Mead On Wine
Last Week99 Indexsubscribearchive

© 1999 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

When I first started writing about the wines of Washington State back in the early seventies...and I'm proud say I was the first syndicated writer to do so...there were two serious wineries of any size at all and a few others making fruit and berry wines.

    Last count there are 115 and a few more debuting with the current harvest. Small, and not-so-small, Washington wineries are proliferating rapidly.

    Washington is either the second or third largest wine producer in America. Washington and New York both claim to be number two, with the real answer residing in the way one counts. It is very safe to say the state is one of the top three wine producers in the U.S.

    It's impossible to keep up with the 800-900 wineries in California. It's nearly as difficult to track Washington. But if you've done Napa to death, know the rest of the North Coast as well as the route you take to work every day, and are already acquainted with the Central Coast, you really should consider a Washington wine tour.

    The Washington Wine Commission would like to encourage you as well. They'll send you an extremely informative 55-page booklet titled "Touring the Washington Wine Country" and a separate brochure of special events and tastings from one end of the state to the other. Write to: Washington Wine Tour, 500 Union St., Ste. 945, Seattle, WA 98101 or (206) 667-9463 Ext. 202; e-mail:

    If you are computer literate, the entire contents of the booklet plus even more information is available at, and you can download just the pages and maps you need.

    Washington's wine industry has some things in common with California. Most of the best new wineries are too small to have national distribution through traditional outlets, and varieties not previously a major factor are becoming ever more important. If you have difficulty finding any of the wines reviewed today use the same contact for requesting the Tour Guide to help you track down the wines.

    Washington is perhaps best known for Merlot and Riesling, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc also highly regarded.

    But wines like Blue Franc, Sangiovese and, as I learned at recent tasting of a number of Washington wines, Syrah, are coming on strong...very strong.

    DeLille Cellars 1997 "Chaleur Estate" ($25) One of the smaller producers, this wine is a blend of Semillon (60 percent) and Sauvignon Blanc (40 percent) that comes with a very classy Bordeaux-look bottle and label. Fresh fig aromas, tart grapefruit flavors and some wood awareness. Bone dry. A good food companion. Pricey. Rating: 92/80

    Bridgman 1998 "Yakima Valley" Viognier ($16) Subtle is not a word I often use for wines made from this grape. Here it fits. It has some of that peach-skin perfume and flavor, but it's delicately stated rather than hitting you over the head. Threshold sweetness. Match with Asian/Cajun cuisines or serve as an aperitif. Rating: 90/87

    Columbia Winery 1997 "Yakima-Red Willow Vineyard" Sangiovese ($18) Very complex bouquet of plums, cherries and spice. Medium intensity cherry flavors. Medium bodied with enough acidity and astringency to cut through tomato sauce and garlic. Limited national availability. Rating: 88/85

    Andrew Will 1998 "Pepper Bridge" Sangiovese ($25) Wonderful! Big, ripe, plum fruit. Very intensely flavored, with some hints of bittersweet chocolate. Rating: 95/87

    Thurston Wolfe 1997 "Burgess Vineyard" Syrah ($18) Extremely limited. Great nose of ripe plum, spice and wood. All of that and more in the mouthfilling totally delicious and complex red wine. Rating: 96/90

    Glen Fiona 1997 "Walla Walla" Syrah ($25) There are a thousand cases of this monster with manners (think King Kong in a white dinner jacket). For those who like their red wines big enough to chew, but velvety round with no youthful harshness. Very ripe plum and cassis flavors. Rating: 94/84

    Glen Fiona 1997 "Columbia Valley-Bacchus Vineyard" Syrah ($25) Beware this unrefined monster from the same producer (think Godzilla in camouflage fatigues). Too much of a good thing. Too much extraction. Too much tannin. Too much wood. Subdued fruit with some tobacco after-flavors and a very astringent finish. 79/75

    McCrea 1997 "Yakima" Syrah ($20) Very ripe plum from first aroma to final aftertaste. A dandy companion to the likes of duck breast, blackened fish or most beef dishes. Rating: 88/84

    Columbia Crest 1996 "Columbia Valley Reserve" Syrah ($26) National availability. A real lip-smacker. A big, velvety, round, almost concentrated red with very ripe plum and smoky oak flavors. Rating: 92/84

    Chateau Ste. Michelle 1995 "Columbia Valley Reserve" Syrah ($27) Also has national distribution. Ripe plum and a little boysenberry; a liberal dose of oak extract. A touch astringent for current consumption, but with considerable cellar potential (ten years or more). Rating: 90/84

    Genesis 1996 "Columbia Valley" Syrah ($15) A blend of 85 percent Syrah, 10 percent Cabernet and 5 percent Blue Franc. Very youthful style plum flavors with earthy notes and a little anise. Some tannin, balanced by fruit. Rating: 88/86


    Columbia Winery 1996 "Yakima-Red Willow Vineyard" Syrah ($22) One of the best American Syrahs I've tasted. Smoky ripe plum and blackberry flavors with undertones of spice. Beautifully wooded. Perfectly balanced, totally satisfying red wine experience. It's one major mouthful of flavor without going over the top stylistically. Rating: 98/90

Subscription Information

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1999 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
The Mead On Wine WebSite is designed, maintained and hosted by Wines on the Internet.