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In Good Taste

Wines of Washington State

Wines of Washington State

Celebrating Wines from Walla Walla and Beyond

Washington is the new kid on the block when it comes to New World wines. But located on the protected eastern half of Washington State, the second-largest wine-growing region in the U.S. (behind only California). Most of Washington’s 60,000 acres of vineyards were planted in the 1970s and the grapevines are due to reach their peak maturity in the coming years.

Unique New World Wines with Old World Techniques

Anyone who isn’t familiar with northwest wine would think that any efforts to grow would be thwarted by the notoriously rainy Seattle weather and unpredictable seaward storms. However, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges in the western part of the state stop clouds rolling in from the Pacific Ocean in a natural phenomenon called the Rain Shadow Effect. The eastern part of Washington State is the highest-altitude location to experience this effect in the New World.

While Washington’s vineyards are still considered “new” even when compared to New World vineyards in California and Australia, Washington State is a wine region to watch. The innovative technologies and pristine natural environment transpose themselves onto the wines. Add that to the fact that Washington has made a habit of combining Old World techniques with New World fruit and you get unique wines unlike anything produced in the more established parts of the wine world.

Washington Wines - Rain Shadow Effect

Washington Varietal Guide

At the moment, Washington is defined by diversity over consistency. Over 70 wine varietals are grown in a diverse range of soils and climates. Since most of the vines are between 30 and 60 years old, winegrowers are still experimenting with which grapes do best in which parts of the state. Washington State is an established producer of both Riesling and Red Blends, but recent efforts have brought other popular varietals to the forefront.

These wine varietals are familiar Old World grapes, but Washington’s unique terroir gives them a life of their own. About 59% of the varietals grown in Washington State are red, and the other 41% are white.

Washington Wine Production Stats

Washington Red Wine

Washington red wines feature primarily Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Many of these are combined to create the popular Washington Red Blends.

Syrah has proven to be one of the most successful Washington red varietals. It thrives in a variety of environments and is produced in the style of the Northern Rhône. On its own, Syrah has a smoky richness that has long fascinated wine enthusiasts. The combination of earthiness and berry aromas provided by Washington’s terroir makes it  one of the most popular varietals in the region. Pair a Washington Syrah with a do-it-yourself charcuterie board for a match made in heaven.

Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington mixes the best of Old World techniques with New World fruits. Many of the 100 Best Washington Wines feature this grape. Traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon blends well with both Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Washington Cabernets get better after a few years of aging since it takes time for complexity to develop.

Malbec is a well-known Argentinian grape that thrives in an arid, high-altitude wine region. Coincidentally, Washington State shares these qualities with Argentina, and has plenty of natural irrigation from snowmelt. Walla Walla has made use of these similarities to produce several dense, fruity, and acidic wines sure to please any fan of Malbec grapes. Many producers also use Malbec in their Red Blends.

Bordeaux Blends use a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, as well as the occasional Petit Verdot or Malbec. This blend – a signature of French wines – suits the current methods and known varietals of Washington wineries.

Washington Rosé Wine

Rosé is a relatively new venture for Washington winemakers, but some wineries are already having success. A Colombia Valley Rosé made with Syrah or Sangiovese will refresh your palate with fresh fruit flavors and bright acidity at half the price of a similar French-style rosé.

Sangiovese has long been heralded as an Italian red wine staple, but in Washington, the most popular use for this varietal is to make rosé! rosé’s made with Sangiovese tend to be dry with just a touch of sweetness. The grapes are picked early so the amount of sugar is low and the acidity is high. This results in a low-alcohol, palatable Rosé that has been growing in popularity throughout the Pacific Northwest wine regions.

Washington White Wine

The most notable Washington white wine is a dry Riesling, but Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc also do well. If the conditions are right, white varietals can also be used to create ice wines, a sweeter dessert-style wine that cleanses the palate after a big meal.

Riesling is the signature white grape of Washington State. The mean temperature of the Columbia Valley matches the great Riesling wine-growing regions in Alsace and Germany. The cool evenings are particularly important for preserving the acidity that makes these wines both balanced and elegant. Most Rieslings in Washington State are done in a dry to off-dry style.

Chardonnay in Washington is known for its delicate and crisp characteristics unlike the full-bodied Chardonnays produced in California. To add a bit of butteriness and vanilla, some wineries introduce a secondary malolactic fermentation.

Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon together have produced a Bordeaux-inspired full-bodied white wine that stands out among the mineral-driven Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and France.

Washington Terroir


Washington wine regions have flourished in the arid and semi-arid land east of the Cascade Mountains. Unlike the oceanic climate of western Washington, eastern Washington experiences 300 days of sun a year. Higher elevations create a better sun angle, similar to that of the great wine regions of Northern Europe. Too much sun would be a problem without manual irrigation practices. However this has the additional benefit of giving winemakers full control over the growing process.

Washington Wines Climate Resistance

A series of prehistoric cataclysms called the Missoula Floods created a layer of moderate to deep silt-loam over gravel or basalt bedrock. This creates well-drained soil perfect for viticulture.

Western Washington also experiences distinctive diurnal shifts (or dramatic temperature changes between night and day) which play a crucial role in creating natural acidity in Washington wine. Natural acid has a more integrated flavor than those added by the winery.

Out of 13 appellations and over 750 wineries, Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley deserve special recognition.

Washington Wine Regions Map

Walla Walla Valley has the highest concentration of wineries in Washington State. It can be found in the southern part of the state crossing over into Oregon. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon feature heavily among the wines produced in the Walla Walla Valley, supplemented by Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Walla Walla wineries have gained a reputation for their red wines. Cabernet Franc’s popularity has grown in the past several years. Its spicy notes are well complimented by coffee and blueberry flavors. Walla Walla Merlot’s are known for their full-bodied and moderately tannic flavor, with notes of cherry and sweet spice.

Columbia Valley is the largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Washington. It covers a full third of Washington State’s landmass. Out of 70 wine varietals, five make up over 80% of this region’s production: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, and Syrah.

Columbia Valley wine is the most recognized and varied of all of Washington’s wine-growing regions. The warm days and cool nights help preserve the grapes’ natural acidity and give wines grown in this area ripe fruit flavors and a sharp mouthfeel. A Columbia Valley Pinot Gris, for example, falls somewhere between a light Pinot Grigio and a full-bodied Alsatian Pinot Gris.

Other notable areas include the Yakima Valley and the Red Mountain Valley.

Yakima Valley is a sub-appellation of Columbia Valley and the oldest wine-growing region in the Pacific Northwest. This region is responsible for the growth of half of the Chardonnay and Riesling in the state. Reds from Yakima Valley tend to have soft tannins.

Red Mountain Valley is characterized by hotter temperatures. Hotter locations usually produce better reds than whites. Red Mountain Valley is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. The wines from Red Mountain Valley are robust, vibrant, and structured with lots of potential for aging.

To find the best vineyards in Washington State, take a look at these Washington wine maps. Washington is overflowing with vineyard tours and wine tasting opportunities so you are sure to find something to fit your taste.

What makes Washington wines so unique?

While most Washington vineyards are still in their infancy compared to those in France and Italy, Washington winemakers have found a niche creating unique wines with great value. The community of Washington wineries is progressive. They understand the value of working together to make the best tasting wine possible. Washington’s wine industry has made strides toward continued wine research by investing in Washington State University’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center. The research focuses on which locations work best for new vineyards, improving practices for current vineyards and wineries, managing viruses, and optimizing flavor profiles to make Washington wine more distinct. All investments by the Washington State vineyards are meant to produce quality grapes and better livelihoods for growers.

Washington Wine Temperature Fluxuations

New World wines tend to have ripe fruit flavors, lower acidity, and a fuller body. By contrast, Old World wines are known for subtleties such as type of acidity and tannin structure. Washington wine seems to have made the best of both worlds. Winemakers' ability to grow a staggering 70 plus varieties allows them to experiment with both Old and New World techniques.

One of the ways they do this is by creating non-varietal bottlings. Bottles known by a varietal must contain over 75% of a single varietal – think of the wines you’ve seen with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot written in big letters on the label. In contrast, blended wines often contain many varietals in smaller percentages.

Blending varietals allows the winemaker to choose balance and age-worthiness over perfecting their technique. Winegrowers in France, Italy, and Spain have had hundreds of years to optimize the type of grape and technique used to create the best wine possible. Since many Washington vineyards are relatively new, they are still in the process of experimenting to find out which grapes and techniques work best at their vineyards.

Up-and-Coming Washington Wine

Get familiar with Washington State wine by experimenting! Host a tasting with our Cascade Wine Tasting flight to discover more of this region’s incredible variety. Our newest flight features many of the popular Columbia Valley wines, including red, white, and rosé. Tasting in a group can help you discern more flavors, textures, and scents than you would be able to identify on your own.

When tasting new wines, pay attention to the acidity, tannins, and ripe fruit flavors that make Washington wine unique. Serving temperature and the shape of your wine glass can also influence the smell and flavor of your wine. You may want to invest in a wine guide to reference as you taste to familiarize yourself with the region and the history of the wine while you taste it.

Washington may be new to the wine scene, but what they lack in experience, they make up for in innovation. Keep an eye on this wine region in the coming years as winemakers discover which varietals and techniques work best. And in the meantime, enjoy the variety and value that make this region exceptional.

Wines of Washington State

Rosé of Sangiovese


Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.



Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

Cabernet Sauvignon


If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

Pinot Noir


We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

Coteaux Bourguignons


The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.



A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.


Côtes du Rhône White


This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.


Bordeaux Rouge


When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.


Ventoux Rosé


You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.



Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.


La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.




This grape goes by different names in most European countries, but what remains the same is its fruity floral nature. Delicate in every way and extremely quaffable, this wine is as dainty as they come.



We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.


Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.



For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.


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