West Coast Wine

Washington wines are on the rise

Washington State gets my vote for the “region on the rise.” While it has established a reputation for good, affordable Chardonnays and Merlots from large estates such as Columbia Crest, the state also enjoys a rapidly growing group of small producers making concentrated but elegant and individualistic wines. Washington produces the nation’s finest Semillons and Rieslings, and many enologists feel that the state has the right combination of soil qualities and climate to soon produce the continent’s best Cabernets and Syrahs.

To generalize about its red wines, they tend to be fruit forward, but not jammy, with structured wild berry flavors and firm acidity. Right now, because many producers are still trying to get their name on the map, you can find great wines that are still affordable. That’s tough to do with California or Oregon wines.

O’Shea Scarborough Semillon
Klipsun Vineyard, 2008, $20
Aromas of beeswax and clover with flavors of baked apples, chamomile and lemon. Fantastic with simple salmon dishes, especially those with dill.

Hedges CMS
Columbia Valley, 2007, $15
Washington’s greatest red grapes—Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah—are deftly blended in this medium bodied, lithe wine. Flavors of dark fruit intermingle with hints of anise and fine tobacco. An everyday Cab for stroganoff and mushroomy things.

Seven Hills Malbec
Walla Walla, 2006, $22
Ripe blueberry flavors are given complexity from a sophisticated mineral edge and a beguiling tropical note. A big, juicy wine designed for beef and BBQ.

L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley, 2005, $30
Big, but silky fruit with pronounced notes of cocoa and cassis. Smooth finish with spice and earth accents. Save for five years or enjoy with roast lamb and rosemary.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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