Exploring Washington Wines

It’s always fun to discover a new wine you enjoy—especially when you can do this all in one place and check out wineries from close to home and around the country. With a collection of Washington state wineries bringing the fruits of their labor to us at the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience this weekend (March 3 and 4), you will find a great variety of wines to swirl and sip as you check out their offerings right here in Minneapolis.

Although a relatively young wine industry, Washington state is the nation’s second largest wine producer behind California, and it’s still growing. There are now more than 900 wineries producing approximately 17.5 million cases of wine, according to the Washington Wine Commission.

Growers in the state produce more than 70 wine grape varieties—a ratio of about 64 percent red to 36 percent white. They make Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as well as new blends such as Mourvèdre. The state’s whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, but also Bordeaux-style blends made of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.

Washington has a diverse collection of climates, and its winemaking regions are located mostly on its eastern side at about the same latitude as France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. One-third of the state’s wine grapes are grown in the fertile Yakima Valley, and a large number of wineries throughout the state source grapes from there. Many wineries also grow their grapes in the warm, arid climate of the Columbia Valley.

In 1976, Chateau Ste. Michelle was the first to establish a winery and tasting room in Woodinville, Washington, a suburb just 30 minutes outside of Seattle. Today, the area has evolved into a close-knit community of up-and-coming wineries with more than 100 tasting rooms showcasing local and eastern Washington winemakers.

Whether you prefer a bold red, a crisp white or something in between, you can learn more about Washington wines at the Food & Wine show by talking with winery representatives and winemakers and, of course, sampling some for yourself. Some wineries you will find at the show include:

14 Hands wines are inspired by the spirit of the wild horses that once freely roamed eastern Washington. The Essential varietals from the Columbia River Basin are full-bodied reds and bright, vibrant whites. Blends offer fruit-forward wines for everyday occasions. The Reserve wines are sourced primarily from the Horse Heaven Hills, and the Vintage Series offers unique, collectible red blends that represent the best of the vintage each year, so the varietal selection and labels will change accordingly.

Browne Family Vineyards was 15 years in the making before its first vintage debuted after being carefully selected to represent their best of the Columbia Valley AVA. Browne Family’s state-of-the-art production facilities assure climate-controlled conditions from harvest to cooperage to bottle to assure cellar-worthy vintages that stand the test of time.

Canoe Ridge: The Canoe Ridge Vineyard was able to go from dream to reality in 1989 because of the faith that the Horse Heaven Hills would be a promising grape-growing region, the passion of some of Washington’s best-known winemakers and the cooperation of area farmers. The vineyard focuses primarily on Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The full-scale winery, founded in 1994 at a historic site in Walla Walla, Washington, has an annual production capacity of 70,000 cases.

Chateau Ste. Michelle: The winery’s founding fathers set out to prove wrong the notion that great wine could only come from Italy or California when they first broke ground and cultivated the Washington wine region. Built on the 1912 estate owned by Seattle lumber baron Frederick Stimson, the winery dates back to the repeal of Prohibition. Then in 1967 under legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, a new line of premium wines was introduced called Ste. Michelle Vintners, and later, when they opened the Woodinville winery and tasting room in 1976, the name was changed to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

DAMA Wines, one of Washington state’s only woman-owned wineries, embodies the spirit of pioneering women who have inspired passion, creativity and positive change. DAMA sources fruit from some of the best vineyards in the state—from the Mill Creek District of Walla Walla to the vineyards of lower Rattlesnake Mountain, and they love working with an intriguing variety of soils, climates and vines to create distinctive wines.

Dusted Valley: In 2003, Wisconsin natives took a leap of faith and started a new adventure in the Walla Walla Valley. Today, under the Dusted Valley and Boomtown labels, this family farms three estate vineyards and crafts honest wines with a sense of place.

Locus Wines best showcase their native climate and soil. Locus’ inaugural offerings (as well as next set of release in 2014) are from Washington state, but 2015 and beyond should see Locus Wines sourcing varietals from the amazing Oregon state as well as the up and coming wine state, Idaho.

Maryhill Winery: In 1999, Craig and Vicki Leuthold established Maryhill Winery and set out to produce premier wines in the Columbia River Gorge. Today, Maryhill is one of Washington state’s largest and most-visited wineries. The winery is known for its use of a wide variety of grapes to create affordable and approachable wines, which showcase the technique and artistry of the growers who produce them.

Revelry Vintners: In 2005, less than two years removed from college, winemaker and founder Jared Burns set out to share the wines that he loved with the goal of producing three wines from Washington that were just as good or better than those being offered at much higher prices. Today Revelry offers a complete lineup of wines, each a representation of their origins in the Columbia Valley and crafted in the cellars of Walla Walla Washington.

Check these out at Minnesota Monthly’s 24th Annual Food & Wine Experience Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 (1–5 p.m., both days), all enjoyed from the warmth and comfort of inside Target Field, located at 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis, MN 55403. For more information and event details, please click here.

This year, the Food & Wine Experience will cover two levels at Target Field. Look for the collection of Washington wineries on the third floor executive suites near D’Amico and Partners Catering—perhaps you can also find a delicious pairing.