Andy Perdue considers historical context and industry impact — but not necessarily how easy these wines are to find.
WHILE I WAS writing a story earlier this year, Anacortes wine retailer Doug Charles mentioned one wine as the most important in Washington state history.
That got me to thinking it might be interesting to compile a list of the most important wines ever made here.
This is the kind of list that could elicit argument. But I took into consideration the historical context of each wine and any role it played in pushing forward the state’s wine industry.
The downside with this list is the wines’ lack of commercial availability. Perhaps you have one or two in your cellar, or you might find one on a wine list.
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You could consider trying a current release of these wines to see what all the original fuss was about.
Here is what I came up with:
Leonetti Cellars 1978 cabernet sauvignon, Washington: This wine launched Leonetti to international fame and brought the Walla Walla Valley with it. It showed that Washington could make world-class red wines.
Woodward Canyon 1983 Old Vines cabernet sauvignon, Washington: I’ve had the honor of tasting this three times. Each time, I was stunned by the quality. This is perhaps the finest Washington wine ever made. Certainly my favorite so far.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 1999 Eroica riesling, Columbia Valley: This wine, made in collaboration with German winemaker Ernst Loosen, showed just how good Washington riesling could be, and helped kick off the American riesling revolution.
Quilceda Creek Vintners 2002 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley: This is the first Washington wine to earn 100 points from wine critic Robert Parker. Regardless of how you feel about the 100-point scale, this accomplishment forced the world to pay attention to Washington wines.
Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley: The only Washington wine to be named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator magazine, this forced the world of wine to sit up and take notice.
Woodward Canyon 1999 cabernet sauvignon, Yakima Valley: The first Washington wine to break into the top 10 in Wine Spectator’s top-100 wines list. This busted through a ceiling and blazed a trail for others to follow.
Columbia Winery 1988 syrah, Yakima Valley: The first commercial syrah made in Washington, this wine led the way for what has become a robust part of our industry.
Cayuse 1998 Cobblestone Vineyard syrah, Walla Walla Valley: Technically, this is an Oregon wine, but it was the first made from the Rocks District, spawning a cultlike following, and leading to a new AVA and a deeper understanding and discussion of Northwest terroir.
1980 Leonetti Cellar Reserve, Walla Walla Valley: This is remembered as the first red wine made from all Walla Walla Valley grapes, something that seems no big deal now, but was deemed difficult nearly four decades ago.