Try Washington State
Yes, California gets all the prestige with the wine press, but Washington State should be on your radar as well. While you would be hard-pressed to find a highly-rated bottle from Napa Valley under $100, there are plenty to be found in Washington. It just takes a little digging.
The Columbia Valley
Washington State is the second-largest producer of fine wine in the country. 95% of the wine comes from east of the Cascade Mountains, creating a rain shadow for the Columbia Valley. It averages between 10 and 12 inches of rainfall per year, compared to Seattle, west of the Cascades, averages almost 40. Irrigation is required to grow anything and the 2 extra hours of sunlight in the summer help get the grapes ripe.
Cabernet and Merlot are the standards, Syrah is another great option
While Chateau Ste Michele dominates the area, there are many smaller, family run wineries in the region that are making great wines. While Cabernet and Merlot are standards there, Syrah is another great option. Rich, ripe red and black fruit along with a meaty, smoky character and lively acidity is a great alternative to the standards.
2013 Andrew Will Sorella, Horse Heaven Hills
The gorgeously nose shows a blend of cassis, graphite, river stones, tobacco leaf with hints of black currants and dark raspberry. The palate shows a superb full-bodied, balanced, structured wine that integrates a combination of smooth tannins and bright acids. It finishes with excellent length and grip, on the pure and complex finish. Pick it up for about $85.
2016 Revelry Vintners The Reveler Limited Edition, Columbia Valley
Since the first release of the 2007 vintage, ‘The Reveler has embodied a non- traditional approach to blending. Each vintage is uniquely its own, the only rules being the wine is comprised entirely of only the original Bordeaux varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot – and each release is better than the last. ‘The Reveler’ is a rich and dynamic wine, with layer after layer of flavor. Pick it up for about $25.
2015 K Vintners Cattle King Syrah, Snipes Mountain
For the last 4 vintages, if you total up the best scores, it totals 396 out of a possible 400!
“Another off the charts effort is the 2015 Syrah Cattle King Upland Vineyard, which is also saturated purple/black in color. Possessing a more backward, yet insanely pure bouquet of crème de cassis, black fruits, smoked earth, graphite, and violets, it’s beautifully concentrated, has no hard edges, thrilling purity, and a gorgeous, layered, awesome, multi-dimensional style. It needs short-term cellaring but is a monumental wine from Washington.”
Pick this 100 point wine up for less than $80. Good luck doing that in Napa!
Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”