Chardonnay gains strength in Washington wine country

By on September 4, 2016
Chardonnay harvest French Creek Vineyard

Chardonnay grapes destined for Karma Vineyards in Lake Chelan are loaded into a bin last month at French Creek Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. (Photo by Niranjana Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Thanks to California, Chardonnay is America’s favorite wine. And in the country’s second-largest wine producer, the white wine continues to gain strength.

Starting about 20 years ago, Washington winemakers and grape growers began to go big with Chardonnay, and it was the state’s No. 1 wine grape for several years until Chateau Ste. Michelle’s focus on Riesling drove that grape to the top position.

But in the past half-decade, Washington has moved from being a white wine state to solidly red – at least enologically. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the top grape variety in Washington.

Meanwhile, interest in Riesling has slowed – to the point that Ste. Michelle has asked some of its growers to replace some Riesling with Cabernet Sauvignon. Amid all of this, Chardonnay has continued to gain momentum, particularly as winemakers have moved away from the big, buttery California style of the wine.

While the harvest of Riesling in 2015 remained ahead of Chardonnay in Washington, expect Chardonnay to inch forward and likely surpass Riesling in the next couple of years.

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About Great Northwest Wine

Articles credited to Great Northwest Wine are authored by Eric Degerman and other contributors. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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