BUZZ: HEY, Marnie, I had guests over and they gave me a bottle of wine. After they left, I saw it was from the Columbia district in Washington. Should I dump it? How good can it be from that swamp in D.C.?
Marnie: Drink it, Buzz, don't waste it. It's from Washington state's Columbia Valley, a region that makes some of the best wines in the country, not the capital's District of Columbia.
Buzz: I thought the only good American wines were from California.
Marnie: Well, it's true that over 90 percent of premium U.S. wines are made there, but Washington and Oregon make world-class wines too. I love recommending Washington wines in particular due to their fair prices.
Buzz: So you're saying my friends are cheap?
Marnie: Not at all. Popular wines from Washington and California are in roughly the same price ranges. What I meant was that Washington wines are often the better value, offering better quality for the same price.
Buzz: Is that because they don't have to spend money picking the grapes in Washington? The rain just washes them off the vines?
Marnie: No, it's about real estate. You need the right climate - sunny days, cool nights and mild winters. California's wine country flanks San Francisco north and south, with the best vineyards being cooled by ocean breezes along the coast, so the property values are through the roof. The Columbia Valley has similar grape-friendly climate conditions, but on an arid inland plateau near Walla Walla. Not exactly the Bay Area in terms of cost of living. Since Columbia Valley land isn't in as much demand for other purposes, all sorts of wine production costs are lower in Washington. Those savings can be passed on to the customer.
Buzz: Imagine that. Washington giving a break to the citizens.
Marnie Old is Philadelphia's
highest-profile sommelier. She has
designed wine lists for restaurants
like Parc and Bar Ferdinand. Her
latest book, "Wine Secrets," is a
collection of wine advice shared by
top wine professionals. Marnie
consults for the Pennsylvania
Liquor Control Board and is an
adviser to the beverage trade.
Check out her blog at
musings are interpreted by Daily
News City Editor Gar Joseph.