Bookwalter: Literally Washington State’s BEST Wines


California has long dominated the landscape in the US and around the world when speaking of American high quality wine. However, as of late, there is a challenger to this position. Washington State has really come into its own with wines that represent the varietal characteristics as well as the terroir indicative and the complexities of Mother Nature.

Bookwalter’s stamp on American agriculture takes us back over ten generations; however, it was just two generations ago when the Bookwalter’s ventured into Columbia Valley winemaking. It was my pleasure recently to learn about Bookwalter Winery, however, I was in no way prepared for what I was about to experience.

The 2013 Conner-Lee Conflict and the 2013 Protagonist were my introductions to Bookwalter Winery. The 2013 vintage overall saw some record-breaking heat and lent its contributions to the wine grapes of the region in a surprising fashion. Unusually high sugar levels, profound depth of color, and some of the highest tannins experienced in recent times contributed to what can only be called a perfect storm. These wines represent the J. Bookwalter Portfolio in textbook style. Spring was recorded as somewhat normal and a promising early growing season gave the team some hope for a great crop. The vines flowered in early to mid June creating a launch pad for a ripe and luscious vintage. Summer temperatures repeatedly broke records and carried into August where the culmination of ripening contributed to a September that was mild and ideal for a calm harvest.

The fruit for the 2013 Conner-Lee Conflict was whole-cluster harvested with sorting and destemming done by hand where the wine was finally fermented in both tanks and barrels. The wine was aged for 15 months and displays a youthful and vibrant temperament with a playful and unexpected taunting when aerated in the glass. The 2013 Conner-Lee Conflict results in a beautiful dark and almost mysterious wine showcasing the best of the Pacific Northwest’s cornucopia of flavors and textures. Blueberries, black cherry, currant and a slight tobacco lace the nose after a viscous swirl shows off some rather slow traveling legs. A hint of earthiness gripped the inhale as my mouth began to water in anticipation of this full-bodied powerhouse. There is no doubt this wine contains a majority of Merlot with 60% dominating the glass. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc finish off this blend and support the Merlot with structure and added flavor making for a tannin powerhouse that will give the collector upwards of twenty years in the bottle. For those like me finding themselves intrigued with this unassuming yet elegant package the wine will display its very best as early as one year.

The Protaganist’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes benefited from the same conditions as the Conner-Lee Conflict grapes. The Protagonist is 95% Cabernet and 5% Syrah with 100% of the fruit from Columbia Valley and Conner-Lee Vineyard. The Protagonist was hand mixed for two weeks on the skins in traditional Bordeaux cooperage. Stirred and aged on lees, the Protagonist showcases a round mouthfeel and silky tannins complementing fruity flavors and savory tones indicative of a Cabernet-Syrah blend from Columbia Valley. Carefully hand selected cooperage was discriminately considered for the 16 months of barrel aging after a careful blend of both varietals of grapes were determined. This wine showcases some classic Cabernet aromas with dark berry fruit, cream and coffee tones. Earthy notes of mineral, cocoa, tobacco and a slight essence of rose petal finish off this elegant yet robust wine with a strong acidity adding a confident structure to this wine that will age beautifully in the bottle. This 2013 Protaganist will reward the eager connoisseur as well as the patient and calculating collector for decades to come.

John Bookwalter Wines with two generations of viticulture expertise have harnessed the power and generosity of the Columbia Valley and the blessings of Mother Nature in the bottle. Both of these wines are sure to offer a glimpse of the sustainable quality and complexity of Washington’s Columbia River Valley. Showcasing the incredible talents of Washington’s winemaking history and the phenomenal opportunity with the terroir of this incredibly complex and geographically rich region, J. Bookwalter Winery is shining a spotlight on Washington State’s wine industry and providing a showcase that is sure to intrigue even the most discriminating palate.

Bookwalter Wines are sold “Direct to Consumer”, visit:

pictured: J. Bookwalter Winery
photos courtesy of John Bookwalter Wines