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Originally published Friday, July 27, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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Pick up some quality Washington wine bargains

Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt says the undeniable value pricing at every level simply cannot be matched by any other region in the country.

Special to the Seattle Times

Pick of the week

Bridgman 2011 Riesling; $11

IN A STATE with an embarrassment of riesling riches, this is a standout. Full, fresh, bright and complex, it opens with a bouquet of lime, citrus blossom and tea scents. The flavors follow, off-dry, detailed, balanced and vivid. (Distributed by Vehrs)

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I CHATTED recently with an executive at Total Wine, the East Coast-based wine-and-spirits retail giant now opening its first stores in Washington. He couldn't stop telling me how surprised he was to discover so many excellent wines being made here.

This is not an uncommon reaction from those who haven't had the opportunity to visit the region. So many of Washington's finest wines are not available elsewhere. Those of us fortunate enough to live here know that quality across the board in Washington has never been better. And the undeniable value pricing of many of these first-rate wines — at virtually every level — simply cannot be matched by any other region in the country.

Here are some excellent new releases from a mix of producers large and small. I've looked especially hard for wines selling for less than $15, but those priced higher are still bargains in relation to what else you find in a similar style at a comparable price. These wines are well-suited for summer: They are not too heavy, most are best drunk chilled, and the two most recent vintages have brought ripe grapes at lower sugar levels, which means alcohol percentages are back down below 14 percent, and sometimes under 13 percent. That's a trend worth celebrating.

Riesling is the star of the show; it is the quintessential summer sipper. Best of all is the Nefarious Cellars 2010 'Stone's Throw Vineyard' ($18). But that's just the beginning. The 2011 O• S Riesling ($15); the 2010 Gamache 'Estate' ($18); the 2010 Mercer Estates ($15); the 2011 Tempus Cellars 'Evergreen Vineyard' ($16); and the 2011 'Notebook' from J. Bookwalter ($15) all scored very well in my tastings.

Close behind riesling for hot-weather enjoyment I'd put the emerging Washington-state style of pinot gris. Again, Mercer Estates 2010 PG ($15) is a fine go-to bottle. For a taste of Oregon pinot gris, look for the 2011 Seven Hills ($17).

Among blended white wines, Southard's 2010 Columbia Valley blend ($16) brings Burgundian richness to southern Rhône grapes; and Brian Carter's 2010 Oriana White ($20) is as good as it's ever been.

Are you looking for an excellent blended burger-friendly red? Grab the O• S 2008 Red ($15) or the Seven Hills 2009 Planing Mill Red ($18). Washington malbecs can be a little pricey, but a new winery, Lookout Point, makes a fine, affordable 2009 Malbec from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA ($18).

White wines from another new Yakima Valley winery, Lone Birch, are also outstanding. These grower/producers have just released their 2011 Chardonnay, 2011 Riesling, 2011 Gewurztraminer and 2011 Pinot Gris. The riesling has a bit of sweetness, the gewurz is almost dry, as are the other two. All sell for $13. See the website (www.lonebirchwines.com) for purchase information.

Paul Gregutt's blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
paulgwine@me.com

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