The flagship wineries of Washington are Chateau Ste. Michelle and its sister winery Columbia Crest. These pioneering producers have put Washington state on the viticulture map.
The major growing regions in the state lie along the same latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy and have plentiful sunlight, minimal rainfall and long, warm summer days moderated by crisp, cool evenings. The soils are lean, yet rich in minerals.
The resulting wines are characterized by crispness and an intensity of fruit. You might say that Washington state wines have the best of both California and Bordeaux: They possess the forward fruit so prevalent in the Golden State, yet they also exhibit excellent balance like the wines produced in Bordeaux. Fruit, alcohol and acidity seem to be knitted harmoniously in most of the wines from Washington, and balanced wines are excellent matches with food.
And while the marquee wines are made as well in Washington as anywhere, the state is also producing among the most exciting Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Semillon I've tasted in this country.
Probably the most famous Washington state wineries are Quilceda Creek, Leonetti and Woodward Canyon, whose cabernet sauvignons and merlots are legendary, very expensive and difficult to find. However, there are plenty of other great wines from Washington that are available to you here in West Virginia.
Here is a listing of some of my favorite wineries that produce these wines:
Hedges Cellars, Waterbrook, Columbia Crest, Covey Run, L'Ecole No. 41, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Canoe Ridge, Powers, DeLille Cellars, Hogue Cellars, Barnard Griffin, Andrew Will Winery, Kiona, Columbia and Owen Roe.
Go out and try the wines of Washington state. They represent not only quality, but value when compared to the wines produced in higher-profile places such as California or France.
For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's WineBoy blog at thegazz.com.