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Washington offers many fine wines

By Todd Ashline

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:10 a.m. HST, Sep 22, 2010



For the next few weeks, our Hana Hou menu of Chef Mavro's six most-requested recipes will include two wines from Washington state wine regions, a considerable feat since there are only eight wines on the menu. This is a testament to the quality of wine making and wines being produced in the state.

The history of Washington wine making dates back to the 1820s when the first vines were planted in the Fort Vancouver area. In Walla Walla, one of the state's premier regions, grape crops began in 1860. In the early 1900s, production grew at the base of the Cascade Mountains with mass irrigation of snow-cap runoff, showcasing fertile volcanic soil. Washington's wine industry continued to grow until prohibition hit in 1920, and it wasn't until the 1960s that it fully recovered.

Today, Washington ranks as the second-largest wine producer in the U.S. (California is first), with 32,000 acres of vines in 11 appellations, or regions: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain, and Lake Chelan. All are located in the southeast corner of the state with the exception of Puget Sound, which is west near Seattle.

Columbia Valley was established in 1984 and is the largest appellation, covering a third of Washington. Within the area's borders lie Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills and Snipes Mountain. The area comprises various unique meso and micro climates. Merlot is the most planted grape.

In Yakima Valley, home to 60 wineries, the most planted grape is chardonnay, followed by merlot, cabernet sauvignon, riesling and a growing number of syrah vines.

Cabernet sauvignon is the star in Walla Walla Valley, while merlot, chardonnay and syrah follow. The area also includes plantings of gewurztraminer, cabernet franc, sangiovese, grenache, malbec, petit verdot, riesling, tempranillo, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, viognier and semillion.

The lone region in the west is Puget Sound, with about 80 acres of wines planted and roughly 45 wineries. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are showing promise from this vast region.

Some Washington wines I have enjoyed recently:

» Dusted Valley Viognier from Yakima Valley 2008 featuring notes of white peach, honeycomb, and tropical notes (about $30)

» Di Stefano, Sogno Cabernet Franc from Columbia Valley 2005 with cherry, raspberry, herbs, spice, plum, and minerality ($30)

» Spring Valley Vineyards Nina Lee Syrah from Walla Walla Valley 2006, full and rich with spice, cranberry, blackberry, cassis, and tannins (about $60)

» Also, keep an eye out for other great producers such as Abeja, Andrew Will, K Vinters, Cayuse Vineyards, and DeLille Cellars

Todd Ashline is the sommelier/restaurant director at Chef Mavro. Contact him at 944-4714 or visit www.chefmavro.com.





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