Four bottles of wine in a row

Washington State wines: everything you need to know

olives’s wine expert on the new wave of dynamic winemakers causing a stir in the Pacific Northwest

About Washington State wine

California is the USA’s best-known wine region, producing about 85% of the country’s output. Less well known is Washington State, in the Pacific Northwest bordering Canada – despite it being America’s second largest wine producer, making anything from exclusive and expensive gems to cheap plonk.

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The capital Seattle is the largest port on the Pacific Seaboard and a really exciting city, buzzing with hightech industries (Amazon and Microsoft have their HQs here), a vibrant music culture (the birthplace of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) and with a pioneering food and drink scene (Starbucks was founded here in 1971, kicking off the global coffee craze, and the original shop still stands on the edge of the famous Pike Place Market).

Wine is very much a part of this scene. Over recent years urban wineries have sprung up in the industrial outskirts of the city: hipster operations making artisan wine in converted warehouses and selling it to directly to Seattle’s residents.

The grapes for these wines mostly come from the vast Columbia Valley region, only a couple of hours’ drive eastwards over the Cascade Mountains but a world away from the cool, damp climate of coastal Seattle. Here summer temperatures reach into the 40s and rainfall is a desert-like 15cm or so a year, yet its fertile soils produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables, as well as grapes for wine, all irrigated from the mighty Columbia River.

In the 1980s Washington State had only a handful of wineries – now there are more than 900, and numbers continue to rise. Like California, they have more than their fair share of burly wines heavy on alcohol and oak, a style still popular with Americans but less so with Europeans. But, like Oregon, there are also wines with more elegance and freshness, particularly from the newer, younger producers, and it is these which are finding much appeal this side of the pond. Wine with old world finesse made with new world dynamism and energy – what’s not to love?

@KateHawkings


The best Washington State wines to try…

Wines of Substance CS, £15, Morrisons

Cabernet sauvignon from the legendary Charles Smith, rock’n’roller turned winemaker, this ripples with dark berry, spice and gentle oak muscles. This would be ace with our steak.

Wines of Substance CS Wine

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2017, £13.99, 31dover.com

An iconic wine whose fans adore its exotic fragrance and peachy fruit which cry out for anything with a little Asian spice. Try with our tomato, lemongrass and rice soup.

A long green tinted bottle of wine with a white label on the front

Hedges Family Estate CMS, £17, robersonwine.com

Named after its blend (cabernet sauvignon/merlot/syrah) and from one of the most prestigious estates in the region, this total treat of a wine would be fantastic with our Greek lamb-stuffed courgettes.

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Hedges Family Estate CMS Wine

Eight Thousand Lakes Sauvignon Blanc 2018, £9.99 or £7.99 in a mixed 6 deal, Majestic

A really nice change from New Zealand sauv blanc – zesty and refreshing by itself or with our creamy lemon and spinach ravioli.

A long bottle of white wine with a label on the front which depicts a serene lake with trees and mountains