Washington Wines


By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

Let’s start the new year resolved to learn more about the world of wine, and to keep it fun. Learning about wines, like sipping them, is best done a little at a time — but consistently. With this 332nd week of wine mini lessons, we continue down the path of finding good wines at good prices.vA little learning can go a long way.

Happy New Year!


Columbia Crest ‘Two Vine’ Riesling

Looking at a map of California recently, my eye wandered up and down the coast, bringing back memories of some of the world’s most beautiful coastline. Following the coast farther, it occurred to me that the scenery doesn’t stop at the state line and neither do wine regions.

From Chile to Baja to British Columbia, much of the western coast of both North and South America is lined with good wines. And the broad diversity of climates and soil types means that wines from nearly every grape are grown in a variety of styles.

Merlot and sauvignon blanc do particularly well in Chile, pinot noir is great around Santa Barbara and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and chardonnay just about everywhere, but what about Riesling?

Great Riesling has long been a favorite of mine. And during a quarter century of teaching wine classes, I saw many people try their first one. Seeing those eyebrows raised in surprised pleasure was something I really looked forward to.

A good Riesling is unoaked, or mostly so, and refreshingly tart, tasting a lot like apples. That crisp acidity can make an off-dry wine taste drier, and that’s the way Riesling shows best. Almost everybody likes it, and it’s great with lighter dishes, especially seafood, and mild cheeses like Harvarti or Monterey Jack.

We don’t see Rieslings around nearly so much as, say, chardonnay. And that’s because it’s not as easy to grow successfully. Only a handful of places around the world are really suited to it. Washington State is one.

The eastern, inland side of the state, across the Cascade Mountains from the Pacific, is one of the best places for Riesling that I know. It’s what first made Chateau Ste. Michelle famous many years ago (after that it was merlot, also suited to cooler weather).

The mountains block the ocean rains, so it’s pretty much a desert, with a few rivers cutting across. Sunny days, chilly nights, water when the vines need it (so long as you plant your vineyard near a river). That’s the combination that makes those crisp, appley Washington Rieslings so good.

A good one at a good price is Columbia Crest’s “Two Vine” Riesling. Owned by Ch. Ste. Michelle, retailing at less than $15, it’s a great way to try a wine that has almost universal appeal.

Categories: Legacy Archive