Washington State is the second largest producers of vinifera wines in the US after California. The vinifera distinction is made because New York state has more acres under vine but a great proportion of them are native American vines and/or hybrids. The majority of Washington’s vines are in the eastern part of the state which is desert for the most part, forcing vineyards to be planted in close proximity to rivers to allow irrigation. During the growing season, the hot days and very cool nights give the ripening fruit a diurnal swing that encourages full ripeness but helps retain refreshing acidity and thus, balance. While summer days are hot, winters are usually quite severe and there are usually problems with winter kill due to extremely low temperatures at least once every decade. The upside to this, if one could be named, is that continental cold helps to make phylloxera a non-issue here, as do the predominantly sandy soils. Most of Washington’s vines are, unusually, planted on their own rootstocks. Washington makes excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. However Merlot is considered the star – indeed it is the state’s most planted variety – but Merlot’s susceptibility to frosts make it problematic here. Cold-resistant varieties like Riesling and Lemberger do well but are less popular. Reds tend to have Californian-style ripeness but more European levels of tannin and structure.


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