Washington State in the Pacific Northwest is somewhere between Napa Valley power and Bordeaux in terms of climate and acidity and tannin structure. This wine region provides a really great balance of power and elegance.
Washington is currently the second-largest premium wine producer in the United States responsible for about 5% of all production. There are about 55,000 acres under vine in Washington with 2/3 of those acres planted to red varieties. Every year Washington produces about 17.5 million cases of wine. There are over 900 wineries operating in this region.
Power of diversity
We can’t lose sight of one of the greatest strengths of Washington which is also one of the greatest challenges. It’s diversity. The state’s top seven reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese without a main, ‘signature’ grape.
Eastern Washington has a climate similar to several of the climates in southern France and in various parts of Spain. So it’s no surprise that grapes that shine there, shine in Washington too. This type of climate is perfect for Washington wines.
Washington’s Sangiovese is powerful with notes of dried fruits, sweet tobacco, and earth especially when grown in Yakima Valley.
The Cabernet Sauvignon in Washington is quite remarkable. The wine producers in the 70s and 80s put this region on the wine map did it by leaning heavily on Cab Sav.
In a region with this array of red grapes available to winemakers, it shouldn’t be surprise that there are some excellent red blends floating around out there.
Most of them are driven by Cab Sav and other Bordeaux reds. However, wine producers of Washington State can get creative at finding just the right grape to pair with the ‘big dawgs’. They’ve got lots of options at their disposal.