Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Washington State Makes Exceptional Wines

Turf Lounge, Bay Street Toronto, August 11th 2015             

“There are presently 870 wineries in the State of Washington,” was the statement made by Chateau Ste-Michelle wine educator Paul Asikanen who was part of a promotional delegation headed by State Wine Association President Steve Warner.      

Ontario, five times the size of Washington, doesn’t come close and Canada with 700 licensed wineries has less. So why is Eastern Washington wine so prolific?

The state has approximately 300 days of sunshine per year with mean summer/winter temps of about 25 degrees Centigrade (78F) and 0 degrees Centigrade (32F) respectively.

The mountains running north/south parallel to the Pacific act as a barrier thus causing a “rain shadow” effect producing semi arid conditions to the east, which vastly reduces the potential for various vine diseases. The cold weather of the winter months also kills many of the pests that plague vineyards. The sandy soil found in this area makes it difficult for the pest Phylloxera to establish itself allowing planting of vines on their own root stocks.

 Finally, day and night “high and lows” can range as high as 20 degrees allowing for the production and preservation of a good acid backbone to the wine. This coupled with some serious research and state-of-the-art technology, results in some very fine wine The Turf Lounge, in Toronto, was the location of a fine Washington wine pairing dinner.

The evening started out with a fine sparkling wine, Michelle Brut, (LCBO # 363341, $16.85) a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris made in the same manner as traditional Champagne. It went well with the Sautéed Shrimp and Junior Burger hors d’oeuvres.

The Double Smoked Salmon First Course and Main Course Heritage Salmon Fillet found a good accompaniment with two wines. The Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling (LCBO #394759 $18.95) a 100% Riesling that I found great value as a better than average Riesling and Mirth Chardonnay (Vintages #403386, $17.95)  with fresh varietal flavour and clean finish.

The Lamb Loin with eggplant and fennel was a perfect match for the Colombia Crest Grand Estates Merlot (Vintages #263418, $1795). This superb wine had depth and backbone with mounds of developing flavours of black fruit and chocolate. Great Value!

Three red wines also were an excellent match for the above lamb as well as the Risotto with mushrooms and Parmesan. The Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #237784, $24.95) was  plump, delicious and decadent with oodles of black fruit and anise.  The Airfield Runway Cabernet (Vintages #408351, $22.25) was well structured and had excellent upfront fruit. Nine Hats Red Wine (Vintages #412221, $39.95) also produced an interesting and savory wine with Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Syrah-- each adding its distinctiveness to a luscious and opulent blend. Again decadency!!!

Finally, a Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling (LCBO #394767, $18.95) with nectarine, apricot, citrus, honeysuckle flavours enhanced the delicious desert of a Vanilla Panacotta with berry compote and basil.

Wow! My thanks to Washington State Wine and Nantel & Associates for a fine evening.