Washington is the second largest wine producer in the USA. Only California makes more wine. But only a few wines and wineries from Washington are familiar names. So when the wine importer Fine Wines Sweden, who is specialised in American wines, showed off several producers from Washington there was every reason to pay attention. BKWine’s Peter Cronström gives you his selection of favourite Washington wines.
Washington slowly started to become internationally known as a wine region starting in the 1950s. However, it has produced wines in the past but during prohibition it almost stopped all the wine production and after that it took time before wine making began again. When production began again it was mostly wines made from grenache but what made the region known was merlot wines in the 1970s. That began the great expansion.
Merlot wines were very popular in the United States in the 70s and 80s because they are often very accessible. Washington is currently the second largest wine region in the United States. Only California is larger. They grow many different grape varieties. Riesling cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot have the biggest volumes.
(At the Swedish monopoly retailer Systembolaget there is currently only a handful of producers from Washington represented – in fact only 8 wines from Washington – and they were all represented in today’s line-up. There were also 5 new producers.)
In general, one can say that the wines are very typical for the grape variety and very fruit driven. One could also say uncomplicated.
A selection of producers and of the wines presented (*):
Powers Winery was one of the most interesting. They had with them a wide range of wines. The most interesting in their “standard range” of wines were Viogner 2013 and 2010 Malbec but they also showed prestige wines like three different Cabernet Sauvignon wines that were all very promising with great potential.
As a side project, they will in the autumn launch (on the Swedish market) three wines under the brand Windy Gap: riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. The wines will cost under 12 euro. They were very promising wines to be in that price range.
More about Powers Winery.
Milbrandt Vineyards was another interesting producer who is one of the largest in Washington. There were two wines that stood out: 2010 The Estates Merlot and 2012 The Estates Viogner both wines with great potential.
More about Milbrandt Vineyards.
Maryhill Winery is another of the new producers for Sweden. The ambition is to produce wines of high quality at reasonable prices. They also had a wide range on show in which the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Sangiovese, 2012 Chardonnay and 2012 Pinot Gris were the most interesting.
More about Maryhill Winery
Charles Smith Wines
Charles Smith Wines currently has several wines at Systembolaget and in the importers’ special selection range. Most surprising was the white 2012 VINO Pinot Gris and 2012 Eve Chardonnay, both with plenty of fruit and acidity.
More about Charles Smith Wines
Read more: Another BKWine Magazine article on Charles Smith’s wines: Charles Smith – crazy or genius?
Betz Family Winery
Betz Family Winery was another new acquaintance where the reds stood out, notably: 2011 La Cote Rousse Syrah, 2011 Betz Red Bordeaux Blend and 2011 Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon with plenty of fruit and astringency that can only get better with ageing.
More about the Betz Family Winery
Airfield Estates is a producer of consistently good wines. As the name indicates, the winery has been created on a former airbase. The wines that stood out the most were, among the whites 2011 Lone Birch Riesling, 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay and 2011 Lone Birch Gewurztraminer. Especially the last one stood out with very pronounced acidity, a new experience for me of this grape. Among the reds, 2011 Aviator Red Bordeaux Blend and Runway Merlot were very good wines.
More on Airfield Estates
(*) The occasion was a visit to Stockholm by about 30 producers from Washington and Oregon. It was a very interesting review of wines that for many of us are new. The tasting in Stockholm was organized by Fine Wines Sweden.
Peter Cronström writes on BKWine Magazine on wine tastings with wine merchants and importers.
The U.S. is indeed an exciting wine country. Much has happened in recent decades. BKWine does not currently arrange any wine tours to the USA. Maybe it is time? Are you interested in a wine tour to the US? Then please contact us!
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