Washington wines get my vote

By Neil Cammies

The good old US of A seems to have had a bit of a kicking of late in some areas of the press but we must remember it is one of our closet allies, has President Joe Biden at the helm - not that reality TV, tangerine nightmare hate machine Donald McTrumpington - they are a lovely bunch of gregarious, generous folk and also make some rather marvellous wines, which puts them very high on the list of desirable partnerships in my book.

So to mark this I have been looking at the wine region of Washington State and some of it’s produce.

See how I shoe-horned that in there?

Most will, of course be familiar with the wine regions of California, especially Napa and Sonoma Valley, but there are some interesting regions that produce great wines and are gaining traction in the UK market.

Second to California, in terms of wine production, is Washington State and boasts 772 wineries and 14 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), with some of the more popular regions for wine production being Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.

Widely-planted varieties in the region include riesling, chardonnay, merlot and syrah all aided by a handy rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains keeping the damp, maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean at bay in east Washington State.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, in the Columbia Valley is the largest and oldest winery in Washington State and delivers the full-on tasting, wine tourism experience all packaged in a rather impressive French-style Chateau.

The CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE DRY RIESLING, 2018 (RRP £9.99, Waitrose) shows crisp orchard fruit aromas with a touch of floral honey tones across the bouquet.

In the mouth there is a little frizzante whizzing across the tongue which sits well with the off-dry entry and the introduction of friendly citrus notes that envelop the tastebuds.

The Key Lime pie freshness through the mid palate gives a nice mouthfeel and a good crisp finish.

This is a crowd-pleasing riesling that was superb with Chinese cuisine, managing to do a merry jig across all the flavour profiles on offer.

I love the funky label on the CHARLES SMITH KUNG FU GIRL RIESLING, 2018 (RRP £14.95, ND John Ltd, Swansea, Master of Malt) almost as much as the contents of the bottle.

Few winemakers have a story quite like Charles Smith. Although he was born and raised an hour from Napa Valley, Charles didn’t discover his love for wine until he moved to Europe.

While living abroad, he managed a number of rock bands, including the famed Danish duo The Raveonettes. It was the wining and dining of a rock n’roll life on the road that sparked Charles’ passion for great wine.

In 1999, while on a road trip to Walla Walla, Charles met a winemaker who convinced him to start making his own wine, true to his own story and vision.

And in 2001, Charles released 330 cases of his first vintage.

One night, Charles was eating Chinese takeout and watching a fight scene in a martial arts film when he had an idea: a killer white wine made to be paired with Asian food. Just like that, Kung Fu Girl was born.

The nose has the most defined honeyed nose to the most prominent stonefruit aromas which are full and ripe.

On the palate punnets of apricots show up on the off-dry attack initially that dries off as the framing of lime zest citrus washes across the taste buds keeping everything fresh and lively and a lick of minerality flounces in like some music diva.

This is an effortlessly drinkable drop of riesling that should have everyone shouting its merits and makes you wonder why this fantastic variety is such a tough sell – but hopefully that will change.

Oh, and of course, this is brilliant with Thai food, seafood and all manner of fragrant curry dishes. Just splendid.

Finally Powers Winery was founded by Bill Powers in 1982 and are crafted by long-time winemaker Jose Mendoza to showcase Washington State’s diverse microclimates and distinctive vineyards.

Deeply rooted in long term relationships with premium Columbia Valley growers, Powers sources a variety of quality fruit to consistently produce interesting wines.

They are committed to sustainable practices in both winery and vineyard to only produce the smallest carbon footprint possible.

The POWERS COLUMBIA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 2017 (RRP £15.50, Amathus Drinks) hits a bullseye on the bouquet with the deep blackcurrant fruit which are supported by pencil shavings aromas from the 20 months in oak.

In the mouth the crisp, dense blackcurrant fruits are juicy and have an amplified note to them. There is a little fresh greenness through the mid palate, but as this is young wine, there is plenty of grip in the tannins indicating there is plenty of mileage in the tank.

This youthful tone settles on the finish with a touch of sweet and savoury spice licking in. An accurate fresh-faced cabernet.

Let’s raise a glass to our north American cousins.


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