Vail Valley wine: Washington wines are powerful yet refined |

Vail Valley wine: Washington wines are powerful yet refined

Sean Razee
Vail. CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado “-When I am asked for an American wine recommendation, guests are often surprised to learn that Washington State is the nation’s second largest producer of fine wines. Since sommeliers and wine shop employees often promote modern style wines from other countries, I find it exciting to relate wines with intensity and balance from our own country.

Virtually all the quality red wines from Washington are produced in the southeast corner of the state. Familiar regions include: Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley and Walla Walla. Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Rattlesnake Hills are examples of newer regions, still under development. However, these regions possess great promise for exceptional wine production. Interestingly, Walla Walla and Yakima valleys lie at about the same latitude as Bordeaux, France and offer similar Bordeaux varieties that perform exceptionally well. Yet, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon remain as the standout wines. Syrah is also beginning to take hold among these regions as enthusiastic producers find sites to ripen these thick-skinned grapes.

It is Washington’s extended summer sunlight (approximately two hours more per day than compared to California) that allows grapes to grow to full ripeness in this northern region. The best wines show intensity and restraint under their rich, black fruits.

Benchmark producers, such as Leonetti Cellars and Quilceda Creek, are tasty finds. However, there are plenty of new and exciting wines to be had, such as Gramercy Cellars and K Vintners, and with wineries popping up every few weeks, there are more great bottles yet to come.

Sean Razee is the beverage director and sommelier for Spago at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain. He currently holds the Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Razee is one of 96 Master Sommeliers in the United States and the only person in the Vail Valley that holds the distinguished certification.

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