This event was organised by the Oregon and Washington State Wine Boards, and held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on 22 January. Six importers from the region had stands, showing about 75 wines that are available in the UK . In addition, the organisers had brought over another 250 wines from wineries that have no UK representation. All these wines were laid out by style and price so that they could all be compared (if you had the stamina!).

About a third of the wines were white, from a wide variety of grapes in Oregon , the favourites seem to be Pinot Gris and Riesling, while the more larger production of Washington state whites uses a lot of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. A quick survey of the Pinot Gris wines showed nothing special, and even in the £15-20 category they all seemed to be made from young wines, giving the wines a thin, green character. The Sauvignon Blancs were also rather thin and often tricked out with oak: one that showed more interest (at the top price level) was 2007 DeLille Chaleur Estate which has 32% Semillon in the blend. The cheaper Chardonnays were over-oaked and lacked the fruit to balance it. In the over £15 class, the 2007 Chehalem INOX Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon was much the most pleasant, having not seen any wood.

The Rieslings generally showed more character than other varietals. In the £10 range, the 2007 Firesteed from Oregon was off-dry and showed length and some Riesling character. The development was shown by the 2006 Holloran Le Pavillon. In the same price range, the 2007 Gewurztraminers from Columbia Winery in Washington and Amity in Orgon both showed rosepetals on the nose and oil on the finish – the Columbia was rounder and more delicate, the Amity intense and still developing.

A few sweet wines were shown, mostly quite convincing. From Washington I picked out the 2007 Pacific Rim Riesling Vin de Glaciere and the 2007 Kiona Riesling Ice Wine (the best but very expensive). The Oregon favourites were 2007 King Estate Pinot Gris Ice Wine and the 2002 Amity Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. Only the last of these is imported.

The Pacific North West is particularly known for the Oregon Pinot Noir, of which 62 were shown. Washington grows mostly Bordeaux blends and Syrah. Oregon Pinot Noir is not cheap, and anything under £15 is likely to be thin and green. Under £20 you might consider Domaine Drouhin or Firesteed. The expensive wines can still be quite austere, although the premium cuvees tend to have better fruit. My favourites were Domaine Drouhin Cuvee Laurene , Willamette Valley Vineyards, Elk Cove Reserve and Lachini Vineyards Giselle. These were mostly 2005 vintage.

Single variety Merlots can work in Washington – Chateau Ste Michelle Ethos (under £20) and Northstar (over £20) both showed reasonably well. Straight Cabernet Sauvignon is rather better to my taste, with Columbia Crest Grand Estates (under £15), Dusted Valley (Under £20),Seven Hills and Woodward Canyon all showing well. Bordeaux blends may be the future, as in some other regions, since the wines are more complex. In the cheaper range, the Snoqualmie Whistlestop red was interesting, while the top priced Columbia Crest Walter Clore Reserve, and the Antinori-made Col Solare were very promising.

Perhaps the easiest wines to drink at fairly young ages are the Washington Syrahs. At the cheaper end of the price range, L’Ecole No 41, Columbia Crest and Snoqualmie wines showed depth and some development, even from the 2006 vintage, as did the Ch Ste Michelle Ethos and Columbia Crest Reserve wines in the £15-20 bracket. At the highest price, the Doyenne and River Aerie Syrahs showed elegance and intensity, lying in taste between the quite austere Northern Rone style and the riper wines of Western Australia .

Further information on the wines above can be found in Ian's wine log