Doug Charles of Compass Wines will address the age-old question: Are Washington wines meant to last?
IT CAN BE argued that for a region to be taken seriously on the global wine stage, it must prove it can make wines with longevity.
Thus raises the eternal question: Do Washington wines have what it takes for the long haul, or are they flimsy pretenders that disintegrate after a few years in the cellar?
As I’ve thought about this, I realize that the three greatest wines I’ve ever tasted were ports, one of which was more than a century old. That says something to me about the endurance of wines from Portugal. For France, Bordeaux’s reputation is arguably built on the fact that its wines actually can taste better after aging 50 years.
If you go
• The session on aged Washington wines is one of six seminars on Saturday, March 24, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. Tickets ($85) can be purchased at tastewashington.com. Tickets might be available for walkups.
• Tickets cost $145 to $210 for the 21st annual Taste Washington grand tasting, at CenturyLink Event Center, March 24-25.
I’ve been fortunate to be in a position to taste some really old Washington wines, most recently a Ste. Michelle cab that showed itself vibrant after 50 years. And back in 1997, I was at a celebration of Columbia Winery in Woodinville, where we tasted a 1967 Gewürztraminer, a wine that was meant to age for as long as it took you to drive home from the store. Astonishingly, it was not only still alive, but still kicking. Similarly, aged Washington rieslings are nothing short of intriguing.
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On the reverse side, I’ve had wines from top producers that had completely fallen apart. And I’ll admit that this not only surprised me; it also subtly changed my opinion about those unfortunate winemakers. I learned the hard way that Washington rosés aren’t meant to age beyond a season or so.
Washington’s Columbia Valley is naturally set up to produce wines of grace and longevity. Optimal weather during harvest means natural acidity is left in the grapes, a key component for cellaring. And our reds have the fruit and tannin structure to hold up for the long haul.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to taste older Washington wines, a seminar at this year’s Taste Washington could be just for you. It’s led by Doug Charles of Anacortes-based Compass Wines. Charles has a regional reputation for acquiring and selling old wines, and his knowledge of Washington wines is unmatched.
For this seminar, he has pulled together older wines from DeLille Cellars, Andrew Will Wines, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Kiona Vineyards and Woodward Canyon, and paired them with panelists that include luminary winemakers and sommeliers.
All the wines are at least 20 years old, with the oldest dating to 1983.
It’s a rare opportunity to try older wines, and earn some bragging rights with your friends.