Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Columbia Valley! Wake up and jump in with both feet to America’s second largest wine region

The say that the Columbia River was created when ice dams gave way on an ancient lake and sent a massive flood of water from Montana through Idaho and Washington State.  They also say that this flood was so big that it was as big as the flow of all of today’s rivers combined(that's more than big!!!) and when you include the non-stop volcanic activity of those times you get the conditions for  great soils for grapevines. Let's raise our glasses and give three cheers to the Geologists!
The state of Washington is truly becoming a hot spot! The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and especially the Reisling coming out of this northwest state is to be reckoned with. The Columbia Valley AVA incorporates about 11 million acres of land and you will find  the high end wines as well as the value wines. The Columbia Valley is actually recognized for being the foremost area for value oriented sparkling wines too, done in the traditional method; which rival from time to time the expensive bubblies. Yet their reds are the ones to watch.

The Columbia River forms a boundary between most of Washington and Oregon. The Walla Walla Region is near the 90-degree bend on the river. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most eminent and widely planted grape in the area, followed by Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc.
Nearly 40 percent of Washington’s wines come from grapes grown in the Yakima Valley which is different than the rest of the Columbia River Basin in terroir. It's different because the soils are much more sandy and the weather is cooler. The water drains rapidly in this area and this leads to brighter acidity in the wines. A lot of the times you find that this acidity makes the wines adapaptable to food...and you thought the Italians were the only ones playing on this field!

The Yakima Valley is bordered by some of the states most admired and respected sub-appellations – Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven and Red Mountain; Makes for Great Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Further, there is also the new Wahluke Slope which is on the east of Yakima on the Columbia River and is the warmest wine region. This smaller area is known for its Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Giant Chateau Ste. Michelle owns a majority of the Columbia Valley vineyard land ; nevertheless, there are over 250 wineries in the “Columbia Valley” appellation. And really great ones too. Wines such as Amavi, Cadence, Cayuse, Le Ecole No.41 and Leonetti are several to search for.

PS...Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste Michelle are wineries that provide a path to taste alot for starters. Good wines, good values...and they also have very sophisticated wines as well if you enjoy their profiles. I also like what winemaker Charles Smith is doing at all price points. His wines usually have funky names like Boom Boom!, Kung Fu Girl, and get the point.

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