The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 90 of 128

PACIFIC NORTHWEST Gorging on Wine L TERROIR AND TALENTS FROM THE COLUMBIA GORGE story and photos by Michael Cervin ines are crucial to identifying states, nations and, yes, vineyards and AVAs. The Columbia Gorge AVA, which incorporates parts of both Oregon and Washington, became an official AVA in 2009, and more than 30 grape varieties are currently planted there. Certainly Oregon's Willamette Valley and Washington's Yakima, Walla Walla, even the broad Columbia Valley have more of a reputation than Columbia Gorge. But the 41 wineries of the Gorge are aiming to usurp nearby regions, banking on a steady flow of tourists, advocating their unusual terroir and, in an appellation where it's uncommon to see pricing over $40, providing value wines. Geographically, the Columbia Gorge is a canyon on the mighty 1,200-mile Columbia Nathan Ziegler. River. The wine region spans 40 miles of it, the eastern half lying in the Columbia Valley AVA and the westernmost part being the Columbia Gorge AVA proper. The bulk of the wineries are concentrated near the town of Hood River, Oregon, an hour east of Portland. Gorge wines have a truncated growing season and are susceptible to lots of rain, intermittent sunshine, cool temperatures and aggressive wind. In Washington Ziegler Wines and Memaloose are just two Gorge wineries changing perceptions of this region. Nathan Ziegler is short on wine, but long on enthusiasm. He currently pours only Pinot Gris and Tempranillo, though he's planted the only known GrĂ¼ner Veltiner in the Washington State, as well as Riesling. His soils, hard rock 40 feet down with lava and volcanic ash on top, are helping to produce very good wines. Vines from Ziegler Winery, with a view of the Columbia River in Washington State. 90 / the tasting panel / december 201 1

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