Vintages - Pacific Northwest Wines

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Feature Story

Miles apart from a terroir perspective, next-door neighbours Washington and Oregon share common ground in their fine wines born of a deep-rooted dedication to craftsmanship.

Famous for their laid-back artisanal vibe, Washington and Oregon also comprise the two delicious sides of America’s Pacific Northwest viticultural coin. Their climates couldn’t be more different, and this translates to the diverse nature of the wines each produces. Oregon’s winemakers focus on a small range of specific varietals, while Washington’s can produce top-tier wines from a broad palette of options. Don’t worry about choosing a favourite. Heads or tails, you can’t lose.

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Oregon

Mist opportunities

Situated on the western side of the Cascade Mountain Range and exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean, Oregon experiences more volatile weather and a greater susceptibility to vintage variation than Washington. It’s a challenging place to grow grapes, but one that delivers exquisite viticultural rewards. Most of Oregon’s vineyards are planted in the rolling hills and volcanic soils of the Willamette Valley. The region’s flagship varietal is Pinot Noir, which offers complex fruit, spice and earth. The best examples can stand shoulder to shoulder with wines from Burgundy. Pinot Gris leads the charge for the region’s white wines. Oregon Pinot Gris is notably dry, crisp and luscious, with distinct pear flavours.


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Washington

High and dry

Protected from inclement Pacific Ocean weather by the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia Valley is semi-arid, with plentiful sunshine and consistent temperatures. Numerous pockets of warmer and cooler microclimates allow over 70 varieties to thrive here. Washington Chardonnays are typically lighter than those from California, with less emphasis on oak. Cabernet Sauvignon reveals complex black cherry, chocolate, leather, mint and herbs. Washington Merlots have bright acidity, with ripe cherry, dark berry and spice and, uniquely, are typically more structured than the region’s Cabs. Syrah is emerging as a standout for Washington as both a single-varietal wine and as a component in characterful blends.


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If (when!) you go

Oregon and Washington both have bountiful, bustling restaurant scenes and are blessed with hard-to-beat natural beauty. They’re a hiker’s (or biker’s, or kayaker’s, or camper’s or [insert your passion here]) dream! At every turn, there’s something to enjoy.

In Oregon, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium has a must-see charm all its own, as do the spooky stone ruins of the Witch’s Castle. And who wouldn’t want to see a 20-foot chocolate waterfall? (It’s in front of the Candy Basket shop). The oohs and aahs take flight at the Tillamook Air Museum, home of Hangar B: the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. And let the National Neon Sign Museum light up your life.

In Washington, be sure to get a selfie with the troll under the George Washington Memorial Bridge. Then test your silver-ball wizardry at the Seattle Pinball Museum. You can’t fuel up at the Teapot Dome Service Station, but it’s worthy of a rest stop. And don’t forget your flashlight when you delve into the 2,000-year-old Ape Cave: the longest lava tube in the USA. Visit the Vashon Island Bike Tree and add your theory as to the origins of this century-in-the-making mystery.

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