Sémillon has never been one of my favorite wines. The bottles from local wineries in Eastern Washington found in my parents’ fridge, half consumed and corked, were too sweet, and basically icky. So I’ve assiduously steered clear of the stuff for most of my adult life and proudly displayed my disdain to demonstrate my own half-baked brand of wine snobbism. And there’s support for my contempt: It doesn’t take much research on the web to find the word sémillon paired with unfashionable and unpopular. That was then. 

Jump forward to two years ago: On a visit to a friend in Walla Walla who works a few hours a week at the Amavi Cellars tasting room, we sipped our way through a tasting flight that included the winery’s Walla Walla Valley Sémillon. OMG. I’ll spare you any attempt at sophisticated wine vocabulary, but suffice it to say I bought as much of the dry, elegant wine as I could afford. And now there’s a new release from Amavi—top rated in this year’s list of 100 Washington wines. As critic Sean P. Sullivan writes, sémillon may be a forgotten grape, but it grows well in Walla Walla’s rich, loamy soils, warm days, and cool nights. Give it a try. It might change your life. 

Given the dominance of big-ass cabs produced from Washington AVAs, a sémillon would have had a tougher time cracking the top 100 in past years, when Sean did a straight numeric ranking to determine the best, many of which were bold, boozy reds—wines that might be awesome to drink as stand alones, but are less favorable for washing down your dinner on a weeknight. We’ve revamped our approach this year to reach deeper into the increasing range and excellence of our regional wines. The best part is there are wines for every taste, every occasion, and every budget. You’ll find rieslings or syrahs, wines to go with food, red blends and white, and drinkable weekday wines. 

And we’ve made it easy to sample the top wines in situ. Our travel editor, Allison Williams, put together five wine road trips around the state with recommendations for tasting rooms, places to stay, and places to eat, from Woodinville to Walla Walla. 

This entire issue, in fact, celebrates the bounty and beauty of the Northwest. An excerpt from Langdon Cook’s forthcoming book, The Mushroom Hunters, tells the little-known story of Jeremy Faber, the forager who supplies our locavoracious restaurants with wild mushrooms, ferns, and flowers. David Laskin, following the trail of the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho and Montana, exquisitely renders the rolling camas meadows and dappled woodlands that served as the setting for a tragic chapter in the tribe’s history. And right here in the city, arts editor Laura Dannen enumerates all the abundant offerings of the fall culture calendar. What a month.

 

Published: September 2013

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