Napa does Cabernet and Oregon does Pinot Noir, but Washington State’s wine producers have been slow to claim their calling-card grapes.
We do have one theory about a burgeoning lodestar: France’s Rhône valley. Growers around Washington State have planted grapes from Riesling to Tempranillo, but the most interesting successes of late are bottlings made from Rhône varieties such as Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache and even the uncommon Counoise.
This growing movement could not be timed more perfectly: Rhône varietals naturally lend themselves to a warm climate, and many of the bottles emerging from Washington are primed for spring drinking.
Try Maison Bleue’s 2011 La Famille Rosé ($18 for 750 ml), made with Mourvèdre from the Yakima Valley. Styled on the bone-dry rosés of Bandol, this pale pink offering is unbelievably refreshing.
Pair any dish that has grill marks with the 2009 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend ($40 for 750 ml). The winery is named in honor of the Rhône’s Côte Rôtie region and it blends Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre from the Walla Walla Valley to make this plump, smoky wine.