Fine Weather for Wine – A Taste of Washington State

I am taking an online Travel Writing Class.  Here is an instructor-reviewed, revised and edited version of my previous post.  Do you think it’s improved?

November is the stormiest month in the Pacific Northwest.  Turbulent air masses sweep in from the cold Alaskan seas and churn up the atmosphere, whip the water into froth, and rip the leaves off trees.  The deciduous foliage sheds its colorful cloak; a flutter of fiery oranges, ambers and reds swirling against the stormy skies.  The Cascade mountains loom in the distance, a marbled tableau of purple and violet, a dusting of early snow glistening across the craggy peaks.

It’s time to rake up leaves, pull fir needles out of the well-used gutters and batten down the house against the ceaseless winter rains.  A curtain of clouds veils the sun and the moon.  Hardy locals, extending their summer attire by pairing socks with sandals, finally succumb to rain boots, umbrellas and Gortex.  “I’m not pale,” Jerry Smith, a born-and-raised resident, informs me. “I’m pasty.  It’s a sign of a true Pacific Northwesterner!”  I peer closely at the pallid hue of his skin tone and feel compelled to agree.

So, with the weather taking such a nasty turn for the wetter, what do people in the Pacific Northwest do in November?  Drink wine, of course.

Washington State is now the second largest premium wine producer in the United States, after California, fermenting 12 million cases and generating over $600 million in sales last year.  The number of grape growers and wineries has doubled in the last five years.  Once sleepy agricultural towns like Yakima and Walla Walla now offer full-service tasting tours.  Boutique shops, wine bars, tasting rooms and wine-centric restaurants have sprouted up on every corner.  But the industry is not just focused on quantity.  The quality of Washington wines is garnering world-renown recognition.  Recently eleven local wineries made the Top 100 list for 2011–including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pepper Bridge, and Leonetti Cellar.

Tasting rooms are a warm and welcoming respite from the stormy weather, boasting cozy wood-burning fires, plush leather seating and tasteful decor.  A single tasting ($5 – $20) will represent a series in a winery’s selection, offering 2oz pours of up to eight wines.

Most connoisseurs recommend starting with the light fruity whites and ending with the bold hearty reds.  Restaurants, such as Purple Café in Seattle, offer flights within the same grape family, enabling a close comparison of a variety of labels.  Food pairings can greatly enhance the tasting experience.  Beecher’s, a local cheese artisan, suggests selecting complimentary flavor profiles, such as coupling a sharp, salty cheese like their Rogue Creamery Oregonzola with the plump berry sweetness of an Owen Roe Riesling.

So, why whine about the weather when the wine is so delightful?  November is a great time in the Pacific Northwest to swirl, smell and sip a taste of Washington.

For more information on Washington State wineries, vineyards and events go to http://www.washingtonwine.org/.

Best wine shop:  http://www.peteswineshop.com/

Best café and wine bar:   http://www.purplecafe.com/

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