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Jun 02, 2014
In 2000 Craig Leuthold and his wife Vicki began construction on a winery in Washington—on a bluff overlooking one of the state’s oldest vineyards—hoping for momentum and success by association. Clearly the proximity to such historic vineyards worked because today they craft over 40 different varietals, pulling in fruit from several different Washington state AVA’s. The state’s wine business is certainly evolving as winemakers experiment with clones, varietals and what grapes work best and where. In an effort to highlight the diversity of Washington state’s terroir, Leuthold and his winemaker, Richard Batchelor, developed a winemaking portfolio that sources from nearly every major AVA in the state. Taking things a step further, Batchelor began the Vineyard Series, a line of single vineyard wines from the state’s most lauded vineyards.. Craig insists that the single most exciting thing about Washington state is value, noting that “Washington puts out the most affordable 90+ wines when compared to similarly scored wines from France, Italy, California and Oregon.” Below Leuthold shares his insights on what’s ahead for winemaking in the state.
What is most exciting in Washington wine right now?
As a Washington state wine producer (and consumer) the two most exciting things, hands down, are the quality and diversity of the grapes being produced. Our latitude, climate and silt loam soils create a trifecta that make Washington well-suited to grow a wide variety of grapes. Plus, the vineyards are producing incredible quality and competing head-to-head with more established wine regions, and yet year-over-year, Washington puts out the most affordable 90+ wines, compared to France, Italy, California and Oregon.
What is Washington State’s biggest challenge now?
The greatest challenge Washington wine faces is creating a critical mass outside of the Pacific Northwest. Since the Columbia Valley produces so many high quality grape varieties and subsequent wines, it is hard for the state to hang its hat on one varietal, like Oregon has with Pinot. But that challenge is also the state’s strength, since the large diversity of varieties and also different “terroir” of the Columbia Valley vineyards is what make us great. There is almost no place else in the world that you can find so much diversity in such a small area.
What AVA’s are under-the-radar at the moment that readers should be looking for?
Walla Walla and the Columbia Valley are the major players, but pay close attention to wines from the Columbia Gorge and Rattlesnake Hills AVAs – they are producing some amazing grapes.
What wine are you drinking with dinner these days? I am in love with blends these days, especially our Marvel (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), Tavolo Rosso (Super Tuscan style -Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet) Aurelia (Rousanne, Marsanne).
Maryhill Tavolo Rosso—a lush, but nicely balanced, Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A delightful surprise from Washington state.
Maryhill GSM, This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre had notes coffee and mocha on the palate with rich layers of fruit. Very developed and concentrated.