Influential winemaker Wade Wolfe focuses on varieties that others don’t

Wolfe, who’s operated Thurston Wolfe for 30 years, is a leader in Washington’s wine industry.

IT IS SAFE to say that the Washington wine industry would look considerably different if Wade Wolfe hadn’t arrived on the scene in 1978.

Wolfe came to Washington from Arizona to work for Chateau Ste. Michelle on the viticulture side, alongside the legendary Walter Clore — considered the father of Washington wine.

In the early 1980s, Ste. Michelle boss Allen Shoup directed Clore and Wolfe to write a petition for what would become the Columbia Valley American Viticultural Area. The 11-million-acre AVA takes up a third of the state and has defined where most of the wine grapes are grown today. In the ensuing years, almost all the other areas defined are based within the Columbia Valley.

Three to try

Three Thurston Wolfe wines distributed in the Seattle market.

Thurston Wolfe 2016 PGV, Columbia Valley, $15: The perfect summer wine, this is a blend of pinot gris and viognier. Gorgeous notes of citrus, ripe pear, minerality and tropical fruit. Bright acidity makes this perfect with freshly shucked oysters, seared scallops, grilled salmon or a cup of chowder.

Thurston Wolfe 2015 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, Columbia Valley, $16: This blend of zin, grenache, petite sirah and lemberger is a classic Washington red table wine that reveals aromas of raspberry, milk chocolate and spice and flavors of rich, red fruit backed with balanced acidity. Perfect with barbecued ribs.

Thurston Wolfe 2015 Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This won’t be confused with a lighter-bodied Dry Creek Valley zin. It’s more of a full-throated red with rich, bold flavors of ripe raspberries, strawberries and Rainier cherries. A great wine for barbecue, meatloaf or even grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce.

After leaving Ste. Michelle, Wolfe began a consulting business, helping to…

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