Washington’s Stellar Wines

The dramatic geographical characteristics of the Pacific Northwest have been shaped—and reshaped—by floods, glacial migrations, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These events have created a soil environment that’s resulted in a singularly distinctive terroir, leading to exceptional Washington wines.

“I believe that wines from this region are very artfully done; the winemaking and the culture still has an innocence and purity that some of the larger wine producing regions have lost,” says Jesus Evangelista, a certified sommelier and beverage manager at Montage Beverly Hills. “[The winemakers in this area] do not let market share dictate winemaking style. They create beautiful wines with what nature gives them every year.”

Bottling the unique terroir of this region has become a passion for Washington state vintners, demonstrated not only by their increasing appearance on respected wine lists, but also by business moves that include the $120 million acquisition in October 2016 of several Washington state labels by beverage giant Constellation Brands, and by major wine events that include Taste Washington. The popular Seattle-based event—which features tastings, tours, seminars and other activities—draws more than 235 area wineries, testifying to the growth of this wine region. There’s no shortage of choices, thanks to a variety of soils and microclimates.

“I believe the best varietals in the area,” Evangelista says, “are riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris for whites; and syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc for reds. I believe the wines speak the local language here, and that is what appeals to me as a wine lover.”

  • At Montage Beverly Hills, beverage manager and certified sommelier Jesus Evangelista recommends the 2013 Eroica Gold Riesling for its concentrated ripe fruit flavors and hint of sweetness. With marmalade notes and a crisp finish, this selection pairs well with Asian dishes, Indian curries and seafood options like crab and scallops.

  • With a nose of fresh cut flowers, dark red fruit, and a glorious citrus note, the 2011 Leonetti Cellars Reserve red blend is a favorite of the Washington wines available at Montage Kapalua Bay. Recommended by Josh Smith, a certified sommelier at Montage Kapalua Bay’s Cane & Canoe restaurant, the bottle notes also include a tiny sprinkling of cedar shavings, creme de cassis and crushed black currant making it tannin low, while the acidity is wonderfully bright.

  • Recommended by Troy Smith, beverage manager at Montage Laguna Beach, the 2013 Betz Family Winery, Pére De Famille Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the Columbia Valley in Washington. Primarily cabernet sauvignon with a merlot and petit verdot playing supporting roles, the bottle shows classic cabernet flavors of red currant, blackberry blossom, crushed herbs and leather, with creamy bay leaf, thyme and star anise notes.

  • Montage Palmetto Bluff’s wine director Jesse Rodriguez recommends the 2014 Cayuse Syrah Cailloux from Washington’s Walla Walla Valley, which presents a floral bouquet of ripe berry fruits, plums, orange blossom, fruit cake and mulled spices.

By Debra Bokur