So what makes this northwest corner of the U.S. so special? Excellent terroir.
That somewhat confusing French word (pronounced tare-wah) means Washington has the requisite soil, climate and geographic location most ideally suited to growing some of the world's greatest wine grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.
I spent a week touring the area more than a decade ago and came to a rapid conclusion, after tasting the best the state had to offer, that the wines are exceptional. Since then, things have only gotten better and the cabernets and merlots are among the best being produced anywhere.
In addition to intensity, richness, elegance and power, Washington state wines have the potential to achieve a qualitative attribute uncommon in California -- or anywhere else for that matter.
That characteristic is balance. Balanced wines possess a harmony of fruit, alcohol and acid. There are also many subcomponents that contribute to balance such as tannins and phenolic compounds and other technical stuff that only a chemist would find interesting.
I am particularly fond of the cabernet, merlot, Riesling and Semillon made in Washington state.
Here are a few of my favorite labels from Washington state that you should find appealing: L'Ecole No. 41, Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge, Hedges, Leonetti, Waterbrook, Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, Covey Run, Hogue Cellars, Kiona, Milbrandt, Walla Walla, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, DeLille Cellars, and Barnard Griffin Winery.
For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Wine Boy blog at thegazz.com.