What does Washington taste like?

by Julie Johnson, former PCC Wine and Beer Specialist

This article was originally published in August 2012

We believe great wine begins in the vineyard, and thanks to Washington’s unique terroir, there’s no shortage of superlative wines produced throughout our 12 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

Ter-what? That’s right: . It’s a French word that translates literally as “soil.” But in viticultural terms, terroir means a region’s unique microclimate, soil and terrain that, when combined with winemaking practices adapted to these sites, create wines that express a sense of place.

Does Washington state really have terroir? Do we! In Eastern Washington, where 11 of our 12 AVAs are located, a foundation of volcanic basalt is overlaid with sandy, loamy, loess-rich soils that shift and sift in the prevailing southwest winds.

These soils are ideal for grape-growing — they drain well and allow for vine roots to grow deep. Our terroir is also shaped by the warm, dry summer days and cool nights, which encourage the ideal mix of high acidity and high sugar in our grapes. The variable terrain and higher altitude sites challenge our farmers to seek the most advantageous aspect to capture the abundant sunshine.

All of these factors combine to make Washington state an ideal region for growing premium wine grapes and form the structure and balance of our wines. Guided by the steady hands of skilled winemakers, Washington wines express our incomparable terroir.

Examples of Washington terroir can be found throughout our “Northwest” selection of wines, and August is a great time to explore them in honor of Washington Wine Month. Ask your PCC wine stewards to point out their favorites and visit our Facebook Page “PCC Drink This!” to tell us about your discoveries!

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