Discovering Wines from the U.S. Northwest

It may have been the coldest day on record for the past 15 years in Seoul, but the atmosphere at the Northwest Wine Coalition’s recent Grand Tasting was warm and festive!  Representatives from Oregon and Washington State wineries came to Seoul for this special event on January 25, and I was lucky enough to attend and enjoy wines from some of the 1,500 regional wineries.

At the event, I was thrilled to meet Korean-born Master Sommelier Yoon Ha.  He has one of the best jobs in the world as the Wine Director of the Michelin 3-star restaurant Benu (which is also run by a Korean-American chef!) in San Francisco.  He started out in the food industry and gradually became interested in wine.  It was very enlightening listening to him as he sampled the various wines on offer.  He evaluated the wine and described in colorful detail the taste and flavor of each.  Sommelier Ha seemed to taste everything in the bouquet:  the type of soil, the amount of rain, and even whether the grapes were organic or non-organic!  He had a very discerning palate and was generous with his knowledge about wine appreciation. Robyn enjoys sparkling wine, so I’ll put what I learned to the test and try to choose a good one for her!

With Master Sommelier Yoon Ha

Yoon is the only Korean-born Master Sommelier and one of only 250 people in the world to have passed the Master Sommelier exam. In addition, among his many distinctions, he has won Food and Wine magazine’s Sommelier of the Year award.  

Thank you, Master Sommelier Ha, for sharing your wine expertise!

Wine has become an integral part of U.S. cuisine and culture.  There are roughly 3,000 commercial vineyards in the United States, and wineries in all 50 states, even Alaska!  Along with producing wines for regional consumption, many vineyards and wineries are marketing themselves as travel destinations.

Here’s one of the many vineyards you can visit in the U.S. 

In addition to the Oregon and Washington wineries, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Potato Board, and the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee were represented at the Grand Tasting, which meant we had some delicious food selected to pair well with the different wines from the Northwest region: Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Oregon; and Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay from Washington State.  I think if you try these wines, you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of flavor and the value they offer.  This can be seen in the statistics: since 2013, the Northwest Wine Coalition has doubled its sales to the Korean market.
So here is a list of the wineries from Oregon and Washington that made it to Korea for the event:

Owen Roe:  
Valley View:
Jackson Family: 
Stoller Family Estate: 
Phelps Creek:

The wineries represented ranged from family-owned through mid-size to one of the largest in the world.  There were a wide variety of personalities among the winemakers.  One commonality was that they all loved learning about Seoul – they told me that they had a great time here despite the cold.  It was an excellent cultural exchange and they all said they would be back again soon.  Having lived in California, I am familiar with wines from California, including the Napa and Sonoma valleys.  But these wines from Oregon and Washington State were really fantastic, and I highly recommend them the next time you are looking to try some of the lesser-known wine regions! 

1 comment:

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