Immortalized by Lewis and Clark as a splendorous land of discovery, the Pacific Northwest is also one of the best places to explore magnificent wines. Offering power-packed Merlots and Cabernets, world-class Pinot Noirs and elegant whites -- along with a number of delightful surprises -- this region is a boundless paradise for modern wine adventurers.
Second only to California in terms of production volume among U.S. states, Washington is an even closer rival in terms of quality, according to experts. Odds are, when you pick up a bottle of Washington wine, the grapes will have been grown in Columbia Valley, the state's biggest vineyard region.
Although smaller, the nearby Yakima Valley region shares a similar growing climate and reputation. Tucked away in Washington's southeastern corner, the tiny Walla Walla Valley region is home to more than its share of the state's high-end wineries.
As for styles of wine, Washington boasts an ever-expanding, wide-ranging assortment. In addition to the state's established stars -- massive Merlots and Cabernets -- reds such as Syrah and Cabernet Franc have lately been proving themselves worthy of similar esteem.
If white wines are your fancy, you're probably already familiar with Washington's classy Chardonnay and Riesling. And on the rise is Sémillon, a sumptuous French variety currently causing a stir in Northwest wine circles.
For something unusual, how about popping open a Lemberger? Don't worry -- you won't need to stand back when you do; the wine has nothing to do with smelly Limburger cheese! Indeed, the spicy aroma of this unusual red wine won't make your eyes water, but it might make you lick your chops. Because of its northern climate, Washington is one of the few places outside Germany and Austria where this unique variety utterly thrives.