A Woodinville Bottle of Wine From Washington State

How A Washington Bottle of Wine Compares to California Wine-

Compare and contrast the difference between a good bottle of wine from California versus Washington State. This sounds like a oenophile’s college entrance exam.

We had the chance to compare and contrast these wines while visiting Woodinville Wine Country recently in some gloriously beautiful weather (normal for us, not so normal for the Pacific Northwest.) There are 99 wineries represented in this little valley north east of Seattle, with nary a grape vine to be seen.

William Hodge - GradPortraitsWashington State wine is grown on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Some call this ‘ desert’ because the eastern slopes receive much less rain. In a state like Washington grapevine struggles to grow in the moisture of the western slopes. The eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains provide a perfect spot for growing vines as it’s drier, hot in the day, cold at night.

California wines are grown throughout the state, from the Temecula Valley, north through Bakersfield up to Lodi, the coastal areas of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Monterey, up through Sonoma, Napa and on to Lake County. Oh, and we almost forgot, California Gold Country. Each region has it’s own distinct flavor and aroma because they grow in distinct temperature zones and earth compositions.

The wine we sampled in Washington State is distinctly different from our California wine. Interestingly, wine we tasted in this region was drier, higher in alcohol and less fruity than our California wines. They were very distinct and different from their California brethren. While they were higher in alcohol, winemakers controlled the smell and taste of it, the alcohol didn’t overpower the fruit. Some warm regions in California have a problem containing their alcohol, and it overpowers the fruit.

“…wine we tasted in this region was drier, higher in alcohol and less fruity than our California wines.”

The best example was a Viogner we savored from JM Cellers. We’re used to a fruity version of Viogner which we call a ‘white wine for red wine drinkers.’ Many of the wineries blending wine in Paso Robles will use a dollop of Viogner in their red wine to wake up your senses and mellow the wine.

But in Washington, the Viogner was less fruity without the sweetness. You can still taste the Viogner and pick it out of a crowd, but it was much different than the wine we taste on California’s Central Coast.

Is this good or bad? Well, of course it’s good, just different. That’s the beauty of wine. It’s the opportunity of savoring the difference in flavor and aroma winemakers coax from their grape. For winemakers, the composition of their embryonic earth gives grape characteristics the winemaker molds into an interesting and drinkable bottle of wine.

Here are our tasting notes:

JM Cellars
2011 Margaret’s Estate Red (Cab-Merlot-Cab Franc-Petit Verdot-Merlot) $36 ✰+
2012 Louisa Merlot (two blended Merlot clones) a dry Merlot with 14.8% alcohol $45 ✰
2012 Syrah with a dollop of Viognier $45 ✰+
2013 Mourvedre Rose (not much earthy taste, light and dry) $25 ✰
2013 Viognier (dry, less sweet than California versions) $25 ✰
2011 Tre (Cab-Merlot-Syrah blend) ✰+

Novelty Hill/Januik Winery
2011 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Syrah (soft palate, spicy finish) $23 ✰+/✰
2011 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creed Vineyard Syrah (soft palate, soft finish) -✰
2011 Januik Weinbau Vineyard Cabernet Franc ✰/-✰
2011 Januik Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot (soft vanilla nose, soft palate) $35 ✰+/✰
2011 Januik Klipsun Merlot (spicy nose, Merlot without the flat taste)  $30 ✰+

Château St. Michelle
2012 Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon (fruity palate) $20 ✰+
2010 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon $50 ✰+
2009 Canoe Ridge Syrah  $35 ✰
2010 Cold Creek Red Blend (Cab-Syrah-Merlot-Cab Franc) $35 ✰
2011 Cold Creek Syrah $35 ✰/✰+
2011 Artist Series Meritage $50 ✰+
2007 Artist Series Meritage $55 ✰+

We attempted to visit Columbia (a Gallo product) but departed when they could provide no spitting cups. All three wineries we tasted shared good wine, interesting tastes and aromas.

“For winemakers, the composition of their embryonic earth gives grape characteristics the winemaker molds into an interesting and drinkable bottle of wine.”

During this trip we were reminded of an important lesson when storing wine in a car. As we mentioned, the weather was gloriously warm the day we attended the jazz festival at Château St. Michelle. Since we were departing for a relative’s home after the concert, we stored four bottles of wine in the trunk. We should have made other arrangements.

Each of the bottles overheated and wine seeped out of the bottle (they were lying on their sides) allowing air to draw back into the bottle. Fortunately we noticed the stain on a label and realized what happened. So we enjoyed one bottle with relatives in Seattle and put the other three bottles on our first list of wines to drink at home. None of the bottles were ruined, but none of the bottles of wine tasted the same as we savored in wineries.

So always care for your bottles of wine, watch the temperature inside your vehicle while wine tasting. Protect your bottles of wine with a cooler to store your bottles during hot weather.

Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Temecula.

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

– -✰  means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰  means -Not liking it too much
✰ means  -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+  with a slash, it means we disagree.