In the past half-decade, Malbec has become the darling of the Washington wine industry, and for good reason.
For centuries, Malbec has played little more than a minor role in its native Bordeaux, but the rich red wine has taken center stage in Argentina, where it now is considered the national wine grape. That same attitude is starting to take shape in Washington, where conditions would seem to turn Malbec into something magical.
In the arid conditions of the Columbia Valley American Viticultural Area (and the grape-growing regions within it), Malbec is able to shine like almost no other location in the world. Rich red and black fruit shine behind bright acidity, moderate tannins and dark spices.
While Malbec is still a relatively minor grape as far as total acreage is concerned, more than 100 examples can be found in the Pacific Northwest — with the vast majority coming from Washington.
Here are some beautiful examples we've tasted in recent weeks from Washington (and the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley). Ask for them at your favorite wine merchants or contact the wineries directly.
William Church Winery 2012 Gamache Vineyards Malbec, Columbia Valley, $38: The 2011 version of this wine from this small Woodinville, Wash., producer was "best of the best" in last year's Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging — and this new vintage is well on its way to being even better. Aromas of succulent dark fruit brood in the glass, and flavors of round, ripe blackberry and black cherry mingle with notes of dark chocolate and black pepper. Mild tannins and ample acidity give this gorgeous red wine tremendous length. (14.4 percent alcohol)