Washington's Wines


The line-up at Quilceda.

I flew up to Seattle last week to attend a special tasting of what most people consider to be Washington State’s finest wine and others even call it the best Bordeaux variety wine made in the country, Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.

The tasting was actually a lot from the Washington Wine Auction, purchased for a lot of money by a wealthy man. The wines and the venue were thrown in by Cameron Myrhvold, an executive at Microsoft, while the dinner was contributed by the popular Seattle restaurant Serafina, whose chef happens to be my brother-in-law (thanks for the invite, John). Located in Bellevue, Cameron’s house has a spectacular view across Lake Washington toward Seattle, a perfect setting to peer back in vinous history.

Quilceda Creek is something special. Founded in 1978, the winery is just up the highway from Seattle in Snohomish. It’s too rainy to grow quality grapes there, though, so just like all quality Washington wines, the
vineyard sources are in Eastern Washington. Some say that Washington has a viticultural advantage over California for certain varieties, because it’s northern latitudes give it several hours more sunlight during the
all-important ripening season. I’m not sure that I’d quarrel with the quality of Napa Cabs, but Washington certainly has a lot going for it. An age-worthy wine, Quilceda Creek comes across more in the style of Bordeaux
than heady, fruit-forward California Cabs. I love the style—cedary and woodsy with lots of fleshy substance in the mouth and heaps of cassis and black cherry.

Naturally, the wine ages spectacularly well—the first vintage we tasted, 1983, still had many years of life ahead of it. 1985 was mind-blowingly full and rich with a lot of savory complexity. Through the early and mid 1990s,
there were stylistic changes afoot as well as some tough vintages, and in general the wine was good, but didn't blow me away again until the majestic1999. From then to now, though, the wine has been spot on. I recommend
ordering it if you see it on the list—or checking into their website for
more information.

Normally, I don’t buy plane tickets just to attend tastings. But I have to confess that for this tasting there was an added incentive (and forgive me this shameless plug of cuteness): A chance to visit my niece, Clementine, the chubbiest little six-month-old in the country.

Oh, Clementine, you have so many good vintages to look forward to!
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