Best Wines of Washington's Winegrowing Regions

Posted April 09, 2013

The Puget Sound AVA is cooler and wetter—more like Oregon—than eastern Washington AVAs. Although the region is large, there are only about 70 acres planted, mostly with German white varieties such as Riesling and Siegerrebe, and some wineries are experimenting with Pinot Noir as well, although that grape is persnickety and doesn’t like too wet of a climate. 

Lopez Island Vineyards 2011 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $25

Brent Charnley has been a pioneer in Washington wine since the 1970s. First, he planted one of the few vineyards in the San Juan Islands—and the only one on Lopez Island, the driest of the San Juans, making it a more amenable climate to Northern European–style grapes. Secondly, he farms his grapes organically, avoiding some of the easy fixes for powdery mildew and other plagues of the moist Northwest. But he’s found a few things he can do very well, and Siegerrebe is one of them. A German variety, this grape (pronounced Zee-guh-reh-buh) is beautifully aromatic in a dry or sweet wine. Charnley’s version is a dry style, but with ripe pear and peach notes. This is the kind of wine that is an aperitif in itself, but it goes incredibly well with sweet shellfish such as scallops and crab. A true Northwest gem.
Puget Sound Siegerrebe Finalists:

Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2011 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $17
Whidbey Island Winery 2011 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $17

Challenger Ridge 2009 Estate Selection Clone 667 Pinot Noir, Puget Sound, $38

With just a few Pinot Noir growers in Washington, this was a small but fascinating category. The Puget Sound AVA has similarities to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but is cooler and wetter. Still, a few determined winegrowers feel there is untapped potential for this finicky grape in Washington state’s cooler regions. This wine, made by roving winemaker Robert Smasne, is grown on the 13-acre estate vineyard on the shores of the Skagit River in Concrete, and keeps proving that there is a future for Pinot Noir in Washington. With its medium body, refreshing acidity, and classic Pinot cherry fruit, dried herbs and earth, this wine is a welcome shift from some of the more intense reds from other parts of the state, adding to the diversity of Washington wine.
Puget Sound Pinot Noir Finalists:

Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery, 2010 Pinot Noir, Puget Sound, $26
Vashon Winery 2009 Pinot Noir, Puget Sound, $30

Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2011 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $17

Another Northern European grape that has found a home in the Pacific Northwest is Madeleine Angevine, a light white that is typically grown in the Loire Valley of France, Germany and even the U.K. An early ripener, this grape is often a sure bet in the wetter Puget Sound AVA. It has become one of the most popular wines with Northwest seafood, especially Puget Sound oysters, since the fresh acidity helps cleanse the palate. It is also a great summer boat wine, with green apple and lemon-lime notes, and lower alcohol than many eastern Washington wines, so you can enjoy more of it all summer.
Puget Sound Madeleine Angevine Finalists:

Lopez Island Vineyards 2011 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $25
Whidbey Island Winery 2011 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $15