A state in the Pacific North-west that is gaining a reputation for its quality sparkling wines. It has a common viticultural area with Oregon – the Columbia River Valley, which serves as their border. There is one major producer, the rest are small artisan affairs.
The main producing area is the Columbia Valley AVA (including the tributary Yakima Valley AVA), in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains to its west. The land is gently undulating to the east, steeper towards the west – from what I can tell from imagery and topographic maps.
A continental climate with hot days and cold nights.
It is dry, because of the rain shadow, with just 400mm rainfall, and 300 cloudless days.
In summer through to the autumn the temperature can reach almost 30C, but with a drop of 22C down to about 8C at night, this helps preserve acidity and develop flavour and aroma precursors.
The rivers which run off the mountains provide irrigation waters.
Although the wine producing area has a similar latitude to the Loire Valley, in winter, freezing conditions caused by Arctic air flows can drop the temperature to -25C and cause widespread vine death, as occurred in 1996 and 2003.
Fast draining infertile sandy, stony loam over volcanic basalt. And phyloxera hates sand.
Some wine is seen in the UK, well just Dom. Ste Michelle as far as I can find, the market is mostly domestic owing to low volumes from artisanal producers.
There are about 8 sparkling wine producers, the most important are:
- Domaine Ste Michelle – based at Paterson on the Columbia River, upstream from the Cascades, produces a small range of sparkling wine only (careful, there is also a Ch. Ste Michelle producing just still wines). Prices $US low teens.
- The rest are small artisanal producers, see references below, some dedicated to sparkling wine, with perhaps up to low single figure thousands of cases. Prices ranges from $US teens up to $50.
The low rainfall enables growers to control vigour by controlling irrigation, and the lack of rain in summer and autumn reduces disease pressure, so little problem with downy and powdery mildew, which are so challenging in the Atlantic influenced Northern Europe. The severe winters, whilst risky to the vines, kill off pests, leaving the vineyards fairly pest free, with little need for control.
Irrigation is by drip feed, with some using fixed overhead sprayers.
Cordon trained, spur pruned on single or double wires, retaining mature wood against winter temperatures. Yields are reduced, to maximise mature wood consolidation – my explanation as none given.
Varieties include chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier; also riesling and sangiovese!
Traditional method, making small amounts of hand crafted, often hand riddled sparkling wine.
Similar to champagne in range, but more approachable, fruit forward and with high acidity.
Domaine Ste Michelle, Brut NV.
- Domaine Ste Michelle.
- Johnson, H., Robinson, R. (2007). World Atlas of Wine. Mitchell Beazley.
- Wikipedia [online]. Washington wine. [online] accessed 31/10/17.