The Washington State Wine Identity Quandary

Ahh the freedom and liberty of being an emerging wine region from the New World, no rigid regional rules about what your wine must be like to garner local accreditation. You can make your wine in your chosen style and still use your local state or region name on your label. Freedom yes, but a sizable branding challenge nonetheless.


Last fall I attended a very well organized Washington State wine show in Montreal called “Savourez Washington Montreal.” The seminar that preceded the tasting was extremely informative and quite convincing in it’s pitch for the climatic an geographical wine-making advantages inherent to Washington State.


Into the tasting room I decided I wanted to concentrate on Rieslings. I was given the opportunity to taste about thirty different samples from a couple dozen producers spread out amongst the different wine regions of the Pacific Northwest state. So what can I tell you about a typical Washington State Riesling? Nothing. The notion does not exist.


The residual sugar contents were completely all over the map in my sample population. From as dry as a desert to almost cassis sweet and syrupy, and every increment in between. Regardless of the style, quality was consistently good (and occasionally great!) It was a great tasting experience in that environment – but it would pose a real challenge if I wanted to pick up a bottle of Washington State Riesling, I might be intimidated by the fear of the unknown. Thank God for knowledgeable sales clerks in most wine shops!


I imagine one dominant style of Washington State Riesling will emerge as the style leader, or maybe not. It will be interesting to monitor the situation over the next few years.


On the Red side, I sampled a few bottles that piqued my interest. As much as my mouth was tuned to Riesling, I couldn’t resist some darker offerings. I don’t have a #wineandmusic match for this one but Pomum Cellars produced a really yummy Tempranillo! Getting a wine like that produced several time zones away from Spain made me appreciate the anything goes freedom in Washington State and gave the argument against statewide conformity significant credence.


Stay tuned for four #wineandmusic matches from Washington State: three Rieslings from Seven Hills, 14 Hands and Waterbrook (assemblage featuring Riesling) and red blend from Hedges.

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