Washington State is the second largest producer of wine in the
United States and has developed a reputation for top-quality red
wines. The state is divided by the high Cascades range into a cool
and rainy west and a desert like east with hot and dry summers and
very cold winters.
With only 80 acres under vines, Puget Sound around Seattle is
where most wineries got started, however, most have now moved to
Unlike Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley in California, Washington's
Columbia Valley appellation is quite large and offers tremendous
differences in microclimate. All of the vineyards receive very
little rain during the growing season, giving the vineyard owners
perfect control over the vines vigor through irrigation. This
strict vineyard control combined with the northerly latitude, which
gives the vines an average of two additional hours of sunlight per
day during the growing season, offers the winemaking team an
incredible palette from which to select grapes for the final
Washington state has five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs):
Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, and
Columbia Valley, with significantly differing climates and
terroirs. Most of the common wine grape varieties are planted; reds
include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and whites include
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Yakima Valley was the first AVA, established in 1983. Silt-loam
soils predominate; the growing season is about six months with
moderate rainfalls. It contains about one third of the state's
vineyards; about 40 wineries. The most widely planted grapes are
Chardonnay, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but there
are also substantial plantings of Riesling and Syrah.
Walla Walla Valley was established a year later. Relatively
small, it has a longer growing season but also more rainfall.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading varietal with Merlot, Chardonnay
and Syrah also being planted.
Columbia Valley is the state's largest viticultural region. It
contains Red Mountain and both the Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys
within its borders. Vineyards are planted predominately on
south-facing slopes. The 7000 hectares under vine are divided among
a few large-scale wineries. Merlot is most widely planted, followed
by Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling.
The Milbrandt family had been farming in the area since the
mid-1950s with 12 estate vineyards totaling nearly 2,000 acres.
We'll be tasting Milbrandt wines at the Liquid Art Coffeehouse
in Killington, Jan. 31, (be sure to make your reservation