Washington wines worth trying

Marco Porto
  • The Cabernet is smooth and rich with classic aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, dried herbs and hints of vanilla and espresso

At first glance, Eastern Washington is not your typical wine country. It's a remote, windswept, high desert dotted with sagebrush and tumbleweeds. But it also holds some of the most breath-taking terrain, ranging from deep river gorges to vast mountain ranges and undulating hills formed by Ice Age floods and ancient volcanoes.


The Milbrandt family has been farming in the area since the mid-1950s and they believed the region’s moderate temperatures, low rainfall and sandy soils were ideal for wine grapes.

Today, the family farms 12 estate vineyards totaling more than 2,300 acres. The grapes are purchased by some of the most prestigious wineries in the state.

Milbrandt Vineyards are concentrated in the Wahluke Slope (Established as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2006) and the Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley. Both growing areas share the same low rainfall and long sunny days during the growing season. However each area has distinctly different terroir, with Wahluke Slope proving especially ideal for red wines and Ancient Lakes for white wines.

Milbrandt is the result of two brothers' professional dreams.

A little background: Butch and Jerry Milbrandt’s parents grew up on farms in Minnesota and Nebraska. They moved to Oregon during the dust bowl days and after marrying in 1942, the father worked on the liberty ships during the war. They decided to get back into farming in 1948. The father bought a tractor in Portland and drove it the 135 miles over the Cascade Mountains in winter to begin farming near Madras, Oregon.

In '53 the family moved to the Quincy area. The land was barren and desolate. Mostly sagebrush and sand. No roads ran past the farm in the first year. As they worked the land and loosened the soil, the wind would create dust storms and make it impossible to see for period of time. It was a struggle to hold the land and nurture the crop. The parents paid $40 an acre for the 160 acres.

They had saved half of the money and borrowed the balance from grandpa. Upon arriving, they staked out the homestead and planted a border of trees for definition, shade and protection. They lived in an army surplus trailer and tent for the first winter before building a concrete block home.

After being on farms all their lives Jerry and butch in 1997 were sitting in their pick-up, contemplating their future.

Both boys were not professionally satisfied at the time. They both over the years had experience in agriculture, real estate, wholesale and retail. Both were very interested in wine. Eastern Washington was emerging as a premier wine growing region.

Getting into the grape-growing business seemed like a perfect solution. Hence the Milbrandt wines were born. In 1997 Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first grapevines in Eastern Washington's Columbia Valley AVA.

The 2012 Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet is smooth and rich with classic aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, dried herbs and hints of vanilla and espresso. The wine is dense with chewy tannins on the mid-plate giving way to a touch of vanilla and toast on the lingering finish.

The beef tips appetiser from chop239 is a suggested wine companion.

This wine is on Chop239 wine list for $11 a glass and $44 a bottle and would pair up nicely with Chop239 beef tips Appetizer. Enjoy and Salute.

Marco Porto is owner of chop239, and is a wine connoisseur. Along with Laura Owen of CJ’s on the Bay and Adamo Serravalle of Marco Prime and DaVinci’s, he is a regular contributor to this column.