Every once in a while someone wanting to expand their wine hobby asks me: What Washington wineries should I check out?
My first inclination is long-time favorites like Cayuse, Quilceda Creek or Leonetti, but the reality is your not-yet-born child is more likely to land a spot on the Cayuse mailing list than you are. Quilceda Creek and Leonetti also have full mailing lists. Even wineries newer to the scene like Betz and Reynvaan have full mailing lists.
So what’s a wine lover to do – move on to Oregon Pinot Noir or Idaho Riesling? Don’t give up! There’s a world of amazing Washington wine still available to consumers.
Here are some of my favorites (join their lists before a high score from the Wine Advocate maxes them out):
Force Majeure Vineyards
Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The first Collaboration Series bottling, a Bordeaux style blend, was the 2004 Collaboration I made by Ben Smith of Cadence.
Some of the other wines in the series include:
- Collaboration II – a Northern Rhone style blend by Ross Mickel of Andrew Ross
- Collaboration V – a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made by Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery
- Collaboration VI – a Southern Rhone style blend made by James Mantone of Syncline.
Located in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Force Majeure is open twice a year for mailing list member release parties.
Gramercy Cellars was founded in 2005 by Master Sommelier Greg Harrington. These are old world style wines that see little influence from oak and have high acidity making them a delight to pair with some of your favorite meals. To quote a recent Gramercy newsletter, “Stems and slopes rule.” This gives you an idea of how Greg leans in his wine making style. Look for the Lagniappe Syrah and Tempranillo Inigo Montoya.
Gramercy has a public tasting room in downtown Walla Walla.
Sleight of Hand Cellars
Sleight of Hand was founded in 2007 by Jerry and Sandy Solomon, and Trey Busch. The formula at Sleight of Hand is high quality wines from Washington’s most exceptional vineyards. Look for the Enchantress Chardonnay from French Creek Vineyard and the Funkadelic Syrah from the (aptly named) Funk Vineyard.
Sleight of Hand has a tasting room outside of downtown Walla Walla and is open to the public. Tasting room tip: Trey is a huge Pearl Jam fan. Request one of their songs to be played and they’ll waive your tasting fee!
I realize I’m just scratching the surface with these wineries. What would you recommend to a Washington wine newcomer?