Everyone has heard of California wines but not many people realize that Washington is an up-an-coming wine region that is starting to become known in the professional wine world. There is a multitude of small wineries in Washington, especially in the Yakima Valley and Columbia Gorge regions. The area does not produce wine on the scale of California in quantity but the quality of many wines is rivaling the best of the Californian vintages.
Most people don't think of Washington as a good growing area. Popular culture out of Hollywood has Seattle's rainy climate spread to the whole state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The eastern part of the state gets over 300 nice days per year because of the Cascade Mountains which block a lot of the moisture from the west. The nice weather and easy access to water makes this region an ideal one for growing wine grape varieties.
Within the nine recognized viticultural areas, a great assortment of grape varietals can be grown. Red wine grapes grown in Washington include Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot varietels. White wine grapes that do particularly well in the region include Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon and Chardonnay. Each region has different micro-climates that are suited to specific varietals.
Whether for yourself or as a gift, a wine tour in Washington would be a wonderful way to experience the premium quality wines of this region. Most wineries are small and family-owned so you will usually get a much more personal and intimate look at the wine making process. The smaller wineries also tend to have a greater consistency within specific vintages of wine.
Smaller wineries will often allow the wine lover access to the owners and even the wine makers for conversation and education. Sometimes wine tastings are done right in the wine maker's home! Try to find that in California amongst the thousands of other tourists.
The wineries in Washington make wine tours a bit more difficult than in California. The Napa Valley in California is a very small region so wineries are quite close together. There is a much larger portion of Washington with wineries so to tour multiple wineries will often involve some traveling around.
The advantages of giving a gift of a Washington wine tour is that it is much less expensive than a California tour. This is partially due to the relative newness of the Washington wine industry and partially because there are less tourists there. Also, it is much more unlikely to get the up close and personal feeling in California as there are so many people taking tours. While the Washington wine tours are still unknown, you can get a bargain on wine tours for gifts.
The Washington wine industry is exploding upon the wine world in recent years. Even though wine making is relatively new there, the region has become the second largest wine producer in the United States. The amount of land devoted to growing grapes for wine has tripled in the last ten years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Give a wine gift that will surely go up in price over the next few years.