Recently, I was at a wine tasting entitled “Washington vs. the World.” It was designed to pit some of the best Washington wines against esteemed wines from around the globe.
All of the wines were red Bordeaux-style blends. Curious as to what a Bordeaux style is? In the Bordeaux region of France, the grapes used to make red blends are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Outside of France, any red blend consisting of some or all of these grapes is referred to as “Bordeaux style.” The terms “claret” and “meritage” are synonyms for “Bordeaux style.”
10 Glasses at 10:30 a.m.
But I digress . . . back to the tasting. So it’s 10:30 in the morning and I show up to 10 half glasses of delicious red wine. It was a bit early for 10 glasses of wine, but I was willing to do my research for y’all. It was a blind tasting and we tasted and ranked the wines in pairs. The moderator, Doug Charles from Compass Wines, made the pairings based on wines that were “stylistically compatible,” with similarities in tannins and acids. And here’s an interesting note: the Washington wines were $60 to $65 a bottle, while the global wines were priced between $100 and $150.
Cadence, 2009 Bel Canto Red Wine, Red Mountain (Washington)
Dominus Estate, 2011 Estate Bottled Red Wine, Napa Valley (California)
Argiano, 2010 Toscana, Solengo (Italy)
Long Shadows, 2012 Pirouette Red Wine, Columbia Valley (Washington)
Vilafonté, 2012 Series C, Paarl (France)
Mark Ryan, 2012 Long Haul Red Wine, Red Mountain (Washington)
Upchurch, 2012 Red Wine, Red Mountain (Washington)
Léoville Las Cases, 2009 St.-Julien (France)
Edi Cimcic, 2006 Kolos, Goriska Brda (Slovenia)
Betz Family, 2012 Clos de Betz Red Wine, Columbia Valley (Washington)
We Love Washington Wines
Within the five pairings, three of my favorite wines were from Washington State. They were the Cadence, the Long Shadows Pirouette (my most favorite) and the Upchurch . If you are in the Developed tribe like I am, I bet you would like these, too.
The best part of the experience was that each of the Washington winemakers was present. They graciously answered questions, shared stories and traded bon mots. And they pointed out how young the Washington wine industry is—it started taking off only in the 1970s. The industry’s growth, though, has been explosive. In 1997, Washington had 75 wineries. Today there are over 800. Now even the Californians are getting into the game: they’re buying up vineyards in Washington.
The winemakers also talked about the joys of blending and how it allows skilled craftsmen and women to create balance in their wines. So go out and get yourself some Bordeaux-style blends from Washington. (Hell, even being able to say with confidence that you know what a Bordeaux-style blend is will up your cosmopolitan bona fides). As this blind tasting proved, Washington can more than hold its own against the world.
Leave a comment below with your favorite Bordeaux style blends. Cheers!