washington on the world wine map, and as such, a majority of the press and publications are well deserved. I, however, have a different mission.

Prior to Thanksgiving, and as early as Halloween, I searched all my usual hot spots for a wine which classified as an estate grown wine of Puget Sound, the 1 % of Washington Wine I’d like to think. At Safeway, no luck. At QFC, no luck. At the Purple CafĂ© and Wine Bar, no luck.

My bitter pursuit of the 1% taught me two things. First, my wine knowledge surpasses that of the local wine stewards at my local markets (yes, I’ve graduated from nearly snooty wino to snooty wino), and secondly, any consumption of such estate grown wines, will more than likely require a ferry ride across Puget Sound, where most seem to originate. Before I divulge into my most recent (non Puget Sound AVA) delectable treat, let me first give space to those wineries neither appreciated by my markets, nor their stewards.

Bainbridge Island Vineyards, Black Diamond Winery, Carpentery Creek Winery, Eagle Haven Winery, Glacier Peak Winery, Hoodsport Winery, Lopez Island Vineyards, Mt. Baker Winery, Perennial Vintners, San Juan Vineyards, Vashon Island Winery, & Whidbey Island Vineyards. In months to come, look for entries relating to varietals produced by these wineries. I’ll admit some reluctance in opting for these lesser known wineries, but look forward to the adventure that awaits.

On to a more soothing subject, I recently opted for a psychedelic red, pertaining to a more than funky mood I’d obtained while searching for the 1% representatives. You could say I was duped by clever marketing, highlighted by an extremely plain label with black writing stating “House Wine”. The price caught my eye at less than $15.00, however, the kicker was it’s noted combination of four of Washington’s five most prominent red varietals, notably, Cabernet Sauvignon 54%, Merlot 30%, Syrah 11%, Malbec 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. The winery, “The Magnificent Wine Company” states it is produced and bottled in Prosser, WA. Grapes are grown in the Columbia Valley.

The nose offered a smooth collection lavender and floral currents. As expected, the wine tasted predominantly of its Cab and Merlot distinction, yet the true winner in this “House Wine”, was the Syrah, offering a powerfully flavorful and full-bodied complement. There was no evidence of oak barreled scents, rather a velvety application of peppered enchantment.


  1. Hey, did you ever revisit this endevour? I would love to know what you found from Puget Sound wine!!!

  2. Hi Jay - thanks for the comment! Due to [positive] life circumstances, our Washington Correspondent hasn't had time to devote to the blog so we've not been up to the puget sound. We'd like to explore that area more in depth though! Any suggestions?

  3. I'll be turning the Puget Sound on it's head in the next few months. I'll be looking at both wineries that make their home here, (I live in Magnolia, so I'm right on the Sound), as well as wines actually grown here, with a special emphasis on the Pinot Noir that's coming out of the Puget Sound AVA.