Washington wine; location, climate, and terroir
There are many reasons why Washington State is home to some of the best wine regions and winemakers in the world. We have narrowed it down to our favorite top 10 things we love about Washington wine country.
1. Great road trip to try Walla Walla wines
Washington State has majestic, awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse urban influence, and some of the world’s most robust reds and silky-smooth white wines. As you head east from Seattle over the Cascade Mountains that hang dauntingly over the mighty Columbia River, you will encounter picturesque cliffs with a hint of vines. As you explore further east you will find yourself emersed in miles of vineyards and wineries covering the surrounding hilltops as they soak up the summer sun.
Located in the far southeastern part of the state, this is home to gorgeous panoramic views and an abundance of quality agricultural delights. Walla Walla means “many waters” and was voted ‘Best Wine Region’ in 2021-2022 by USA TODAY. The Walla Walla AVA is somewhat unique in that it stretches into Oregon and is a shared viticulture area. In addition to wine, the Walla Walla Valley is a farm-to-table food paradise. The valley produces crisp apples, succulent strawberries, sweet onions, delicious asparagus, and countless other types of fresh regional produce. To heighten your experience make sure to dine at a local restaurant and stop at a roadside fruit stand.
2. New westside growth in Woodinville wine
Approximately 30 minutes outside of Seattle is home to a revolution of wine, art, and beauty. The Vault at Maltby is found just a few miles outside the picturesque town of Woodinville. These customized warehouses are home to some of the best wine producers in the state, including Laterus Cellars and Two Vintners, who call the Vault home for wine production and tasting rooms. Within the city of Woodinville, you will find the largest concentration of wineries that could lead to a multi-day wine extravaganza, with over 100 wineries, including Warr-King and JM Cellars first tasting room and event space. While in Woodinville, spend some time at Wine Alley in Woodin Creek Village, a new destination for tasting rooms and restaurants.
3. Life on the 46th parallel
Washington sits on the 46th parallel, just north of the Rhône Valley, Bordeaux, and Italy’s Piedmont, which all lie on the 45th parallel. Washington’s location, climate, and terroir are perfect for growing grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Because of this, Washington produces wines of a similar, classic structure but with a riper, bolder fruit expression. Taste a Bordeaux Cab next to a Washington Cab, and you should easily be able to identify them.
4. Food-friendly wines
Many chefs and gourmands share a common phrase: things that “grow together, go together.” What they mean is things that grow in a specific area are eaten by the local animals and wildlife, so they should be consumed with one another. A delicious example of this is preparing a sweet French onion soup, followed by a Bourbon glazed tri-tip steak, accompanied by a full-bodied red wine from Washington such as a Syrah or Cabernet Franc. Or a Braai-style barbecue chicken with a charred smokiness from the open flame, sweet and spicy sauce with citrus, brown sugar, and chili powder that pairs perfectly with a crisp Grenache Blanc. Its medium acidity handles the spiciness and accentuates the sweetness of the dish.
5. Diversity in wines & winemakers
While the quality of wine in Washington State is incredible, the astonishing diversity of grapes grown around the state makes Washington unique from other AVAs around the world. The diverse topography of the landscape varies from hot, dry, high desert conditions to a cool, mountainous, maritime climate making it a prime wine-growing region. Washington’s oldest AVA, the Yakima Valley, and its sub AVAs (Candy Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain, Red Mountain) have astonishing diversity in growing world-class white and red grapes. Surprisingly, in the middle of all this heat, Chardonnay is most prominent in the Yakima Valley, in addition to Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Fortunately for the Washington wine industry, there is no shortage of diversity regarding viticulturists, winemakers, and the wines themselves. Côte Bonneville, Warr-King, Wautoma Springs, Frichette, and Falling Rain Cellars are a few of the crowning jewel women winemakers and owners found around the state. And if you feel the call to be more involved, check out the Alliance of Women in Washington Wine, an organization whose mission is to make the Washington wine industry a leader in equity and diversity.
6. Sunny days
Now, I’m sure most people think of overcast skies and rain throughout the Pacific Northwest. Still, Eastern Washington receives nearly 2 more hours of sunlight during the growing season than the Sunshine State of California. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to produce glucose, which they use as energy to grow and make that sweet, delicious fruit that we all love. Grapes are no exception; the more sunlight grapes receive during their growing season, the riper the grapes become, allowing them to reach their full flavor potential. As a result, the additional sunlight and cool nights in Washington result in well-structured and balanced wines.
7. Bold reds, bold value
When most people think of robust, bold, full-bodied red wines, they think of the high price tag. Often they are correct, but that’s not always the case with many red wines from Washington. They have an incredibly high value for the quality you are drinking — but they are simply more difficult to find outside of the Pacific Northwest. (Um, that’s why Rising Wines Collective’s got you covered!) So, next time you want to impress your dinner guests, buy a few reds from Washington, and keep the dinner party going all night!
8. Land of Fire & Ice
Washington has the perfect climate and terroir for growing grapes to produce wine, but that didn’t happen by accident. Or did it? The history of the Missoula Floods is commonly known throughout the Pacific Northwest for providing the area with its incredibly diverse natural landscape. During the last period of continental glaciation, ice blocked and dammed the Clarks Fork River in western Montana, forming the enormous glacial Lake Missoula. That dam broke on several occasions, causing catastrophic floods that followed the ancestral Columbia River and simultaneously deposited soils that lined the river bed onto the high-reaching hills and mountains surrounding the river and the valley. Those soft riverbed soils accompanied by the region’s climate make Washington an ideal region for wine-making.
9. Eat & drink local
Much of the state of Washington takes, at least in part, its urban identity, influence, and culture from its most populated city of Seattle. Situated on the Puget Sound, not far from the Pacific Ocean, Seattle has a bustling nightlife and an incredible food scene. The best thing about Seattle’s food and drink options is that you can eat farm-to-table and local without even trying.
With 90% of Washington’s 1,100 wineries being small production and family-owned winemakers producing approximately 5,000 cases per year, you won’t find these wines on retail shelves. As a result, these incredible Washington wines can be found in tasting rooms, local restaurants, and on our website.
10. Sustainable Washington
Respect for the land and all it provides us is at the heart of the Washington wine industry. Sustainable Washington is a new sustainability program that promotes a commitment to quality fruit, environmental stewardship, and building and supporting healthy communities. The science-based program and its participating vineyards are committed to sustainable viticultural practices and are subject to third-party audits to meet and maintain standards.
LIVE Certified Sustainable is a vital accreditation throughout the Pacific NW, focused on providing high-quality fruits while promoting responsible and sustainable farming with biodiversity on the farm, minimizing or eliminating synthetic chemicals and fertilizer, and providing worker protections with benefits and health and safety. These certifications and others like them ensure that the wine or produce you are consuming is of the highest quality and standards and is helping to provide a sustainable future.
The awesome thing about online wine shopping is you can travel around Washington state through each bottle. Happy exploring!
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