Local Island Wines 

In Europe, there is a preference for locally produced wines. They take their food seriously over there, each region having developed a unique style over the centuries, and the wines have evolved in concert with the cuisine. They make for a perfect match. Here in the United States, the same cannot always be said. For years, most California wineries confused us with a plethora of varieties that included everything from Riesling to Cabernet. Only recently have we been leaning towards grapes appropriate to the region. Vacationing in Washington's Puget Sound, I've seldom found local wines to go with the fresh seafood I've craved. But this year has been different. I discovered Mount Baker Vineyard, a local winery that specializes in cool weather varieties from their own coastal vineyards. The three that follow are all priced around $12 and are unique expressions of this Northwest microclimate.

2004 Mt. Baker Vineyard Madeline Angevine

This is a grape variety that thrives in the northernmost wine regions of the world, doing well in both Germany and England, as well as the cooler parts of the Pacific Northwest. This one is among the finest I've tasted, something like a cross between Semillon, Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. It offers honeyed citrus and herb aromas on the nose with an opulently silky texture in the mouth. The flavors are fruit-forward and rich, shifting from bright citrus and gooseberry to light peach and melon. The finish is long and spicy with nice touches of cinnamon and spice, making this one a delightfully different charmer.

2004 Mt. Baker Vineyard Siegerrebe

This is another cool-climate European variety, which is planted along Germany's Rhine River, that does equally well in the vineyards off Puget Sound, where it results in a light, almost ethereal white wine. You have to coax the aromas out of the glass: soft fig, melon and spice. It's elegantly structured on the palate, showing subtle citrus and creamy melon fruit flavors. The finish is light but lingering, with honeyed melon and spice. Serve this one as an aperitif or with simple pastas and seafood.

2005 Mt. Baker Vineyard Chasselas Dore

A sparsely planted variety from the Alsace region of France, this grape has found an appropriate home in the cool Mount Baker vineyards. Clean, crisp and refreshing best describe both the aromas and the flavors. Spicy citrus on the nose, creamy citrus and melon on the palate show lovely balance and good persistence. A perfect match for most any fish, crustacean or bivalve, it went especially well with the local Lopez Island clams.

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