About this WINE
Washington State was effectively a 'dry-state' producing only grape jelly, until the 1980s spawned a wine industry desperate to make-up for the lost time. In 2004 plantings were at 12,141ha (up 4,000ha since 2000). Columbia Valley AVA dominates with approx. 60% of total vineyard area; the prized sub-region Yakima Valley AVA covers 39%; Walla Walla Valley AVA 1%.
Lying to the east and in the shelter of the coastal Cascade Mountains, the region enjoys a dry, distinctively continental climate, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends can reach great heights on the sandy gravely loam soils; Semillon and Riesling are the most promising white wines.
In 2005 there were approx 350 wineries (a 10% increase year on year), with the Andrew Will Winery regarded as the region's best.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.