It’s time for Oregon to stop hogging all the attention.

By Ted Loos
July 13, 2015
View from the top of Yellow Bird Vineyard, Walla Walla Vintners.
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| Credit: Patrick Bennett

Washington State is like that annoying kid in your high school class who was captain of the soccer team, valedictorian, and also interning at the local newspaper—how can she be so good at so many things?

The state’s most established wine appellations—Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley—are in the southern part of the state (a lot of Washington wine country is Almost Oregon, I learned when I visited.) But they can be a bit confusing for wine lovers, since there’s no obvious go-to varietals like Cabernet is for Napa and Pinot Noir is for Oregon.

Given that July and August are the premier months to visit Seattle (a brief reprieve from rain!), where a lot of Washington wine trips start, it’s good to check in on some of the many summertime-appropriate wines that the state excels at.

Waitsburg Cellars “The Aromatics” Chevray 2012

I had never heard of Waitsburg Cellars until the winery’s “The Aromatics” Chevray 2012 ($18) showed up on my doorstep, and boy is it good. Made from old-vine Chenin Blanc, this wine has a big frame but it’s not ungainly, with tons of concentrated peach, pear, and apricot flavors. For those who love Savennières from the Loire, this Washington version will be a favorite from here on out.

Maryhill Viognier Columbia Valley 2014

The Maryhill Viognier Columbia Valley 2014 ($16) is also a bold, peachy statement, but from a grape already known for its forward, blowsy charms. There’s an off-dry sweetness here, but just the right amount. Also tasty is the winery’s drier, more ethereal 2012 Aurelia ($20), a blend of white Rhône grapes that took me a minute to really appreciate. It opens up nicely in the glass.

Charles Smith Charles & Charles Rosé 2014

Charles Smith is the state’s largest independent winemaker and he makes a huge range of wines, most of them quite good. His Charles & Charles Rosé 2014 ($13) is an incredible value, a Syrah-blend bottling that I can only describe as electric-salmon colored. It’s stuffed with a variety of berry flavors and a hint of watermelon, generous with its fruit but not to a fault. It goes with...anything.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling Columbia Valley 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of the dominant players in the state, comes through on a regular basis with great value wines, and their Dry Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 ($10) is my current favorite. It’s a very soft version of Riesling, a grape that gets a lot of attention in Washington, and a subtle introduction to its pleasures, with just a hint of the “petrol” nose it’s famous for. Lovely apricot flavors, too.

The fact that all these wines are $20 and under should be reason for you to Think Washington all this month, and beyond.