Drinking in Washington State
With Washington Wine Month upon us, Beverage Director Amanda Reed explains what makes Washington special and why she dedicated 25 slots to the hometown hero on Heartwood’s wine list.
Amanda Reed: I know it comes as a surprise to a lot of people, but Washington is the second premium wine producer in the United States. Maybe it’s the notion that it rains here constantly (it doesn’t), but somehow wine lovers outside the state seem oblivious to the fact that this is an amazing place to grow grapes.
The state’s wildly diverse geographical terrain means there are grapes growing everywhere from the hilltops around Lake Chelan to the valley floor near the Yakima River, and even climbing steep cliff faces along the Columbia River Gorge. Of course, Washington’s primary grape growing regions are east of the Cascade Mountains, where long, hot, sunny days provide ample ripening time and cool nights stop over ripening and allow grapes to retain bright acidity. The state’s best grape growing regions see one hour more sunlight than California’s prime wine regions. All of this maybe fascinating information, but there’s probably only one thing that wine lovers actually need to know: Washington wine is delicious!
When it comes to white, a lot of Washington wine makers are producing bright, high-acid wines that can easily be paired with food. Riesling, a wine lover favorite, grows especially well here and has become the second most planted white variety in the state. Chardonnay, the most widely planted white, here and around the world, is often produced using generous oak treatment. This technique can negatively effect the wine’s pair-ability, however, many Washington wine makers are choosing to use minimum to no oak, allowing them to create chardonnay’s that are innately more food friendly. On our list, try the 2014 L’Ecole No.41 Chardonnay from Columbia Valley, along side our kale salad with Parmagiano, Castelveltrano olives, lemon and Jamon Serrano.
As for reds, while much of Washington’s reputation was initially built on Merlot, today the state thrives with red blends, Cabernet and Syrah. Recently, Washington wine makers have been pushing boundaries by experiment with lesser-known varieties such as Tempranillo, Grenache and Sangiovese. It is this kind of experimentation that is moving Washington wines forward. On our list, try 2011 W.T. Vintners Damavian Syrah from Les Collines Vinyards, Walla Walla along our Braised Oxtail with Beet Puree and Horseradish Cream.
If all of this is waxing a little poetic, maybe that’s because there’s a lot to love about Washington grapes. Given our downtown Seattle restaurant location it’s easy to honor local vintners, but more importantly, Washington wines are pairing exceptionally well with our food. Washington Rieslings, Viognier and Grenache Blanc are a perfect compliment to the raw section, while Washington reds offer both the fruit and muscle that our meat dishes demand.
As we head into Washington wine month, I plan to dedicate a fair amount of my tasting time to exploring—and rediscovering the vast world of Washington wine. What a great excuse to taste things I love and maybe discover my next favorite pairing.
In celebration of Washington Wine Month, we encourage you to taste a selection of our featured wines:
Cheateau St. Michelle, Riesling, Eroica, Columbia Valley, 2008
Buty, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, 2014
Memaloose, Cabernet Franc, Idiot’s Grace Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, 2013
Betz Grenache-Syrah, Besoleil, Columbia Valley 2014
Cadence, Red Blend, Tapteil, Red Mountain, 2003
Kiona, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, 2013
Avennia, Cabernet-Merlot, Columbia Valley, 2013