Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Drinking Wine in Vancouver during the Olympic Winter Games: Why not Go South to Washington State?

Picture: Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games 2010 in Vancouver

300.000 people are expected to come to Vancouver to visit the Olympic Winter Games. If they want to drink wine, the first choice, I would think are wines from British Columbia. If a gold or other medal needs to be celebrated, perhaps a Canadian icewine from the Niagara area is the best choice. I have talked about this in my posting of February 14 here.

Looking south, there is also Washington State in the US with its wonderful wines. About half a century ago, there was basically no wine industry in Washington State. And if wine was made, it was not with the noble European vinifera grapes. But the American wine boom that had its origin in California moved to the north, first to Oregon and then it also reached Washington State.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Washington State

In 1980, four years after Californian wines had out shined the French wines at the famous tasting in Paris, there were about 20 wineries in Washington State that were producing high-quality wines with European vinifera grapes. Today, there are more that 500 wineries. In general, if California’s wines are rich and powerful, Washington State’s wines are more crisp and delicate, reflecting its location much more up in the North. They remind me a lot of the wines I know from Germany.

Wine adviser Paul Gregutt from the Seattle Times has published his Top 100 Wines of Washington State for 2009. This ranking is not done strictly by the points the wines received from Paul Gregutt in the tasting, but also takes the price into account. Here are Paul Gregutt's Washington State Top 100 Wines for 2009. I was happy to see that there are two wines on the list, which are American/German wines.

Eroica 2008 Riesling Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Ernst Loosen ($24)

This is the result of a American/German joint venture, a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle, the huge Washington winemaker, and Dr. Ernst Loosen, the eminent Riesling producer from the Mosel region of Germany. The wine is made at Chateau Ste. Michelle from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley.

Poet's Leap 2008 Riesling Long Shadows and Diel Estate ($20)

Long Shadows has become, in a short time, one of the premier wineries in Washington State . It is an unusual set up. Former Stimson-Lane CEO Allen Shoup works with renowned winemakers from around the world for this venture. Each winemaker creates a single wine using Washington fruit. Add resident winemaker Gilles Nicault to shepherd all of the wines along. The Poet’s Leap Riesling is made by Armin Diel, one of Germany’s most highly regarded Riesling producers.

In the week leading up to the opening of the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Paul Gregutt also did a quick tour of the 5 most essential varietals grown and made in Washington State. He started with the Riesling, here, and continued with Semillion, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay and Syrah here. A very useful introduction.

Last but not least, the Seattlewineblogger has just released his fourth annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries.

"The 2009 Unofficial Classification Of Washington State Wineries represents my personal, perhaps, idiosyncratic or eccentric, opinions of the quality of Washington State wineries. Out of more than 650 wineries, there are at least a hundred producing great wine. About half of the wine produced in Washington comes from wineries owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. The other 600 some odd wineries are mostly small artisanal family enterprises typically producing 2000-3000 cases, in some cases up to 20,000 cases or more...In contrast to other classifications of wine such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries is not set in stone and changes every year...This has been a difficult year with so many people unemployed, retirement funds cut in half, and a housing market that is limping along at best. In general, it appears that most people have lowered the price they are willing to pay for a bottle of wine, but have not cut consumption. Wines at the top of the list be special wines for special occasions, whereas wine in the "Cinqieme" group tend to be outstanding values...Wineries are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked within each category."

Here is the Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. Thank you for this effort.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

Vancouver, Olympic Winter Games 2010 and Canada's Wine

In the Glass: Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - #1 Top 100 Wine Spectator 2009

German Winemakers in the World: Johann Schiller - the father of Canada's wine industry

Eiswein in Germany and Ice Wine in Canada

Wine Ratings: Two American/German Wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 List of Washington States Wines in 2009

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