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February 25, 2011
Washington's Great Wine and the Red Mountain AVA
Every once in a while, something make you stand up and rethink the so-called norm. After all, what is the 'norm' other than simply what you have been accustomed to over time?

About four years ago, I trekked through Washington with no expectations. What I found then impressed me, but what I found this past week while in Washington blew me away. At the end of the day, especially a long one, a great glass of wine is appreciated. More importantly though, is who you're sharing it with and the food that completes the experience.

While in Woodinville, we enjoyed dinner with Sean Sullivan who puts out the credible Washington Wine Report. Annie from Black Pearl joined us as well so we were in good company. The wine was good and the food at Ristorante Italianissimo in Woodinville put the experience over the top!

Also in Woodinville, we had the extreme pleasure of having lunch with Greg Lill and Ann Kenney of DeLille Cellars which was highly augmented by their tremendous red wine. Again, the food pairing was awesome at the Barking Frog. It was also a privilege to spend time with Chris Upchurch, Washington's Winemaker of the Year! The experience was further enhanced by watching newborn lambs with their protective mother watching over them.

On the way to Prosser, we stopped at the Yellow Church Café in Ellensburg off of I-90 and had some incredible dinners, including the Last Supper steak offering with some Petite Sirah. The hospitality there was second to none. It felt like being at home. Atop the kitchen is a sign that states "In an ordinary day   there   are   a   thousand   miracles".   From   my

vantage point, a whole lot of miracles (including wine-related ones!) have happened in Washington!

In Prosser, we were incredibly well-received by Amy Sonnichsen, Mike Miller and Lori Miller of Airfield Estates. We had an amazing lunch at Wine O'Clock, a delicious venue inside Bunnell Family Cellars. Airfield's property was once used as a WWII bombing range and has over 800 acres of amazing fruit. Can you say, "Fruit Bomb"?

After that, we had the unique privilege of having a private tour of Yakima Valley, Rattlesnake Hills and Horse Heaven Hills on our way to the Red Mountain AVA. Jim Holmes, the owner of Ciel du Cheval Vineyards atop Red Mountain, shared the history of the land. Geologically speaking, this land is young at 13,000 years old and is also Washington state's smallest AVA (American Viticulture Area). The land composition was the result of a catastrophic flood, where rocks from Idaho and the Rockies came over during the great ice age. Underneath the soil dust about two feet down are the rocks that traveled over long distances, some as large as cars!

This flood happened when Glacial Lake Missoula formed as the Cordilleran Ice Sheet dammed the Clark Fork River just as it entered Idaho. The rising water behind the glacial dam weakened it until the water burst through in a catastrophic flood that raced across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington toward the Pacific Ocean. Thundering waves and chunks of ice tore away soils and mountainsides, deposited giant ripple marks, created the land formation of eastern Washington and carved the Columbia River Gorge. The force that the 2,000-foot flood wall created moved at a strength that was equal to the force of sixty Amazon rivers!

As a result, the soil of Red Mountain has a great calcium carbonate (limestone) content and is fairly high in pH so it becomes the perfect soil for the basis of strong Bordeaux varietals with great structure. All one needs to do is taste the wines that come from this fruit to be wowed!

Folks, the wines of Washington are second to none, and the value point is fantastic as well. Next time you're out dining, ask for Washington's wines. Here's a link to those on WineMatch.

Yeah, you'll be blown away, or is that "washed" away?



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