Blind tasting of Washington wines: Part 2, the reds

Scott Greenberg, Wine Columnist, Washington, D.C. Examiner

(This story is abstracted. Read the full version on the Washington Examiner)

Last week, while reviewing delicious white wines from the state of Washington, I pointed out that the state’s wine industry has been on a proverbial tear for the last several years. But Washington is not new to the wine-making game. The state’s wine history can be traced back to the early 19th century, when European immigrants realized the agricultural potential of its fertile valleys. Following the end of Prohibition in the ’30s, the acreage devoted to vineyard cultivation began to grow rapidly in both the Columbia and Yakima valleys, located to the east of the Cascade Mountain range.

It’s no coincidence that many of the grape varietals planted in these valleys quickly adapted to their new surroundings. It turns out that Washington’s wine country is situated on just about the same latitude — 46 degrees north — as some of the greatest French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. And just like European wine-growing regions, Washington has been blessed with an abundance of prime wine grape-growing areas.The majestic Cascade Mountains cut a swath through the state from the north to the south, effectively dividing the state into two distinctive regions. The more mild and lush lands lie to the west of the range while the more arid and volcanic rich soils lie to the east. The majority of the wine grapes are grown on the eastern side of the range, where the combination of long daylight hours and careful irrigation control, provide ideal conditions for cabernet sauvignon, merlot and various other Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. Cool autumn temperatures allow the grapes to reach full maturity, resulting in wines that possess concentrated aromatics and complex fruit profiles.

Not all red wines in Washington are blends. The 2010 Browne Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) from Columbia Valley is a straight-forward cabernet sauvignon where bold flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, baked cherries and cocoa sit firmly on the middle of the palate. There is just a hint of minerality that keeps the wine focused, providing wonderful integration of the fruit all the way through the velvety finish. QPR 9

 Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.


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