Washington hardly seems like the place to find good quality wines, but that is simply not the case. With ideal soil, extensive sunlight, warm days and cool nights, the vineyards in Washington are thriving - and so are the wineries. Sharing the same latitude as the famous Burgundy and Bordeaux wine regions of France may have something to do with the perfect climate. The majority of Washington's wines grapes are grown east of the Cascade Mountain range.
L'Ecole No. 41
This winery actually started out in the basement of an old 1915 schoolhouse east of Walla Walla Washington, by bankers who were tired of being on the road. Their efforts have certainly payed off and the business is now run by their children.
Apogee Pepperbridge is a fine L'Ecole No. 41 offering, made from the Pepper Bridge Vineyard fruit, which is planted in the remnants of ice-age flood deposits. Bold and dark fruit flavors and a rich structure characterize this varietal. Nicely structured tannins and a long finish make it memorable. Excellent vintages available from 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Founded in 1977, Leonetti Cellars is Walla Walla Valley's oldest winery. Producing world-class red wines, Leonetti Cellars specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and a Reserve blend. Gary Figgin's proprietor, is completely self-educated in the art of wine making, and his careful attention to detail has produced intensely flavored wines with an exceptional reputation.
Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps the specialty of Leonetti Cellar. And the 2002 vintage is remarkable. With a beautiful deep garnet color, this wine has a complex nose of ripe black fruits, cedar, cigar, coffee and chocolate. Lovely ripe tannins and a long finish, complimented by oak notes make this a delicious choice. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Carmenere grapes offer many layers and depth to this dry red. Other remarkable vintages include 2001 and 2000.
Woodward Canyon has remained a small, intimate Winery with a strong preference for quality over quantity in wine making. Rick Small established Woodward Canyon Winery in 1981 and has consistently produced premium, award-winning cabernet sauvignons and merlots, along with barrel-fermented chardonnays.
The The Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, produced by Woodward Canyon is altogether a remarkable grouping of wines. All of the grapes are harvested by hand, selected and sorting prior to crushing. Woodward Canyon only uses perfect clusters for this variety. The cabernet is fermented in small stainless steel tanks, and aged in new French chateau barrels. From the Artist series, you can expect a beautiful nose of spicy oak integrated with ripe black cherry fruit. Complex with layers of flavor, this series generally includes a mocha finish, long and lush. Good backbone and firm tannins mark this as an excellent variety. Vintages from 1997, 1999 and 2000 are quite excellent.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Chateau Ste. Michelle is located in Eastern Washington, near Seattle. The state's oldest and most acclaimed winery combines Old World wine making traditions with New World innovations. Bob Bertheau leads the two wine making operations, one focusing exclusively on the reds, located at the Canoe Ridge Estate Winery. The other operation is the Woodinville Winery northeast of Seattle, and its specialty is on the whites. Named "winery of the year" ten times, this winery certainly has quality down to an art.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular variety and Chateau Ste Michelle has scored big with this one. The 1995 Cold Creek Cabernet was listed as one of the top 100 wines of the year. The 1996 vintage of Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep black-ruby wine with a intensity to its moderately full bodied palate. Also from the Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet's is the 1995 Horse Heaven Cabernet Sauvignon which has a bright purplish red hue. Moderately tannic with vanilla and black cherry, this one is intense with a dry finish.
Andrew Will Winery
Started in 1989, this winery is a love affair for owners Chris and Annie Camarda. Initially, everything at Andrew Will was done by hand - including shoveling the grapes into crushers - labeling and even delivering the wine. Today the winery has grown to 36 acres of grapes, quite a bit larger than its original 900 square feet! Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Frac and Sangiovese are produced with Wine maker Chris's belief that blends of varieties make the most complex and attractive wines.
Vintage 2002, Klipsun Merlot, is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vintage 1998 Klipsun has the most structure of the 1998 offerings from Andrew Will. With a powerful, and deep fruit profile of black currant, coffee and cassis flavors, aging will enhance this wine. Vintage 2000 is also a fine offering.