*Disclaimer: While this is, IN NO WAY, sponsored by Washington State Wine, I was treated to a complimentary trip with accommodations, meals, and, of course, wine provided. *
It has taken me two full weeks to write this. 1. Because when I got back to Austin after eight full days drinking Washington wine I had to dry out a little bit. And, 2. I drank SO MUCH incredible wine that it’s taken me this long to fully process it all.
Let me back up a little bit.
Since I’ve written food, wine, and travel articles pretty regularly in the past, I was pitched a trip touring Washington wine country from a PR person representing Washington State Wine, who was looking to further their reach in Texas. I thankfully secured an article, and am still in the process of writing my road trip guide to Eastern Washington (look out for it later this summer!), but since my article is more of a travel/lifestyle piece, I won’t likely focus AS much on the wines as they are so wholly due. So, I wanted to just spew out all the vast knowledge I garnered during my trip and to preach the gospel that is Washington wine.
Y’all….y’all….Washington wine is fucking delicious. I’d say “pardon my French,” but no. No. It deserves the expletive. You tell someone you’re going to Eastern Washington and they assume you’re going to be sipping Pinot Noir. Well, that’s Oregon. Tell them about the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignons, and they’ll just spout off about Napa. OK, sure, fine. Start telling them about the state’s robust Merlot, and they start wrinkling their nose. “Like, who drinks Merlot?”
I’m an avid wine drinker, and I knew jack shit about Washington wine. Thankfully, I know enough about wine in general to passably get myself through eight days without being laughed out of tasting rooms by certified sommeliers and tenured wine journalists who used words I can’t even spell and descriptors I just nodded along to. But, you know what, y’all? Wine is delicious. Wine is fun. And, wine should be accessible to everyone. And, all the wine makers and vine growers I met throughout Washington said the same thing. Wine tastes like what it tastes to you. Drink the wines you like. But, be adventurous and try things you may think you won’t like. At the end of the day, have fun! It’s just wine for crying out loud!
Fun fact: Washington is not just Seattle—shocker, I know. Seattle is on the very Western side of Washington state, and most of the wine “country” is on the Eastern side, across the Cascade Mountains from the metropolis. Therefore, because of something called the “rain shadow effect,” which I heard about a bazillion times, the climate on Eastern Washington is COMPLETELY different than Seattle. It’s actually super dry and often times really hot (what.the.fuck, right?). Oh, and because of something called the “Missoula floods” from ancient times, the terroir (that’d be dirt, y’all) is so varied across the state. So, different climates and different terroir all over means that each region (or AVA: American Viticultural Area) produces different grapes that make for some very different wines. (This is boiling this shit down to some super basic 101-level type seminar—if you’re interested in learning more, Washington State Wine is MUCH better at teaching this stuff than little ole me.)
Essentially, what one winemaker told me: “No other wine tells you so much about the sense of place than Washington wine.” And, that’s totally true. You can go 1/2 mile and see completely different rock formations and soil types and taste wines made from those vines that taste completely different. It’s fucking wild. And, I loved every moment of learning all about it.
(Also, I became a total wine spitter during my trip too, which was completely unexpected. At first it felt wasteful, and I hated myself a little bit, associating people who spit out wine as just snobs. But, when you’re having wine for breakfast, you gotta keep yourself upright—and stop yourself from saying dumb things like, “This wine tastes like grapes!” in front of people smarter than you.)
All of this is to give you some backstory. I tasted probably more than 100 wines during eight days. I mean, that’s probably a total understatement. I took photos of wines I really loved during my stay, and I went back and counted them—I had 60 total. Just of wines I LOVED. That’s truly insane. Unfortunately I didn’t go to many tasting rooms, since we’d have lunch and have three wineries come to us, and I often think the tasting room or winery itself is worth the trip, even if the wines aren’t great. So, my favorite wineries below are based solely on how much I loved them and if I loved multiple varietals from that winery.
Here are the Washington State wineries you should be on the look out for when you’re out at restaurants or liquor stores. I’ve kept my eye out since I’ve been back in Texas, and I’ve seen a couple, so it’s possible you will too. Sadly, some of these you won’t find in the Lone Star State, but they are worth knowing about—you can always join a wine club!
OK, so Nina Buty is super lovely, but I won’t let my girl crush on her cloud my judgement. She is making some killer wines. I tried four wines from her, and I loved every single one of them. My two standouts are: Sémillon, Sauvignon & Muscadelle and the Rediviva of the Stones, which is made from grapes grown in the Rocks AVA, giving it a savory kalamata olive note. Honorable mention goes to their new Rosé of the Stones!
I first tried Latta’s Grenache out of the back of a pickup truck on the side of a mountain, and it was already one of the tastiest wines I’d had during my trip. Thankfully, a trip to Taste Washington and a winemaker dinner later at the adorable oyster shop Bar Melusine in Seattle meant that I got to try a whole slew of wines they make—and they’re all equally delicious. Besides the Grenache, other highlights included their Roussanne (one of my favorite whites during the trip) and the Dana Dibble Syrah, which has a kiss of viognier.
This was another winery that had such a wild diversity of all equally yummy varietals, but I especially appreciated their whites. Seriously, I loved their Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Grüner Veltliner Brut. And, their reds are no slouches, either!
The mother-daughter duo who run DuBrul Vineyard and Côte Bonneville are total spitfires and spending an afternoon with them is bound to be full of belly laughs. Because they’ve been doing this a long time, it shows in their wines. Their Rosé of Cabernet Franc is aromatic with bright acidity and a beautiful color. Their Carriage House blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and is extremely approachable while also being bold.
Cristophe Hedges and his wife Maggie treated us to a gorgeous lunch in the French-style kitchen of their winery, so I may have already been dazzled before I even had a sip of his family’s wine. But, boy howdy. (That phrase has probably never been used to describe the Hedges line of wines….). Their winery was a pioneer in the Red Mountain AVA and has produced beautiful wines since 1987. Their reds are incredibly soft and supple.
Sadly I didn’t get to taste much of Boudreaux Cellars (well, OK, I DID get to drink a 2003 Cab Sauv, and it was incredible), but I could have drank an entire bottle of Boudreaux’s Unfiltered Chardonnay and been a happy camper. And, I’m honestly never one to reach for a Chard, but this one was mineral, toasty, and creamy all rolled into one. I’m seriously still thinking about it more than two weeks later!
This winery’s Rosé of Cabernet Franc was the smoothest, most easy-drinking rosé of the entire trip. It’s like sunshine in a glass. If you see it, it should be your go-to summer wine. It’s made for pool parties.
So, make sure to give Washington wine a chance! Pick up a bottle next time you see one. Who knows? You might just find your next favorite region!
*Special shout-out to my two tour guides, Heather Bradshaw and Averyl Dunn, two extremely patient, kind, knowledgeable and fun ladies who had to put up with a lot of big personalities and requests. They were absolute champions.