01/31/07 – Washington (part 2 of 2)

By Jesse on January 29, 2007


This week we return to Washington State, which is incidentally the home of the Seattle Seahawks, just one of the many teams that the Bears beat this year on their way to an appearance in the Superbowl.  Oh, also, did I mention that the Chicago Bears are in the Superbowl this weekend?  For those of you who don’t know why, I’ll tell you — it’s because the Bears are the NFC champions.  They also finished the season at 13-3, which is by far the best record in the NFC.  I really can’t stop talking about them.  Oh, and by the way, the Bears are in the Superbowl this weekend.  By next week things will be back to normal, and I’ll either be very happy or not very happy at all.

Here’s a recap from last week: One would expect Oregon to be colder than California, since it’s further north — and it generally is.  By that logic, Washington should be colder than Oregon.  However, as we saw in California — where some of the warmest regions in the state (like Napa or Lodi) are far north of cooler regions (like Santa Barbara) — the topography plays a much bigger part in determining the climate of a particular wine regions.  While some parts of Washington may indeed be cooler than Oregon, remember that Oregon’s wine production is centered in the Willamette Valley, on the ocean side of the Cascade mountains, resulting in a cool maritime climate.  By contrast, Washington’s wine regions are mostly on the inland side of the Cascades, and thus receive almost no rain at all.  As the Bible explains: “were it not for several cold mountain rivers (Columbia, Snake, etc.), eastern Washington would be a virtual desert.”  Also, since it’s further north, the vines get an average of two more hours of sunlight per summer day than vines in Napa.  While that means the grapes are always warm, it’s never too hot — again, since it’s that far north — and the combination of sun, warmth, and lack of severe heat makes the grapes ripen very easily, which “contributes to a wine’s elegance and finesse.”  Got it?

       Last week we did whites, so this week we move on to reds, which are purported to be really good.  Largely because of its climate and soil composition, Washington State is one of the top producers in the United States of excellent Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The two grapes, which are often blended together, “have powerful structures and a deep saturated berryness,” according to the Bible — which also refers to the two varietals as “stunning,” “infused with the primal, lush berryness of Northwest blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and cherries,” and “at once supple and seamless.”  So, um… there ya go!  Can’t say much more about Merlot or Cab — hopefully we’ll have some good ones.  Also grown in small quantities in Washington is Syrah, which we often like, as well as an obscure German/Austrian red grape called Lemberger, a rich, dark, spicy red, allegedly similar to California Zinfandel, “of which Washington has the only significant plantings in the United States.”  Anybody who finds a bottle of that stuff wins the “Wino of the Week” award.

Please feel free to bring any of the varietals listed above, or any other Washington red that you manage to find.  In terms of region, we’re going to take the state as a whole, but we will discuss the different appellations in the meeting. The Yakima Valley is home of some of the best wineries, while the Columbia Valley is the largest and easiest to find in stores.  The two remaining AVAs, Puget Sound and Walla Walla, are quite small.

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s totally new re-furnished apartment in Brentwood.  Bring a bottle of Washington red and some tasting notes, and we’ll see you people Wednesday night at 9.