wines we started crafting them,” Brau-
nel says. “They tend to have a little
bit more of that old world balance; we
like acid.”
Best of Both Worlds
But Washington is not just an attempt to
echo the elegance of Europe; there is opu-
lence to Washington fruit that draws in
new world wine lovers, as well.
Charles Smith is an infamous Walla
Walla winemaker whose name is practi-
cally synonymous with Washington red
wines. While his wines are visible to a
consumer segment that may not even re-
alize that they are produced in Washing-
ton, Smith is dedicated to the region for
its unique expressions, particularly from
Syrah. “What I like about Washington is
that there is a really long growing season,”
says Smith. “The wines have really firm
and full developed palate, and dark fruit
aspect which is my preference.”
Dark, ripe fruit alone wouldn’t be
enough, but with the acidity that Braunel
seeks, these wines reach consumers some-
where between the ripeness of Napa and
the structure of Bordeaux.
The land itself is key. The eastern
part of the state was created during the
Missoula floods some 13,000 years ago.
The series of floods created an incred-
ibly diverse geological landscape. Wash-
ington has categorized this diversity
through 13 American Viticultural Areas,
and more are sure to come. While the
AVAs can offer important information to
consumers, the wines are more easily ac-
cessed through the prevalence of varietal
labeling. Seeing “Syrah” and “Cabernet”
makes these wines easy competitors with
other New World regions, and offers
both on- and off-premise options to swap
in Washington.
Despite the focus on varietally labeled
wines and clearly marked blends, Braunel
notes: “It’s not that Washington is going
to be known for a specific varietal… [Ev-
eryone] has been trying to pin a specific
varietal on our state. The state is the size
of several EU countries. Let’s embrace the
fact that Washington has the potential to
be known for a tremendous amount of va-
riety, and quality across that variety.”
Beyond a variety of flavor profiles
and a tendency toward value, perhaps
the crucial part of Washington is that it
offers an immediate connection to the
production of wine that California has
recently lacked. “We’re all a lot of small
producers here,” says Braunel. “We have
this tremendous drive and determina-
tion. The consumer is going to have the
chance to get to know Washington on a
personal level.”
And there you have it: a small, di-
verse community in a large, diverse region
with something for everyone. Washing-
ton State need not be feared for its dif-
ferences, it must be embraced. Smith puts
it plainly: “The winemakers are realizing
that they don’t have to fit into a box.”
TASTING
CORNER
BELOW: Upland Vineyards
RIGHT: Corey Braunel of Dusted Valley
Walla Walla winemaker
Charles Smith
WASHINGTON WINES BEST BETS
BORDEAUX WHITE
BLENDS
Fausse Piste
Buty
CHARDONNAY
Hedges HIP
Owen Roe
RIESLING
Chateau Ste.
Michelle
Eroica (Ste.
Michelle)
Kung Fu Girl
(Charles Smith)
Pacific Rim single-
vineyards
Sleight of Hand
CABERNET &
BORDEAUX BLENDS
Dunham Cellars
Leonetti Cellar
Andrew Will
MERLOT
Leonetti
Velvet Devil
(Charles Smith)
SYRAH & RHONE
BLENDS
Buty
Dusted Valley
Gramercy Cellars
Maison Bleue (also
Rhône whites)
Rotie Cellars
Syncline
MIXED RED BLEND
14 Hands
“Hot to Trot”
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