As wine is becoming more and more a worldwide phenomenon, we are seeing an influx of great wines produced around the world. Wines from Greece, Lebanon, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa and even Hungary are joining the world’s great wines. These upstarts have learned at the feet of the greatest wineries from all the classic regions of history. Bordeaux, Tuscany, Rhone, and the Mosel Regions have been the stalwarts for hundreds of years. They still make some of the greatest wines found anywhere. But the flattening of the world has allowed great wines to be produced anywhere the climate and soils permit. Thus South American winemakers can jump on the Internet or Skype their compatriots in France and share the best techniques and ideas for great wine! As wine lovers there has never been a better time to enjoy the myriad of flavors, blends, and even new grape varieties!
But today I wanted to focus a little attention on a great wine producing region right here in the USA! Wine is now produced in all 50 states! But one of my favorite regions is the Pacific Northwest. Oregon, Washington and Idaho have quietly been producing awesome wines for decades. If you go to your globe, you will notice that the Pacific Northwest is along the same latitude as the greatest regions in France and Germany! Thus you can assume they get similar hours of sunlight per day and similar temperature ranges! These are two of the biggest factors in a grape development. Another factor is rainfall. We always think of Washington as a rainy state because Seattle is always in a cloudy condition. But Eastern Washington is protected by the Cascade Mountains, which keeps many of the rain clouds out! Thus the vineyards get just enough rain to grow—but not too easily! Vines need to suffer a little bit to make great wine. The less rain a vine gets, the harder the roots dig to find moisture, the deeper roots go, the more nutrients and flavor will be imparted in the grape.
Chateau Ste Michelle is the 800-pound Gorilla in Pacific Northwest. They are the owners and winemakers of hundreds of great brands of wines. But I love their wines because of the overall style I seem to find. Their wines always seem to be well balanced and made. They are always awesome with food, which in my mind is the way all wine should be enjoyed. The CSM Riesling is a top seller. It is sweet and refreshing as a Riesling should be—but it has such a great balance of acidity and fruit that it is not cloying as some other cheap Rieslings can get. Even if you think you don’t like sweet wine, this is a great wine and you will be surprised!
In discussing the Northwest you have to talk about Oregon Pinot Noir. Oregon is still very much a small town and familial atmosphere. It hearkens the visitor back to a simpler time when a farmer made wine because he loves to farm and he loves to drink greatness. Oregon is not as corporate as the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Many of the pioneers in Oregon still work their wines and vineyards! Pinot Noir is the signature grape. Oenophiles always say Pinot Noir can create the greatest wines in the world. But it is the touchiest and hardest grape to work with. Oregon has the soils, climate, and overall terroir to make World Class Pinot Noir. The best ones are a little expensive—but as with anything when you want the best you have to pay a little bit! Try the Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, if you can find it. It is worth every penny. Delicate Black Cherry flavors explode in your mouth with a silky feel. Raptor Ridge is another nice one. Annie Shull owner of Raptor Ridge with her husband Scott is from St Paul originally. Their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is a little richer than some other Oregon Pinot’s. Try Firesteed for the best affordable Oregon Pinot Noir. It is about $15 and the best inexpensive Pinot Noir on the market.
Try the Pacific Northwest wines for a great treat. They have their own style and flavors. It is worth a try and you will be happy! Cheers! And enjoy in moderation!