It is a well-known fact that the Vancouver Island region produces high-quality wines. There is a lot of love for the winemakers and producers both here on the Island and in the interior of BC.
The ideal climate for wine-making is accompanied by a robust food culture that supports a high level of quality. Not surprisingly, this carries over to our neighbours across the border. In fact, if it weren’t for the border we’d likely look at British Columbia and Washington State as one larger wine-growing region! So, if you love BC wines you’ll also love the wines of Washington State.
Washington State, like BC, has a great climate for wine production. Washington’s wine-growing areas sit at the same latitude as some of the finest vineyards in France. This ideal position combined with the rain shadow provided by the Cascade mountains and the semi-arid climate makes for a truly magnificent wine region.
A bedrock of ancient volcanic basalt has been carved away by rivers and floods while tectonic activity has caused such deforming of the land that riverbeds end up on the top of mountains. Born of fire and ice and formed over eons; this is Washington State.
Washington is so diverse that it has 20 unique growing regions. Like Vancouver Island and the Okanagan, it also has a wide variety of micro-climates. This gives Washington State tremendous versatility. Winemakers in the region can count on most grape varietals to produce wines that are true to their type while still offering local expression.
Like BC, there is a large number of varietals planted here. Neither region has one grape varietal that stands out as a marquee grape. This is not because they aren’t noteworthy, but because so many are! In fact, Washington has a higher average of 90+ points rated wines than Spain, California, and Italy (and a lower price point too).
Washington State also shares a similar culture and commitment to producing high-quality wines with BC wine growers; the people behind Washington wines are what make the industry so special. 90% of Washington wineries produce less than 5000 cases per year, meaning the industry is almost entirely boutique and hand-crafted. There are over 1000 small, often family-run wineries that compose Washington wine, all practicing sustainability both environmentally and industrially. Wineries of all sizes work together to move the industry forward, though the larger wineries function as some of the most well-known names in Washington wine.
Washington wines tend to have fewer pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides applied because of the combination of the climate and soil type. The dusty semi-arid soil deters insects so fewer pesticides must be resorted to. In fact, many Washington vineyards are planted on their own rootstock.
The wine industry in Washington has long been overlooked outside of the State, but that is beginning to change. Washington has earned high praise from reviewers including Jeb Dunnuck who says, “Washington State continues to produce a massive number of beautiful wines.” With praise like that, it’s no wonder that Washington wine continues to stand up next to the finest wines of the world.
As Nick Stock at JS Wine Ratings says, “Washington’s exceptional terroirs and micro-climates seem to allow quality from just about any grape type.” No matter which style of wine you prefer, from sparkling to Spanish varietals, a Washington producer is knocking it out of the park (likely for less than you’re currently spending on wines from anywhere else).
When it comes to producing quality wines, Washington State stands alone. No matter what budget and occasion, Washington State will over-deliver. Crafted by mostly small, independent winemakers using grapes grown on a dramatic landscape forged over millennia and lovingly bottled to be delivered globally, Washington wine is worth exploring.
If you're interested in trying some wines from Washington State, there will be plenty of selection at Victoria Wine Fest at the Roundhouse at Bayview Place! Get your tickets for September 23rd or 24th on their website for wine tastings, education, and more. Browse some of our top Washington wine recommendations below.
Here are some of our favourite Washington wines:
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a bold Cabernet Sauvignon with great structure from Columbia Valley. It has a great structure and, like BC's Cabernet Sauvignons, it has a brighter acidity than one from Napa Valley. This Cab has darker fruit flavours but maintains its classic herbal and chocolate notes. Try this one if you enjoy the Hester Creek Cabernet Merlot, but want a heartier experience!
Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Chardonnay is the most frequently planted white grape in Washington State! In this particular Chardonnay, there is less oak influence than you’re likely used to, which really lets the Chardonnay grape shine through. The bright apple and citrus fruit blend with the light oak nuances creates an approachable yet interesting wine.
Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Reisling
A dry, crisp, refreshing style of Riesling with beautiful fruit flavours, crisp acidity and an elegant finish. Great with spicy dishes. Firm Yakima Valley fruits is the backbone here, tart and spicy, with bright flavours of pear and apple. A juicy, palate-cleansing style.