As newer domestic wine regions continue to evolve, it's only natural that more wineries are built and a large influx of new wines are eagerly presented to the market. But how do they create a presence in an already crowded space?
Columbia Winery, based in Washington State, answered this question by hosting a launch party on March 19, in partnership with the phenomenal food website Food52, as their coming out in the New York market.
On many levels, the partnership is a great fit. Food52 started a few years ago as an online community for cooks, aiding them with answers to questions, projects, and creating a general gathering space for chefs at all levels. The site continued to evolve with smart content and a beautiful design, winning many awards and accolades. This startup nature is also seen with Columbia Winery, which was started in the 1960s by a group of 10 friends, 6 of whom were University of Washington professors, all of whom believed European varietals would thrive in the Washington State climate and that the area could produce high quality vino.
Columbia Valley is home to about 60% of the state's vineyards and four prominent AVAs - Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain - are the sources for Columbia Winery's grapes. If Washington State conjurs up thoughts of rainy Seattle, the eastern part of the state will disabuse any visitor of those images. With only 6-8 inches of rainfall annually (compared to Seattle's average 39 inches), days are often hot and sunny. There is a large diurnal shift so evenings are cool and crisp, ensuring the grapes don't overripen.
The winery distributes 4 wines in some U.S. states, which were all presented at the event: Chardonnay, Composition Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Chardonnay showcased pear, citrus and a slight buttery note on the finish, due to a small amount of malolactic fermentation. With a moderate amount of acidity, this wine was a crowdpleaser. The Composition Blend, a medley of Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon was a fruit forward, easy-drinking wine that was simple but quaffable. The Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the Wahluke slope showcased deeper red fruits with tannins and peppery spices. Finally, the Merlot, which was given a bit of structure with 13% Syrah, had notes of black fruits and plum, peppery spices and notes of mocha.
These wines were paired with delicious nibbles; while the Chardonnay and the Composition fared well with their By-The-Glass showing, the Cabernet and Merlot presented a bit better when paired with the treats.
Overall, the tasting reconfirmed that Washington State is creating wines of note and is a domestic region wine drinkers should keep their eyes on.