Many people know the Northwest for its spectacular scenery. It hasn’t been known until recently as a major wine region. However, places like the Columbia River Gorge in Washington and Idaho’s Snake River country have helped to change that perception. Today, over 1,000 wineries produce unique full-bodied, balanced wines in the warm, dry interior regions of the Northwest. The best time for touring those wineries is summer, not only for enjoying the long sunny days but also for taking advantage of the many wine and food festivals.
Not sure yet where to go? Take then a look at our selection of the best of Northwest wine destinations.
Snake River Valley
Snake River Valley is perhaps one of the least famous American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States. Located in the southwest area of Idaho, it covers five million acres of vineyards near the Snake River. This AVA is a young and promising region, home to roughly half of Idaho’s 38 wineries and 90% of Idaho’s vineyards. Here you can find white wine grapes of northern Europe, Bordeaux red grapes, and hot-climate varietals such as Syrah.
Columbia River Gorge
Nestled along the Washington/Oregon border lies a wine region unlike any other. Established in 2004, the Columbia Gorge wine growing region takes full advantage of the amazingly diverse growing conditions, which allow the production of a diversity of wine grapes that is unlikely to be found elsewhere in such a small stretch of land. The Gorge is spliced in half by the pulsing Columbia River, with young winemakers acquire land on both sides of the river in the states Oregon and Washington. Relaxed touring in between more than 30 wineries, exploring tasting rooms in charming hamlets and towns and the spectacular beauty of the Columbia Gorge; this is what makes this place so desirable.
About an hour south of Portland, the 150-mile-long Willamette Valley is synonymous with great Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, and Rieslings. In this wine region, you’ll find lush vineyards and farms, tended by families who are passionate about growing the best wine grapes. But there is more: A laid-back atmosphere, horseback riding tours through vineyards, historic towns, and quirky cities; the Willamette Valley offers inviting wine escapes to travelers and locals alike.
Wineries to look for: Maragas Winery
In one of Oregon’s most diverse American Viticultural Area (AVA), Umpqua Valley, grow both cool and warm climate grape varieties successfully. Here you won’t only find French varieties like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot but even Spanish varietals such as Tempranillo and Albarino. Umpqua Valley wine growing history dates back to 1880 when German immigrants planted the first wine grape vineyard in the Valley. Today, it is home to 23 wineries — 22 of which are family owned and operated.
Wineries to look for: Abacela Winery
Portland Urban Wineries
Portland’s urban wineries collective, founded in 2012 in the Division-Clinton neighborhood, comprises a different mix of urban micro-wineries. Nearly all these producers describe themselves as small, artisanal and family-owned. However, they focus on very different varieties of grapes including Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and varieties inspired by the French Beaujolais or the Italian Piedmont areas. The wineries are infused with a comprehensive, creative energy, which they expose in the 5,000-square-foot production facility, wine bar and event space that they all share. When you are in Portland, grab a bike or walk to visit the tasting rooms and join the fun of a winery experience without missing the vineyard or leaving the city behind.
Seattle Urban Wineries
Explore a different side of the Washington wine scene – Urban Seattle. Seattle Urban Wineries is a group of over 30 artisan wineries in the city that offer newbies and connoisseurs the opportunity to learn about and taste wines of many different varietals and styles crafted from Washington’s best vineyards. The Seattle Urban Wineries are spread out throughout the city including the neighborhoods Georgetown, and Ravenna and offer an interesting, entertaining and educational way to spend your Saturday in the Emerald City. www.seattleurbanwineries.com
Woodinville Wine Country is located only 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, but it might as well be the other side of the world. This small, scenic valley is home to over 100 wineries and tasting rooms representing every appellation in Washington.
Most of the wineries in Woodinville area grow their grapes in the warm and dry climate of Washington’s Columbia Valley where vineyards feature sandy, gravelly soils providing an ideal environment to plant vines. From the historical grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle to the picturesque boutique wineries where you are likely to meet the winemaker himself that will proudly talk about his wines while you sip a glass of his finest blend.
Walla Walla Valley, Washington
The Walla Walla Valley is a beautiful oasis amid the vast desert. The name Walla Walla means “many waters,” and it highlights the rivers that provide the valley with abundant water, making of the Valley a remarkable agricultural bounty.
The Walla Walla wine region is the most remote of all Washington State wine regions. Ironically, some people say that this remoteness has been the major contributing factor to the devotion of Walla Walla wineries. Thanks to its truly unique mix of its climate, appeal and culture, the Walla Walla Valley has turned into one of the finest wine regions in the nation, and home to more than 100 wineries.