Wines from Washington State – the US’s second largest wine producer – can be hard to come by which is a shame, argues David Kermode aka Mr Vinosaurus. The climate, unique mix of soils and 70 different grape varieties, not forgetting the skill of the 1,000-odd winemakers, makes for an Aladdin’s cave for the wine aficionado. Fresh from a trip to the Evergreen State, Kermode selects the 10 best Washington wines that should be on your buying radar and, most importantly, where you can find them.
In Mr Vinosaurus’s Washington Top 10 there are 3, count ’em, Syrahs – a grape he believes excels in the State.
Hedges Family Estate, ‘Descendants Liegeois Dupont’ Syrah, 2010
Syrah shines in Washington and this is its brightest star. Dense, dark and fascinating, with foraged blackberry, violets and juicy purple plum, cinnamon, toasted clove and chewy red liquorice. Biodynamically farmed, this is a complex feast, with a gentle touch and a distinctive varietal signature. (imported by Roberson Wines – RRP £35).
Hedges Family Estate, CMS White, 2018
This wine is bat shit crazy, but it works. 80% Sauvignon Blanc, the remainder Chardonnay and Marsanne. Gooseberry and green pepper aromas lead, with fennel and mixed fresh herbs. On the palate it is crisp, refreshing and deliciously savoury. Good value too. (imported by Roberson Wines – RRP £18)
Reynvaan ‘In the Rocks’, Syrah, 2016
From an up-and-coming Syrah specialist, the plot is a dried-up river bed containing large rocks reminiscent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier, with blackberry, cracked black pepper, burnt orange and smoky bacon, a fantastically balanced wine with a delicious mineral streak through to the finish. This beautiful wine titillates with what Washington State can deliver with Syrah. (seeking representation – US$90)
Betz Family Winery, ‘La Côte Patriarche Syrah, 2016
Black pepper, blackberry and peppered salami lead into a surprisingly fresh, delicate wine, with red cherries and blueberries dancing around an enticingly wild core. (imported by Liberty Wines – RRP £47)
Reynvaan, Grenache Blanc, 2017
A really unusual, fresh, aromatic wine, with grapefruit pith, citrus blossom and notes of raw almond. A saline core, with a delicious, plump lees texture. (seeking representation – US$60)
Gramercy Cellars, L’Idiot du Village, 2015
Bizarrely, I tasted this in the UK, rather than on my trip to Washington. This wine apparently has a cult following, and it’s easy to see why. Made by a top Manhattan Sommelier-turned-Walla-Walla-winemaker, Greg Harrington, this Mourvèdre is something of a drag queen: pretty and floral on the nose, fruity and fun, but with real muscle underneath. Think leather, smooth tannins and dark spice. (imported by Flint Wines RRP £39)
Eroica, Riesling, 2016
From a partnership between the mighty Ste Michelle and Germany’s Ernst Loosen, a sleak, elegant wine with zippy lime sherbet, tinned mandarins and wet pebbles, the robust acidity giving an assertive spine of freshness. (imported by Enotria&Coe RRP £26.50)
Borne of Fire, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017
From the Columbia Crest winery, a division of Ste Michelle (yep, them again), a relatively new wine from a vineyard region known as ‘The Burn’, a contender for AVA status sometime soon. I found quite a few Washington Cabernets too big, too extracted, but this bucks that trend. Bright, with pencil lead, fresh red cherries and blueberries, this is good value at around $24. This would make a great ‘by the glass’ wine. (not yet imported)
Woodward Canyon, Chardonnay, 2017
I didn’t really get on with Chardonnay in Washington, but this was the exception. Elegant and restrained, with fresh citrus, Asian pear and green apple, with a smattering of spice from very well integrated new French oak. A beautifully balanced wine. (imported by Wine Treasury, but this wine is not currently listed)
Seven Hills Rosé, 2018
There’s not that much rosé in Washington State, and the quality is patchy, but that’s starting to change. Seven Hills clearly has Anjou as an inspiration. Majority Cabernet Franc, we were bowled over by this lovely wine. Fresh strawberries and cream, crisp, fresh and dry, with a nice rounded texture. One to watch out for. (not yet imported – US$18)