20 fun red washington wine varieties

20 Fun Red Washington Wine Varieties You Need to Try

Have you ever tasted Tempranillo from Washington State? How about Nebbiolo? Or Lemberger? Or perhaps you didn’t even know such a diverse range of wine grapes grow in Washington State. After all, these grapes are typically associated with Spain, Italy, and Austria respectively. However, if you’d like to go beyond the typical Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah here are 20 fun red Washington wine varieties to explore.

Give yourself one point for each Washington grown variety you’ve tasted in a blend or two points for each variety you’ve experienced in its untainted glory.

Fun Red Washington Wine Varieties



More closely associated with southern Italy, Walla Walla’s first family Leonetti Cellars crafts a bottling of this variety. I hope to experience it myself someday!

Alicante Bouschet

Last fall, Chelan based Cairdeas Winery released their first Alicante Boushet, and it quickly sold out. I’ve joined their Wine Club with the hope that I’ll soon get my hands on a bottle.


Cascade Cliffs Winery, known for a number of Itailian influenced wines, includes Barbera among its offerings.


This powerhouse variety of Spanish origin is often blended into the Subduction Red blend crafted by Syncline Winery. Serve with a savory berry sauce along with your favorite smoky meat.


Known for classic bell pepper notes (aka “pyrazine” as the somms say) this variety is bottled by several Walla Walla wineries.


Cairdeas is in play here again with a wine that led me to write the tasting note: “Holy crap this Cinsault is so freaking good!” Try this if you like the idea of a Pinot Noir by way of the Rhône –lighter in color and weight yet with a savory meets zesty spiciness.


When we recruited my current Chief Feline Officer, I wanted to name him after this Italian variety. However, when the hubby suggested “Baron Auslese” there was no going back! Nevertheless, if you’re wondering how this variety fares in Washington State, the aforementioned Cascade Cliffs offers a bottling that I brought home from their tasting room.

Gamay Noir

Division Wine Co. sources Gamy from Carousel Vineyard in the Columbia Valley AVA and transforms it into a lightly effervescent refreshing rosé “Petillant Naturel” sparkler. If you’ve ever wondered what to pair with nachos, here you go!


This quite rare variety is native to the Rioja region of Spain where it is used as an accent to the other major grapes of the regional blend. Newcomer Ruby Magdalena Vineyards in Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills grows Graciano in their estate vineyard.


Kiona Vineyards has been growing this variety in their estate vineyards, and produced the first commercial bottling in the United States in 1980. Red Mountain’s desert climate translates to a dark powerhouse of a wine for all you red wine lovers. At $17 it’s a must try!


Often associated with Argentina, this inky hued wine is perfect for a steak dinner. Here in Washington, Andrew Latta of Latta Wines sources this sultry variety from the Wahluke Slope.


I recall years ago when the Mourvèdre vines of Force Majeure Vineyards were robbed of their bunches in a despicable act of thievery. No wonder, though, this spicy variety is hot, hot, hot!


I discovered a beautiful easy drinking rosé crafted from this variety by Upsidedown Wines a couple of years ago at one of my local farmers markets. Sourced from Coyote Canyon Vineyards, the only Nebbiolo rosé from Washington state is whole cluster pressed and receives extended lees contact.

Petit Verdot

A late ripener revered by winemakers and loathed by growers, this intense grape is often used for red Bordeaux style blends.

Petite Sirah

Not to be confused with Syrah, this tannic variety is not for the faint of heart! Thurston Wolfe winery offers this variety as well as some other unsung heroes. Pair with the beefiest of dishes.


I picked up a bottle of this perfect pasta marina wine at Patterson Cellars during one of my final tastings in the Before Times.


This is one of the traditional varieties in the fortified wine, Port. In Washington we find it bottled in Walla Walla winery The Walls Vineyard’s Stanley Groovy. It is indeed very groovy.


If you’re seeking Washington wine interpreted through a Spaniard, look no further than Spain’s top variety, Tempranillo, interpreted via Javier Alfonso’s Pomum Cellars.

Tinto Cao

This is another variety typically associated with Port, and is grown within the acclaimed Red Mountain AVA.

Touriga Nacional

See Tinto Cao and Souzao.

So, how many of these 20 red Washington wine varieties have you tasted? Head on over to Twitter or Instagram and share your results, and show the love for these alternative varieties.