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Get a Taste of Washington Wines at the Food & Wine Experience


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Grape harvest in the Yakima Valley of Washington state.

Washington State Wines, Courtesy of Andréa Johnson Photography

Washington wines are back at the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience this year (March 5 & 6), gathered in the Metropolitan Club at Target Field so you can easily swirl and sip your way through samples of delicious wines from the state. You can be among the first in our area to check out some of the new offerings from this rapidly growing wine region, whether you prefer an inky red or a crisp white.

Although a relatively young wine industry, Washington state is the nation’s second largest wine producer behind California. And it keeps growing. The rapid expansion of the industry in the mid 1970s is now rivaled by today’s breakneck pace, where a new winery opens nearly every 15 days, according to the Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC). In 1981 there were 19 wineries. In 2000 there were 163 wineries. By 2015 that number jumped to more than 850 wineries, with the total wine production at 14.8 million cases. The state’s wines are found nationwide and internationally in more than 40 countries.

Washington produces more than 40 wine grape varieties—a ratio of about 50 percent white to 50 percent red. The state has a diverse collection of climates, with winemaking regions located mostly on its eastern side at about the same latitude as France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. One-third of Washington’s wine grapes are grown in the fertile Yakima Valley and a large number of wineries located elsewhere in the state also source grapes from Yakima. Many wineries also grow their grapes in the warm, arid climate of the Columbia Valley.

You’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as well as new blends including Mourvèdre. The state’s whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, but also Bordeaux-style blends made of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.

I had the opportunity to join a whirlwind press tour with the WSWC this past August and was struck by the collaborative, friendly group of winemakers where new and well-established seem to work together toward the greater good. One winemaker likened it to Napa Valley in the 1960s and '70s. In the close-knit community of the up-and-coming wineries in the suburb of Woodinville, Wash., just 30 minutes outside of Seattle, winemakers may borrow equipment from one another and share ideas.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, which was the first to set up a winery and tasting room in Woodinville, was established in 1976. Today the Woodinville area has grown to include more than 100 tasting rooms representing local winemakers and those from eastern Washington. If you get a chance to visit, there are a number of wineries that have opened tasting rooms in Seattle as well.

Target Field is a lot closer, though, as the wineries are bringing the fruits of their labor to us. Learn more about their wines and meet the winemakers and winery representatives. Some wines you can sample include: Forgeron Cellars, Cougar Crest Estate Winery, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Water Brook Winery, Browne Family Vineyards, Locus Wines and more.

Tasting wine is like a sport: the more you practice, the better you become, WSWC notes on its website. To enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of wine, learn or brush up on the basics in five simple steps: here. Cheers!

Prepare for the most delicious weekend of the year with Minnesota Monthly’s 22nd Annual Food & Wine Experience Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6 (1–5 p.m., both days) all enjoyed from the warmth and comfort of the Metropolitan and Legends clubs inside Target Field, located at 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

For more information and event details, please click here.

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