Copyright 2014 Knoxville News Sentinel
Anyone who has been to Washington State and left the luscious green confines of the western part can tell you; once you travel through the mighty Cascade Mountains, you are entering a high elevation desert. That’s because Eastern Washington is a rugged landscape that gets a meager nine inches of rain each year. Many people are surprised to equate the Pacific Northwest with desert landscape. But what’s even more astonishing is the discovery that the eastern part is home to both those famous Washington apples as well as the state’s prolific and expanding wine country.
Thanks to the vast Columbia Valley river system, the ability to irrigate crops such as apples, grapes, hops, onions and other produce is accessible and ensured. And thanks to an event that occurred long ago, the soil in Eastern Washington and on down into Oregon’s Willamette Valley is rich and vineyard ready.
The rough and tumble Northwest yields great wines. Between twelve and fifteen thousand years ago, the last fading ice age caused iced dams to burst open and flood the Columbia Valley Gorge of Eastern Washington and into Oregon. This flooding, which happened at least two dozen times over an extended period, left behind a rich mixture of various soils, silt, and sand. Named after the great glacial lake to the north, the Missoula Floods of long ago produced today’s rich, loamy soil that is idyllic for orchards and vineyards alike.
One of Washington State’s most acclaimed wine producers is the Waterbrook Winery. With much of their focus being on Bordeaux varietals, Waterbrook creates fantastic red wines made from Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec grapes. All are worth adding to your wine rack, but it is the Waterbrook Reserve Malbec that it undeniably amazing. The lush fruit of the Waterbrook Malbec creates an alluring wine with distinct blueberry notes, a hint of vanilla and a beautiful hue of blue-violet that encircles the wine. What a great wine to serve at your next cool-weather dinner party!
The winery also got into the red blend game years ago and offers a delicious $15 all-purpose red, the 2012 Waterbrook Mélange. Made with the five classic Bordeaux varieties, the Mélange additionally has Grenache, Syrah and Carmenere grapes included. Only the scrumptious, fruit-lingering finish of the wine surpasses its immediate gratification of spice and sweet oak.
Similarly, Waterbrook produces a very affordable $15 white with broad, mass appeal. Many wines try to claim it, but if ever there were a “baby Rombauer,” then the Waterbrook Reserve Chardonnay is it. A classic California Chardonnay, Rombauer has long been a Knoxville favorite. And after drinking Waterbrook’s Reserve Chardonnay, one might surmise that Washington State has its own version of that style. Loaded with enough creaminess to make a cow blush, the Waterbrook Reserve Chardonnay is well balanced with fresh apple and pear notes as well as that extra-smooth, emblematic “no bite” finish. It is one wine you’ll wish you could sink your teeth into.