The Worldly Wines of Washington

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loosenThe Worldly Wines of Washington

Intense and complex are the two descriptors I see most when describing the wines of Washington state. Washington is way up North, the most northern major winegrowing area in the world. But before you start thinking that this wine country is a small group of cold weather winemakers, think again. Two global wine giants call Washington home: Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest, now joined at the hip for a collaboration to make the best wines in the region.

Founded in 1934, Chateau St Michelle is the oldest in Washington, known for its Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. Its winery is 15 miles northeast of Seattle in Woodinville, but its grapes are grown way East in the Columbia Valley.I have two favorites from this iconic wine maker.The first is the 2011 Eroica, a German style Riesling ($19 at North County Wine Company) exuding lime and orange rind flavors with subtle mineral notes. It’s a collaboration of Dr. Ernst Loosen, Germany’s most famous Riesling maker, and head winemaker of Chateau St. Michelle, Bob Bertheau (see photo).

The other worldly wine that I can’t get enough of is the Chateau St. Michelle Col Solare.In 1995, Piero Antinori, Italy’s master winemaker and a founder of Tuscany’s “Super Tuscan” wines, came to St. Michelle and made Col Solare ( means Shining Hill in Italian – $49.99 for the 2006 at Encinitas Wine Merchants.It’s also poured by the glass there.)

The Bordeaux style blending is 71% Cabernet, 25% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.The 06 spent 27 months in oak barrels, and should mature from 5 to 7 years, so it should be ready now.

Grapes from this regal red come from Red Mountain, a sub-appellation to the Columbia Valley. In the Columbia Valley as well as Walla Walla, Yakima and Puget Sound AVA’s, Washington’s vast wine country is the #2 wine producer in the country, a distant 2nd to California.With its 17 hour summer sunshine, wine grapes fully develop rich flavors.

columbia crest

Columbia Crestand its Horse Heaven Hills ( H3) is adjacent to the Columbia River with a rocky volcanic basalt and bedrock base.The current2010 Cabernet( $13. at North County Wine Company) delivers a balance of cherry blossoms and rose petals laced with earthy mineral flavors.

Other names to try include:Quilceda Creek 2010 Cabernet, Leonetti Cellar 2011 Merlot and L’Ecole 2009 Cabernet. For more on our feature wineries, tap into www.ste-michelle.com and www.columbia-crest.com.

Firefly Grill & Wine Bar on Fire

Jim Barrasso has cranked up the heat on his Firefly Grill & Wine Bar in Encinitas. He and Chef Justin have rolled out a new late summer menuwith many new items on board with the freshest meats, seafood and local seasonal produce.Firefly was again honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, the 7th consecutive year, for its extraordinary selection of world class wines.Barrasso keeps finding insider pricing for his customers to take home and savor at 50% or more reductions.This time around it’s the Kuleto Estate Meritage, “The Frog Prince” Napa Valley 2009.At the winery, it’s $50. a bottle.Barrasso has a few cases left at $19. a bottle.Call him at 760-635-1066.

Frank Mangio is a renowned San Diego wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.View and link up with his columns at www.tasteofwinetv.com.Reach him at [email protected].