The Coast News Group
Washington state wines are on display in San Diego with Columbia Crest’s winemaker Juan Munoz Oca unveiling his new Intrinsic wines ($19.99). Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Washington State has a unique global position

One look at a wine map of the state of Washington and the light bulb goes on.

It’s really two states of weather. One has over 240 inches of annual rainfall and a ton of population in the Puget Sound district, including the Emerald city of Seattle, resting west of the Cascade Mountains. The other, known as the Columbia Valley, is protected from wet weather systems by these same Cascades plus the Olympic Mountains, and sees only about 8-inches of rain per year.

Some 900 wineries come out of Washington State from 14 appellations, the largest being the Yakima Valley with its 13,500 wine grape acres. Washington is the northern-most wine country in the U.S. with over 16 hours of sun in the critical summer growing season.

If you drew a line around the globe, from the middle of Washington, it would travel between Bordeaux and Burgundy in France — both legendary wine countries for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, a direct link of new world vineyards with old world tannin and acid structure.

This is America’s second largest wine region with over 50,000 acres under vine and 40 varietals led by Cabernet Sauvignon.

With this backdrop, Washington wines, with newly won respect in the wine world, came to San Diego to say hello. They have done so before, but this year there were more wineries and their two best-known brands, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest, were in attendance.

I have written a lot about these two wineries and their accomplishments. They have a knack for marketing lovely tasting wines at value prices, and their talent for premium wines is up there with the best that the state has to offer.

In 2009, Wine Spectator shocked the wine world by awarding the Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 vintage ($25), “the No. 1 wine in the world.” It was the first time a wine from Washington State had received this honor.

At the road show, Senior Director of Winemaking, Juan Munoz Oca, introduced, Intrinsic ($19.99), the newest wine in the collection. My personal favorite of the group is a maximum value H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation ($9). The current vintage is 2013, a banner year for West Coast wines. La Chevaux is a French word for horses.  Circulation is very high and you can find it just about everywhere. Visit

Another dual collaboration is Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge, in the Walla Walla district. National Sales Manager Mark Melia had his Amavi Cellars 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34); and his Pepper Bridge Trine Red Blend 2013 ($65) with Cabernet, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot, turned some heads at the show. By the way, downtown Walla Walla has the highest concentration of tasting rooms in the state. Visit and for more details.

Washington State will surprise you when you open a bottle from their state.


Thornton Winery in Temecula, known for its Champagne Jazz concerts, picks up four gold and three silver medals at the San Diego Winemaker Challenge. Photo by Frank Mangio
Thornton Winery in Temecula, known for its Champagne Jazz concerts, picks up four gold and three silver medals at the San Diego Winemaker Challenge. Photo by Frank Mangio


San Diego Winemaker Challenge Awards Gold to Thornton Winery

Thornton Winery in Temecula is scheduling its next Champagne Jazz concerts for spring, summer and fall of this year.

But today, they are celebrating a prestigious four gold medals for their wines! The Winemaker Challenge, an International Wine Competition, held recently in San Diego, awarded four gold and three silver medals for three sparkling wines, two Chardonnays, a Petite Verdot and my favorite from the winning group, the 2014 Cabernet Franc. ($39.)

This one has flavor notes of violets, raspberry and cedar, with velvet-smooth tannins. The word is out so I would advise you to contact the bottle and gift shop at Thornton at (951) 699-0099 ext. 3113.


NOTE:  Many thanks for the dozens of emails commenting on the TASTE OF WINE column commenting on the new, noisy restaurants that are being passed off as happy dining establishments.  Many were unhappy with the conditions that make it impossible to peacefully dine and hear their guests who are sitting next to them. 


Wine Bytes

The Family Winemakers Del Mar Tasting Event is March 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It’s an all-California tasting from some 125 wineries, all desiring to bring you their best wines. Cost ranges from $75 to $95. Visit for details.

Seasalt Seafood Bistro in Del Mar has its next wine dinner March 9 at 6 p.m. on Carmel Valley Road.  DAOU Vineyards along the rugged coastal terrain of Paso Robles, will be bringing their new releases in, including their reserve Cabernet and Chardonnay. Chef Hilario’s special menu includes pan-fried venison loin in a cabernet sauce.  Cost is $55 per person.  RSVP at (858) 755-7100.

The 2017 San Diego Cheers to a Cure, a Wine & Beer Tasting, is planned for March 11 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Coasterra on Harbor Island. It benefits the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Enjoy libations and auctions. Visit for pricing and an rsvp.

Actor and comedian Will Farrell has a benefit Beer Fest, at the Embarcadero Marina Park San Diego, March 11 from 2 to 5 p.m.  Unlimited beer sampling, food sampling and live entertainment.  Visit for details.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at and reach him at [email protected].  Follow him on Facebook.