100 Best Washington Wines
Our wines keep getting better and better, and here are the best of the best.
IN 2000 there were approximately 150 wineries in Washington State. By the end of 2009, this number had ballooned to 650. Despite the economy, the winery count continues to expand, with a new winery bonded in the state almost every week. As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve gotten better. Last year, Wine Spectator named a Washington wine its Wine of the Year, Wine Enthusiast gave one of our wines a perfect 100-point score, and Food and Wine named a Washington winemaker its Winemaker of the Year. These accomplishments would have been almost unthinkable 10 years ago. Coming on the heels of excellent vintages in 2005 and 2006, the 2007 vintage featured near-perfect growing conditions and is widely considered one of Washington’s finest. The 100 wines here represent the very best of a very good group.
1. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $125
97 points | Winemakers Alex Golitzin, Paul Golitzin, and Marv Crum are in top form on this big, dense wine packed tightly with fruit and tannins. Of Quilceda Creek ’s many heralded vintages in the last decade, 2007 is its finest. Stash a bottle away and come back to it many years down the road.
An extremely appealing nose with light spices and opulent amounts of black cherry and blackberry, along with earth, chocolate, and light herbal notes. It’s a big wine on the palate with heaping quantities of black fruit accented by chocolate and perfectly integrated tannins. 97 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent merlot. Champoux, Klipsun, and Tapteil vineyards. Aged 22 months in new French oak. 15.2 percent alcohol. 4,250 cases produced.
2. Cayuse Vineyards God Only Knows Grenache Armada Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2006, $6596 points | In the late 1990s, Christophe Baron established vineyards in a former riverbed in the southern section of the Walla Walla Valley. The rock-strewn ground proved so unforgiving that he ended up using crowbars to plant the vines. Just over a decade later and with too many top-rated wines to count, Baron’s Cayuse Vineyardscontinues to redefine Washington wine. While Baron is best known for his single-vineyard syrahs (with good reason—they rival the world’s best), he is also making a strong case for grenache in Washington.
An outrageous, funky nose that leaps from the glass with black olives, earth, and savory notes. The palate is seamless and loaded with earth, umami, pepper, meat, and red fruit. I searched for a superlative that could adequately describe the experience to no avail. 100 percent grenache. 15.2 percent alcohol. 288 cases produced.
3. Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines Washington State 2007, $7995 points | Established in 1981, Woodward Canyon was the second modern-day winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Almost 30 years later, nearly one in every six wineries in the state calls the AVAhome. Through the years, Woodward Canyon has consistently produced some of Washington’s finest, most age-worthy wines. Grapes for this 100 percent varietal wine come from 35-year-old vines from two top vineyards, Champoux and Sagemoor.
Abundant toast and spice on a pleasing nose that is initially oak-driven. As the wine opens up, rich black fruit aromas come to the foreground. On the palate, a rich, intense wine with waves of fruit and an impeccable balance. The finish hangs on forever. 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Champoux and Sagemoor vineyards. 14.8 percent alcohol. 651 cases produced.
4. Waters Winery Syrah Forgotten Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007, $4094 points | Wines from Waters winemaker Jamie Brown stand out for their lower alcohol and higher acidity, and he focuses largely on single-vineyard syrah. This one has perfectly balanced fruit, acid, and tannins on an elegantly textured palate.
An aromatic wine with earth, sliced black olives, bright berries, floral notes, game, and a kiss of chocolate. Elegantly textured palate. A persistent finish caps off this exceptional effort. 100 percent syrah. Forgotten Hills Vineyard. 13.8 percent alcohol. 514 cases produced.
5. Owen Roe Chapel Block Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008, $4594 points | Grower Mike Sauer planted Washington’s first syrah vines at Red Willow Vineyard in 1986. Columbia Winery’s David Lake produced the state’s first syrah from grapes from these vines in 1988. Twenty vintages later, Owen Roe, an Oregon-based producer, has created a wine that celebrates Sauer and Lake’s foresight.
Beautifully expressive nose with floral notes, earth, blueberries, and light game. Impeccably well-balanced on a palate packed with fruit buffeted by a pleasing lift of acidity. Capped off by a long finish. Red Willow Vineyard (Yakima Valley). Aged 14 months in French oak (26 percent new). 14.9 percent alcohol. 359 cases produced.
6. Buty Winery Rediviva of the Stones Walla Walla Valley 2007, $5594 points | Caleb Foster brings 20 years of winemaking experience to Buty Wineryand his current lineup is as impressive as any in the state. The Rediviva of the Stones is Buty’s trademark syrah-cabernet blend, made with grapes from the Rocks area of the Walla Walla Valley.
A compelling, funky nose with olive juice, earth, seaweed, and game. Richly textured on a lithe, exceptionally well-balanced palate. An extended finish. 77 percent syrah, 23 percent cabernet sauvignon. River Rock and LeFore vineyards. Aged 14 months in French oak. 14.2 percent alcohol. 365 cases produced.
7. Rasa Vineyards Principia Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007, $8594 points | Rasa Vineyardsis a new winery from Billo and Pinto Naravane. Both come to the wine biz with a background in mathematics—Principia is named after Isaac Newton’s seminal work. “My heart is in this wine,” says Billo of this breathtaking blend of syrah from five different vineyards.
A very pretty nose with violets, game, chocolate, a touch of lemon zest, and blackberries. A rich, beautifully textured palate tightly packed with layers of black fruit. Beautifully polished with well-integrated tannins. Capped off by an exceptionally long finish. 100 percent syrah from five different vineyards (Les Collines, Lewis, Portteus, Double River, and Seven Hills). Aged 24 months in French oak (25 percent new). 14.9 percent alcohol. 70 cases produced.
8. Grand Reve Vintners Collaboration Series II Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2007, $4593 points | Grand Reve, which means “great dream” in French, is a partnership between Paul McBride and vineyard manager Ryan Johnson. The project pairs fruit from one of Washington’s best vineyards, Ciel du Cheval, with some of Washington’s best winemakers. Each winemaker produces a single wine each year with a different series number. Collaboration Series II, by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery, is a Southern Rhone-style blend of syrah, grenache, and mourvedre.
Dark in color, this wine has an expressive, intriguing nose with earth, mineral, game, and red fruit. Light on its feet on the palate but with great complexity and an elegant tannic backbone holding it all together. 55 percent syrah, 25 percent grenache, 19 percent mourvedre, 1 percent viognier. Aged 17 months in French oak (40 percent new). 14.8 percent alcohol. 184 cases produced.
9. Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah Columbia Valley 2007, $4093 points | Once the country’s youngest Master Sommelier, Winemaker Greg Harrington worked for mega-star restaurateurs Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck before starting Gramercy Cellars. In the Lagniappe (“a little something extra”) some of the grapes were only partially destemmed before fermentation, resulting in compelling aromatics and a textured mouthfeel.
A drop-dead gorgeous with floral notes, game, and earth. The textured, acid-driven palate boasts intense fruit flavors. Syrah cofermented with viognier. Forgotten Hills and Minick vineyards. 13.9 percent alcohol. 220 cases produced.
10. Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $4293 points | Winemaker John Abbott started Abeja, Spanish for “bee,” with Ken Harrison, Ginger Harrison, and Molly Galt in 2002. The winery focuses on cabernet sauvignon along with limited bottlings of merlot, syrah, chardonnay, and viognier. The 2007 Abeja cab is a blockbuster wine that drinks extremely well now, but promises to only get better in the cellar.
The nose is initially closed, but as it opens it shows toast, blackberry, dark chocolate, spice, and a light earthiness. A polished palate offers rich, focused black fruit and silky tannins, and the finish goes on and on and on. 88 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent merlot, 4 percent cabernet franc. Aged in French oak (60 percent new) for 24 months. 14.9 percent alcohol. 2,294 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
11. Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah Yakima Valley 2008, $5593 points | Master of Wine Bob Betzis known for his meticulous attention to detail in every step of the process from grape to glass. Betz spent 28 years at Stimson Lane—now Ste. Michelle Wine Estates—before retiring in 2003 to focus fulltime on Betz Family Winery. The result is a dazzling lineup of Bordeaux- and Rhone-style blends. Fruit for La Côte Patriarche comes from Red Willow Vineyard, which boasts the oldest syrah vines in Washington State.
The intense, rich nose reveals char, smoke, earth, bacon fat, and floral notes while the palate is elegant and refined with lithe tannins and focused fruit flavors. 14.5 percent alcohol. Aged 12 months in French oak (50 percent new). 215 cases produced.
12. Rasa Vineyards QED Walla Walla Valley 2008, $5093 points | Rasa Vineyards’ QEDstands for Quod Erat Demonstratum; the abbreviation is often written at the end of a mathematical proof and means “I’ve proven what I set out to prove.” What brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane have proven with this syrah blend is that Rasa Vineyards, now in its second vintage, is a winery to watch.
A very pretty nose with violets, orange rind, spice, and meaty aromas, it’s incredibly focused on the palate with black fruit, lemon, and umami lemon flavors. 83 percent syrah, 10 percent grenache, 5 percent mouvedre, 2 percent viognier. 14.4 percent alcohol. 675 cases produced.
13. Amavi Cellars Syrah Les Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007, $3493 points | Amavi Cellarsis known for producing high quality wines at an exceptional value. This vineyard-designated syrah comes from Les Collines (“the foothills”), one of the most compelling syrah vineyards in Washington.
It has a nose of violets, game, earth, and orange rind with restrained, pure fruit and structure built for aging on the palate. 100 percent syrah. Les Collines Vineyard. Aged in French oak (20 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 270 cases produced.
14. Kerloo Cellars Syrah Les Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007, $3293 points | Kerlooname refers to the call made by a crane—is a new winery established by Ryan and Reneé Crane. “I want to create wines that are palate-challenging across the board and hold true to the varietal,” says Ryan. He accomplishes both with this bold, impressive syrah.
This syrah has a beautiful, intricate nose with violets, light game, lemon zest, berries, and chocolate. On the palate there are big dollops of fruit and a rich texture, and the finish lingers on and on. Les Collines Vineyard Blocks 30 and 50. 14.4 percent alcohol. 70 cases produced.
15. K Vintners Syrah Phil Lane Walla Walla Valley 2007, $7093 points | K Vintners’ Charles Smith, a former roadie known for his long and wild locks, is a rock-star winemaker making rock-star wine. This wine comes from K’s only estate vineyard, located next to the winery and named after the property’s original owner.
This one boasts a fun, funky nose with floral notes, black olives, game, chocolate, earth, and red and blue fruit and a deliciously rich, action-packed palate that evolves. Give one to two years or decant. 100 percent syrah. Phil Lane Vineyard. 14.5 percent alcohol. 141 cases produced.
16. Corliss Estates Syrah Columbia Valley 2005, $5592 points | Michael and Lauri Corliss founded Corliss Estatesalmost a decade ago with the goal of producing age-worthy wines of the highest quality—they discarded their first two vintages after the wines did not meet this high standard. Two stellar commercial vintages later, and Corliss is now one of the best wineries in the state. They hold onto wines for a long time before releasing, so they’re ready to drink right away but offer years of cellaring potential.
A dark, brooding nose with abundant blueberries, blackberries, light earthiness, and a touch of game and chocolate. A big, multiple-swallow wine that is powerful and yet extremely refined. 15.1 percent alcohol. 388 cases produced.
17. Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006, $7092 points | Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville and Italy’s Piero Antinori partnered to create Col Solare—Italian for “shining hill.” In 2007 the winery opened a dedicated facility on Red Mountain complete with a 30-acre estate vineyard. While winemaker Marcus Notaro says he is trying to produce “a cabernet-based wine that has a lot of structure and a lot of complexity but is very refined and balanced,” Ste. Michelle’s Ted Baseler puts it more boldly: He’s looking to make “the greatest wine in Washington State.”
An alluring, complex nose with French oak spices, cherries, earth, and chocolate. Rich with red and black fruit surrounded with silky oak on a beautifully balanced palate that rolls on and on. 72 percent cabernet sauvignon; 19 percent merlot; 4 percent cabernet franc; 3 percent petit verdot; 2 percent syrah. Klipsun, Cold Creek, Coyote Canyon, Hedges, Four Feathers, Kiona, Stone Tree, Wautoma Springs, and Williams vineyards. 14.5 percent alcohol. Aged 21 months in French and American oak (100 percent new). 10,000 cases produced.
18. Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $8592 points | Founded in 1977, Leonetti Cellarwas the first winery in the Walla Walla Valley and is one of only a few in the state with a second-generation winemaker. Chris Figgins assumed responsibilities from his father in the early part of the decade and has shepherded Leonetti’s transition to using Walla Walla fruit exclusively. Figgins says his goal is to make “vineyard-driven” wines; he succeeds with this distinctly Walla Walla Valley cabernet sauvignon.
Dark in color. After being initially closed up on the nose, the wine shows smoky, toasted oak aromas along with earth, licorice, and red and black fruit. Extremely well-balanced on a palate that has a lot of fruit but is also restrained. Rich cherry flavors are accented by polished tannins. Ends with a long finish. 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 17 percent merlot, 4 percent carmenere, and 3 percent malbec. Loess, Mill Creek Upland, and Seven Hills vineyards. Aged 22 months in new and neutral French and American oak. 14.6 percent alcohol. 2,953 cases produced.
19. DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red Wine Red Mountain 2007, $7592 points | The Chaleur Estate Red is a flagship wine from Woodinville’s DeLille Cellars, with fruit from some of the best vineyards in Washington, including Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Boushey. While a number of wineries in Washington favor a big, bold style (taking advantage of the extremely ripe Eastern Washington fruit), DeLille’s Chaleur Estate is noteworthy for its restraint and elegance.
A light but alluring nose with black cherry, earth, light herbal notes, and a dusting of chocolate. The palate is marked by elegant fruit flavors and a firm backbone of tannins. Give two to three years. 65.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 7.5 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent petit verdot. 14.9 percent alcohol. 950 cases produced.
20. Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $45
92 points | Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars started out focusing on syrah, but he soon found Washington-grown cabernet sauvignon hard to ignore. This is a beautifully pure expression of cabernet with the fruit up front and the oak confined to the background.
Nose is initially closed up but as it opens up shows high-toned black cherry, chocolate, licorice, and earth aromas. On the palate, rich yet restrained. Beautifully balanced with bright acidity. 8o percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot. Phinny Hill (Horse Heaven Hills), Portteus, Va Piano, Gramercy Cellars Estate, and Pepper Bridge vineyards. 13.9 percent alohol. 650 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
21. Cadence Winery Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2007, $45
92 points | Cadence winemaker Benjamin Smith worked for 14 years as a mechanical engineer at Boeing. There, he began exploring his interest in winemaking via the Boeing Wine Club. When the four wines he entered in the Club’s annual competition won first through fourth place in the Best of Show category, his colleagues recommended that he consider a new career. The Old World styling of Smith’s wines makes them unique in Washington, and they’re clearly built for the long haul.
Nose is initially quite closed. As it opens up it shows earth, light floral notes, chocolate, and black cherry. Restrained on the palate with elegant fruit and fine-grained tannins. Give three-plus years. 39 percent cabernet sauvignon, 35 percent cabernet franc, 13 percent merlot, 13 percent petit verdot. Aged 18 months in French oak (40 percent new). 14.4 percent alcohol. 495 cases produced.
22. Buty Winery Columbia Rediviva Phinny Hill Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2006, $4892 points | Cabernet sauvignon and syrah blends have become a signature for Buty Winery. All of the fruit came from the Phinny Hill Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills near famed Champoux Vineyard; it’s a plot of land producing an increasing number of exceptional wines, many of them vineyard designated.
Nose is marked by dusty chocolate, earth, plum, and red and black fruit. Palate is dry and gracefully balanced with a huge dollop of fruit. 55 percent cabernet sauvignon and 45 percent syrah. Phinny Hill Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills). 14.5 percent alcohol. 930 cases produced.
23. L’Ecole No 41 Apogee Red Wine Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007, $5092 points | L’Ecole No 41’s winery, a 1915 schoolhouse just west of Walla Walla, is as iconic as any in Washington State. In addition to its excellent, varietally labeled wines, L’Ecole also makes two vineyard-designated blends. The Apogee shows Walla Walla fruit at its best.
A gorgeous, aromatic wine with floral notes, spice, currant, high-toned black cherry, anise, and light herbal streaks. Palate is tart and tightly wound up with tannins at present. Finish goes on and on. Give two to three years. 60 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 5 percent malbec, and 5 percent cabernet franc. Aged 22 months in small oak barrels (50 percent new). 14.5 percent alcohol. 1,630 cases produced.
24. Sleight of Hand Cellars The Archimage Walla Walla Valley 2007, $4092 points | Winemaker Trey Busch alternately gains inspiration from music and magic. Sleight of Handwas named for a song by Busch’s beloved Pearl Jam, and each of his labels is styled after circus magic-show posters. But there is also plenty of magic inside the bottle of the 2007 Archimage, the winery’s homage to Bordeaux’s Right Bank wines.
A moderately aromatic wine with spice, pepper, light chocolate, herbal notes, and cherry. Delicious fruit on a seamless palate that hangs on and on at the finish. 54 percent merlot, 46 percent cabernet franc. Aged in French oak (30 percent new). 14.5 percent alcohol. Less than 300 cases produced.
25. Andrew Will Winery Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2007, $5392 points | Andrew Will Winery, located on Vashon Island, is named for winemaker Chris Camarda’s nephew Andrew and his son Will. Camarda focuses largely on single-vineyard blends, each of them a compelling expression of the land where the fruit is grown.
An alluring nose with floral aromas, licorice, light herbal notes, and chocolate. Opens up and expands on the palate with tightly wound red and black fruit flavors. 45 percent cabernet franc, 40 percent merlot, and 15 percent cabernet sauvignon. Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Aged 21 months in French oak (35 percent new). 1,408 cases produced.
VALUE WINE: 26. Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $2592 points | Woodinville-based Novelty Hill consistently offers outrageous quality for the price. The 2007 cabernet sauvignon is a big, rich wine with generous amounts of fruit and new French oak.
Nose is initially closed up. As it opens it shows blackberry, anise, and light herbal notes. Well put-together on the palate with rich fruit flavors and supple tannins. 90 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet franc, and 1 percent petit verdot. Aged 20 months in new and used oak (predominantly French). 14.4 percent alcohol. 3,964 cases produced.
27. Efesté Jolie Bouche Syrah Yakima Valley 2007, $3492 points | Efesté —pronounced like the letters F-S-T—has, in a short time, made a large impression on the Washington wine scene. With his Jolie Bouche, winemaker Brennon Leighton (he cut his teeth at Chateau Ste. Michelle) has used fruit from famed Boushey Vineyard to craft a big, bold, distinctly Washington syrah.
Dark purple in color. An expressive nose with game, berries, chocolate, and bacon fat. Big and rich on the palate with gobs of fruit. 100 percent syrah. 100 percent Boushey Vineyard. Aged 15 months in French oak (16 percent new). 14.35 percent alcohol. 360 cases produced.
28. K Vintners Syrah Milbrandt Wahluke Slope 2008, $2592 points | One of the strengths of Charles Smith’s K Vintners is that the wines span a range of price points. Everyone can play. This wine, which comes from Sundance and Pheasant sites at Milbrant Vineyards, offers an outrageously high quality-to-price ratio for a Washington syrah.
Fairly light in color. An intensely aromatic, to-die-for nose with black olive juice, floral notes, game, and orange peel. Glides effortlessly across the palate with lithe fruit and umami flavors. 100 percent syrah. 90 percent Sundance and 10 percent Pheasant vineyards. 13.9 percent alcohol. 830 cases produced.
29. Soos Creek Wine Cellars Artist Series #7 Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007, $2792 points | Winemaker David Larsen is another product of the Boeing Wine Club. Larsen’s Soos Creek, founded in 1989, focuses on blended wines from Bordeaux grape varietals. They’re bold, distinctive, and filled with exquisite red fruit flavors.
An enjoyable, aromatic nose with lots of red fruit, herbal notes, and light cranberries. Big and rich with chewy red fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins. An exceptionally long finish. 52 percent cabernet franc, 48 percent cabernet sauvignon. Aged 18 months in French oak (40 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 350 cases produced.
30. Bergevin Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $2692 points | Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane cofounded Bergevin Lanewith Annette’s father Gary in 2002 to create rich, hedonistic wines like this cabernet sauvignon.
An aromatic nose marked by chocolate-covered cherries, anise, and earth. Rich and intense on the palate with gobs of fruit and a long finish. Shows a good deal of French-oak influence. 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent merlot, 6 percent cabernet franc, and 3 percent petit verdot. Pepper Bridge, Les Collines, Minnick, Alder Ridge, and Stone Tree vineyards. Aged 20 months in French (76 percent), American (17 percent) and Eastern European (7 percent) oak. 14.4 percent alcohol. 815 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
31. Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vineyard 2007, $4892 points | Adams Benchgets its name from a bench in Indiana where winemaker Tim Blue and his childhood classmates were sent as punishment. The bench now resides at the Blue’s home in Woodinville and adorns the Adams Bench label. This 100 percent cabernet sauvignon announces Adams Bench’s place among Washington’s best wineries.
Dark in color. Lots of dust and bright cherry aromas along with herbal notes, cranberry, and currant on a complex, aromatic wine. Big, lush, and round on a palate packed tight with fruit and well-integrated tannins. 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Red Willow Vineyard. 14.9 percent alcohol. 73 cases produced.
32. Milbrandt Vineyards Sentinel Northridge Red Wine Wahluke Slope 2007, $5592 points | Each bottle of Milbrandt Vineyardswine bears a simple but telling quote from brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt. “Individually we are just Butch and Jerry. But when we are working together we are like one really talented person.” The Milbrandts planted their first vineyard 13 years ago; they now farm 13 different sites across a staggering 1,600 acres.
Intense aromatics of black cherry, spice, light chocolate, and earth. Opulent on the palate with rich, complex fruit flavors accented by silky oak. Capped off by a long finish. A good deal of oak influence. 63 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 6 percent petit verdot, 6 percent malbec. Aged 14 months in Eastern European, French, and American oak (100 percent new). 14.3 percent alcohol. 400 cases produced.
33. Northstar Winery Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2006, $5091 points | Northstar’s founders opened the winery in the 1990s with the goal of producing the world’s best merlot from Washington State fruit. Merlot grows as well here as it does anywhere in the world, and this wine is the prototype for our state’s distinct take on the varietal.
An intriguing, complex nose with spice, tobacco, cocoa, dark fruit, and a light earthiness. Glides along the palate and lingers on the finish. 78 percent merlot, 17 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 5 percent cabernet franc. Aged in French oak (56 percent new). 14.4 percent alcohol. 2,500 cases produced.
34. Saviah Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $2891 points | Walla Walla’s Saviah Cellarsproduces a lineup of high-quality wines that consistently outperform the other bottles in their price class. Here winemaker Richard Funk takes fruit from three of Walla Walla’s best vineyards (Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, and McClellan Estate) and combines them into a luscious fruit-filled cabernet.
A pretty, moderately aromatic nose with mocha, licorice, and earth. On the palate, a rich, voluptuous wine with a silky mouthfeel and an extremely long finish. Aged 17 months in French oak (20 percent new). Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, and McClellan Estate vineyards. 14.1 percent alcohol. 575 cases produced.
35. àMaurice Cellars Malbec Columbia Valley 2007, $3591 points | One of the exciting developments in Walla Walla in the last five years has been the emergence of a number of young, talented winemakers. Anna Schafer learned from some of the best—Paul Hobbs in Argentina and Walla Walla Vintners’ Gordy Venneri. The àMauricewines are all standouts with the malbec and viognier making up the winery’s signature varietals.
Dark and purple at the rim. An alluring, moderately aromatic nose that shows light pepper and plum. Tastes beautifully polished with rich fruit and soft tannins. Gamache and Stone Valley Vineyards. Aged 24 months in French oak (40 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 320 cases produced.
36. Fidelitas Merlot Columbia Valley 2006, $2591 points | In 1982, Charlie Hoppes was working as an industrial engineer at Boeing when he bought a home winemaking kit. One year later he made wine at the house of his father-in-law, Dan Fidelis O’Neill, whose name now brands the Fidelitaswinery. This wine, 100 percent varietal, displays the best of Washington merlot at an excellent price point.
An appealing, aromatic wine with coffee, toast, spice, and red fruit. Big and bold with fruit on the palate along with lithe tannins and silky oak flavors. 100 percent merlot. Conner Lee, Stillwater Creek, Weinbau, Goose Ridge, Gamache, and Boushey (8 percent) vineyards. 14.4 percent alcohol. 579 cases produced.
37. Tranche Cellars Roussanne Viognier Columbia Valley 2007, $3091 points | Tranche Cellars, the second of three wineries from Michael and Lauri Corliss, is named after a French term for “slice” or “section.” Tranche offers exceptional quality across a range of price points. This Roussanne-Viognier blend brings the best of both grapes with compelling aromatics and a pleasingly rounded mouthfeel.
A moderately aromatic nose with honeysuckle, melon, floral notes, and light spices. Taste is round and pleasing with a lot of fruit and a light sweetness. 67 percent roussanne, 33 percent viognier. 13.7 percent alcohol.
38. JM Cellars Tre Fanciulli Columbia Valley 2007, $4291 points | While JMwinemaker John Bigelow is perhaps best known for his outstanding white wines, the lineup of reds is equally impressive. Tre Fanciulli, Italian for “three treasured boys,” is named for the Bigelows’ three sons, Jack, Tommy, and Joe. Explains Bigelow: “It is a blend of 67 percent cabernet sauvignon (Jack), 19 percent merlot (Tom) and 14 percent syrah (Joe, who will tell you he is spicy!).”
An appealing, moderately aromatic nose with mocha, raspberries, licorice, cherry, chocolate, and spice. Palate is packed with fruit with a firm structure of tannins. Built for the long haul. 67 percent cabernet sauvignon, 19 percent merlot, 14 percent syrah. 14.4 percent alcohol. 350 cases produced.
39. Chateau Ste. Michelle Meritage Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007, $5091 points | Everyone knows Chateau Ste. Michellefor its omnipresent value wines. But the Woodinville winery makes extremely impressive wines at higher price points too. The 2007 Meritage shows why Chateau Ste. Michelle is still our flagship winery.
An alluring nose with a cornucopia of black and red fruit along with spice and bittersweet chocolate. Dry on the palate with lots of black cherry flavors and a firm backbone of tannins. Give two years. 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 37 percent merlot, 6 percent malbec, 1 percent petit verdot. Aged 20 months in French and American oak. 14.5 percent alcohol. 2,200 cases produced.
40. Buty Winery Chardonnay Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2008, $3591 points | Buty Winerycreates a unique, stylistic chardonnay from Conner Lee Vineyard, located on Radar Hill south of Othello, Washington. The wine is fermented in Burgundy barrels, as opposed to stainless steel, and is lees stirred, which gives it a fascinating aroma and flavor profile. Partial malolactic fermentation provides a silky yet crisp style.
An alluring nose with lemon, yeast, hay, and wet stone. Beautifully balanced on the palate with crisp lemon flavors and a rounded mouthfeel. 100 percent Chardonnay. Conner Lee Vineyard (Columbia Valley). 14 percent alcohol. 560 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
41. Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine 2006, $3691 points | Columbia Crestis not only Washington’s largest wine producer, it is also consistently the state’s quality-to-price ratio leader with impressive wines at each price tier. This reserve red pays tribute to Dr. Walter Clore, whom many consider the father of the Washington wine industry. The doctor would no doubt be proud.
A rich, aromatic nose with abundant red and black fruit, sweet spices, coconut shavings, and black chocolate. Beautifully balanced with cranberry and cherry flavors on the palate accented by delicate oak flavors. 66 percent merlot, 34 percent cabernet sauvignon. Aged 30 months in new French and American oak. 14.8 percent alcohol. 5,000 cases produced.
42. Soos Creek Wine Cellars Ciel du Cheval Red Wine Red Mountain 2007, $3091 points | Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain is one of Washington’s finest vineyards with a long list of vineyard-designated wines at high prices to prove it. Most of the vineyard-designates from Ciel du Cheval retail for $40 and up, but Soos Creekwinemaker David Larsen has created an excellent value version.
Dark in color with purple towards the rim. Nose shows alluring aromas of black cherry, floral notes, cranberry, light herbal notes, and chocolate. Gracefully structured on the palate with delicious red fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins. 73 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent cabernet franc, 9 percent merlot. Aged 18 months in French oak (50 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 275 cases produced.
43. Trust Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007, $2891 points | Trust Cellars winemaker Steve Brooks left a career at CNNin Atlanta and moved to Walla Walla to make wine. The news network’s loss is your gain as Brooks displays a deft touch across his entire lineup of wines. This Walla Walla Valley-designated syrah includes a healthy percentage of cabernet.
Almost opaque with purple at the rim. Nose is marked by violets, black raspberries, chocolate, anise, and cherries. On the palate, big and bold with tremendous depth and intensity along with slightly citric acidity. 89 percent syrah, 11 percent cabernet sauvignon. Les Collines, Va Piano, and Lewis vineyards. Aged 16 months in French oak (22 percent new). 14.4 percent alcohol. 214 cases produced.
44. Alexandria Nicole Cellars Marsanne Destiny Ridge Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2009, $2891 points | A viticulture student of Dr. Wade Wolfe (now of Thurston Wolfe Winery), Jarrod Boyle decided to start his own vineyard after falling for a patch of land in the Horse Heaven Hills. At first, his goal was to produce grapes for other wineries but after he experienced the quality of the vineyard’s fruit his plans changed and Alexandria Nicole Cellarswas born.
Pale lemon yellow. A pleasing, moderately aromatic nose with honeysuckle, lemon, and some sweet notes. A rounded palate full of fruit, especially pears followed by a long finish. 100 percent marsanne. Destiny Ridge Vineyard. 13.8 percent alcohol. 139 cases produced.
45. Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon “V" Columbia Valley 2007, $4291 points | Now in its second vintage, the “V” is the flagship wine for Woodinville-based Adams Bench, and the 2007 is a big, bold expression of cabernet. While drinking well now, it promises to only improve with time in the bottle.
Abundant fresh fruit aromas—particularly currant and cranberries—along with dark chocolate and light herbal notes. On the palate, a beautiful balance of fruit and acid with enough tannic structure for the long haul. Give two years. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 17 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc. 14.9 percent alcohol. 247 cases produced.
46. Pomum Cellars Shya Red Wine Yakima Valley 2007, $3891 points | Javier Alfonso works as a rocket propulsion engineer by day and a winemaker by night. Pomum—Latin for “fruit”—focuses on blended wines that come from some of Washington’s best vineyards. The 2007 Shya Red is a Bordeaux-style blend named after Alfonoso’s wife.
Nose shows lots of cherry cola, fresh ground cranberries, and milk chocolate. Big and brawny with cherry and palate-coating oak flavors. Give two years. 47 percent cabernet sauvignon DuBrul, Dineen, Elerding, and Upland vineyards. 14.7 percent alcohol. 480 cases produced.
47. Rasa Vineyards Riesling The Composer Sagemoor Vineyards Columbia Valley 2009, $3091 points | This remarkable riesling from Rasacomes from Sagemoor Farm’s Dionysus and Bacchus vineyards. The Dionysus vines date to 1974; the Bacchus vines are considerably younger. The resultant marriage of old and new stands alongside the best rieslings in Washington State.
A very pretty, nuanced nose with peaches, melon, freshly sliced apples, lime, mineral, lemon zest, and wet stone. Beautifully refined and balanced on the palate with just a touch of sweetness. 100 percent riesling. Dionysus and Bacchus Vineyards, Sagemoor Farms (Columbia Valley). 12.5 percent alcohol. 226 cases produced.
48. L’Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $4091 points | This 100 percent cabernet sauvignon from L’Ecole No 41comes from various Walla Walla vineyards, including Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket. It offers an elegant, almost Old World structure while displaying New World fruit.
Nose marked by cedar, herbal notes, earth, and toasty oak aromas. Abundant rich red and black fruit flavors on the palate. 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Aged 22 months in small oak barrels (40 percent new). 14.5 percent alcohol. 2,327 cases produced.
49. Darby The Dark Side Syrah Columbia Valley 2007, $2591 points | Few winemakers have generated as much buzz in the last few years as Darby English. His winesare all big, bold, and laden with fruit. Most of them are also extremely well priced, but good luck trying to find them.
Almost opaque in the glass. An extremely aromatic wine with blackberry, blackberry bush, licorice, floral notes, and a very light gaminess. Palate packs a big punch with loads of black and red fruit. A monstrous syrah that possesses the tannins to hold it all together. Sheridan, Stonetreet, Boushey, and Discovery vineyards, 14.6 percent alcohol. 275 cases produced.
50. àMaurice Cellars Sparrow Estate Viognier Walla Walla Valley 2009, $3391 points | Known for its excellent Columbia Valley viognier, àMaurice Cellarsalso makes this extremely limited (just 48 cases were produced) estate viognier that gives the famed viogniers of France’s Condrieu region a run for their money. And yet, it’s made from fruit grown on vines that are not yet five years old.
A richly aromatic wine redolent with floral notes and stone fruit. The palate is full peach flavors and has a creamy mouthfeel. Aged nine months in neutral French oak. 100 percent viognier. 14.5 percent alcohol. 48 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
51. Va Piano Syrah Columbia Valley 2007, $3891 points | Va Piano Vineyards ’ estate vineyard is now over 10 years old, and the winery has produced its most impressive syrah to date. It seems Va Piano lives its motto: Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano, which means, “He who goes slowly, goes safely and goes far.”
Dark and purple-tinged. Nose is marked by smoke, spice, chocolate, blackberry, orange peel, and violets. A whopper of a wine with a fruit-rich palate. Age one to two years. 100 percent syrah. Va Piano, Minnick Hill, Portteus, and Lewis vineyards. Aged 15 months in French oak (30 percent new). 14.5 percent alcohol. 689 cases produced.
52. Bergevin Lane Vineyards Barrel Select Syrah Columbia Valley 2006, $5591 points | This syrah is a selection of Bergevin Lane’s best barrels. It’s a richly textured wine that offers both power and finesse.
A beautiful nose with lavender and violets along with earth and purple and blue fruit. Beautifully textured with lithe fruit on the palate and a long finish. 100 percent syrah. Stone Tree Vineyards (Wahluke Slope) and Francisca’s Vineyards (Walla Walla Valley). Aged 21 months in 100 percent new French oak. 14.7 percent alcohol. 250 cases produced.
VALUE WINE: 53. Dumas Station Cow Catcher Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007, $1991 points | Dumas Station, founded by Jay DeWitt and Doug Harvey, is named after one of Eastern Washington’s first apple orchards. The 2007 Cow Catcher Red, named for a device used to deflect obstacles from the front of the train, is an outrageous value; it drinks like a considerably more expensive wine. Not built for the long haul, but it tastes too good to hold onto anyway.
Extremely dark in color, almost opaque. Nose shows lots of toast, chocolate, cherry, herbs, and savory spices. An elegantly structured, fruit-forward palate with red and black fruit accented by herbal flavors. Finish just sails on and on. 91 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent petit verdot. Aged 22 months in French and American oak. 15.3 percent alcohol. 281 cases produced.
54. Otis Kenyon Wine Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2007, $3091 points | In the early 1900s, James Otis Kenyon was a dentist in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. When a competitor moved to town, Kenyon did what any sane person would do. He burned his competitor’s building down. Started by James’s grandson Stephen, Otis Kenyon Winebears witness to the ties that bind families and celebrates the skeletons that most of us keep in the closet.
Nose is closed initially but as it opens up shows pepper, spice, lemon zest, and dark fruit. Beautifully textured with rich black and blue fruit flavors on the palate accented by violets. 100 percent syrah. Patina and Estate Stellar vineyards. 14.3 percent alcohol. 608 cases produced.
55. Pacific Rim Riesling Columbia Valley 2009, $1091 points | Riesling specialist Pacific Rimwas founded in 2006 by a group of Bonny Doon expats. Pacific Rim makes a wide variety of Washington’s signature white grape, from organic to biodynamic to single vineyard wines, from dry to sweet. This is a delicious example of how this grape can excel in Washington.
An expressive nose with orange blossom, honeysuckle, peaches, and touches of tropical fruit on a beautiful wine with orange rind flavors and a touch of sweetness but with perfectly balanced acidity. Finish hangs on and on. 11.5 percent alcohol. 2.3 percent residual sugar. 20,100 cases produced.
56. Long Shadows Vintners Pirouette Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006, $5590 points | Long Shadowsfounder Allen Shoup pairs some of the world’s best-known winemakers with fruit from some of Washington’s finest vineyards. Here, Napa Valley’s Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus make the Pirouette, a Bordeaux-style blend with a splash of syrah.
An enjoyable nose with wheat, earth, ground cranberries, and cherry. Beautifully balanced with rich fruit flavors and a long finish. 54 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot, 15 percent petit verdot, 6 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent syrah. 14.6 percent alcohol. 1,733 cases produced.
57. Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007, $4590 points | Celebrated Betz Family Winerymakes two Bordeaux-style blends—the cabernet sauvignon-dominant Pere de Famille, and this Merlot-dominant Clos de Betz. Both wines have one foot in the Old World and one foot in the New.
A rich, appealing nose with cedar, earth, black cherry, spice, and chocolate. The palate is rich with red and blue fruit flavors with polished tannins. Give one to two years. 62 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent malbec, 5 percent cabernet franc, and 3 percent petit verdot. Ciel du Cheval, Kiona vineyards, Alder Ridge, and Red Willow vineyards. Aged 16 months in French Bordeaux-style “barrique” barrels (65 percent new). 14.7 percent alcohol. 830 cases produced.
58. Dusted Valley Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $2890 points | “Hey, we’re just a proud bunch of farm-raised Wisconsin Cheeseheads,” write Dusted Valleywinemakers Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson. “And what goes well with cheese? You guessed it—wine. It’s all about the wine. . .” Johnson and Braunel have developed a devoted following, and deservedly so with an impressive lineup of wines at excellent price points.
Nose initially shows a fair amount of oak aromas, particularly toast, spice, and chocolate with a core of black fruit underneath. As it opens up, red and black fruit comes to the fore. Packed tight with fruit on an exquisitely balanced palate accented by silky oak. 92.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 5 percent cabernet franc, 2.5 percent malbec. Sconni Block, Birch Creek, Nostra Terra, Minnick Hills, and Nicolas Cole vineyards. Aged 16 months in French and American oak (65 percent new). 14.7 percent alcohol. 1,000 cases produced.
59. Buty Winery Sémillon Sauvignon and Muscadelle Columbia Valley 2008, $2590 points | Butywinemaker Caleb Foster’s vast experience shines through on this gorgeous blend—consistently one of the most impressive wines produced in the state.
An aromatic nose with straw, spice, lemon, star fruit, wet stone, and accents of butterscotch. Lots of lemon flavors and mineral on the palate accented by the slightest touch of sweetness. 69 percent semillon, 26 percent sauvignon, and 5 percent muscadelle. Rosebud Ranch, Spring Creek, and Lonesome Springs Ranch vineyards. 13.8 percent alcohol. 1,050 cases produced.
60. Fielding Hills Winery Cabernet Franc Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2007, $3090 points | Fielding Hills Wineryhas a distinctive style with rich, luscious fruit paired with sweet oak spices. All of the fruit comes from the Wade’s estate vineyard, Riverbend, on the Wahluke Slope. While Fielding Hills is best known for its opulent merlots and cabernets, the winery also excels at cabernet franc.
Lightly aromatic nose with pepper, cherry, herbal notes, chocolate, and sweet oak spices. The palate is plush with cherry fruit along with soft tannins and vibrant acidity. 88 percent cabernet franc, 6 percent syrah, 4 percent merlot, 2 percent cabernet sauvignon. Aged 18 months in French and American oak (80 percent new). 15.5 percent alcohol. 134 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
61. Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2007, $2590 points | While French-born and trained Forgeron Cellarswinemaker Marie-Eve Gilla excels at making red wines, white wine is where her passion lies. With her Chardonnay she says she sought to make a wine more Burgundian in style than generally seen in Washington. She accomplishes this task masterfully with this delicious wine.
Nose is marked by light spices, mineral, and grass. Crisp and clean on the palate with bright, slightly citric acidity. 100 percent chardonnay. Stillwater Creek, Weinbau, Gamache, Den Hoed, Crawford, Lonesome Springs, and Underwood Mountain vineyards. Aged in neutral oak (30 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 1,221 cases produced.
62. Mark Ryan Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2007, $4590 points | Ciel du Cheval (a legendary Red Mountain vineyard) means “horse heaven.” In a play on the expression, Woodinville’s Mark Ryan McNiellynames this Bordeaux-style blend Dead Horse. McNielly’s wines are unapologetically big, bold wines with lots of fruit, tannins, and oak. He’s a founding member of the Seattle-based Grape Killers group, and these grapes are dead, dead, dead. But the wine lives on.
An alluring nose with toast, blackberry, cedar, spice, and baker’s chocolate. Rich with intense fruit flavors on the palate that linger on a long finish. 67 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent merlot, 13 percent cabernet franc, 7 percent petit verdot. 100 percent new French oak. 14.3 percent alcohol. 594 cases produced.
63. Bunchgrass Winery Syrah Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007, $2890 points | Roger Cockerline founded Bunchgrass Wineryin 1997 but recently passed the winemaking torch to William von Metzger, who has produced an extra-ordinary set of limited production wines. This syrah hails from Lewis Vineyard, one of Washington’s most distinctive sites.
A dark and brooding wine with a fascinating nose marked by floral notes and dark berries. Big and bold on the palate with heaping amounts of syrupy black fruit and supple tannins. 100 percent syrah. 14.6 percent alcohol. 260 cases produced.
64. Woodward Canyon Chardonnay Washington State 2008, $4490 points | This beautiful chardonnay comes from two different vineyard sites. The first is Woodward CanyonEstate vineyard in the northwest corner of the Walla Walla Valley—a warm site. The second is from Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, a cooler site known for its white wines. The combination provides beautiful aromatics and fruit flavors bolstered by Celilo’s trademark acidity.
A pleasing nose with hay, spice, lemon, and mineral notes. Very evenly balanced on the palate with a burst of acidity and a lingering finish. Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard (Walla Walla Valley) and Celilo Vineyard (Columbia Gorge). Aged in 100 percent French oak barrels (20 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 736 cases produced.
65. Côte Bonneville Carriage House DuBrul Vineyard Yakima Valley 2006, $5090 points | Hugh and Kathy Shiels’s attention to detail at their DuBrul Vineyard is legendary. The results show in numerous DuBrul-designated wines made by some of Washington’s best wineries. At Côte Bonneville, founded in 2001, the Shiels’s daughter Kerry makes small production wines that showcase the family’s always-exceptional estate fruit.
A very subtle and restrained wine. Nose is marked by toasted, black cherry, earth, and coffee grounds. Deft and elegant on a beautifully balance wine that draws out across the palate. An exceptionally long finish. Cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot. 14.6 percent alcohol. 1,000 cases produced.
66. Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $5590 points | 2007 is widely considered one of Washington’s best vintages, and the 2007 Pepper Bridgecabernet sauvignon is an exultant celebration the year’s wines. This is a colossal, intense, tannic wine that will require years of cellaring or hours of decanting to fully reveal its charms, but the patience will be handsomely rewarded.
A monstrously big wine with blackberry, cherry, earth, light herbal notes, and licorice. Big and intense on the palate with layers of fruit and power-packed tannins. Give three-plus years. 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot, 5 percent cabernet franc, 4 percent malbec, 1 percent petit verdot. Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (52 percent new). 14.1 percent alcohol. 2,744 cases produced.
67. Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Washington State 2008, $3590 points | Rotie Cellarsis a new winery founded by Sean Boyd with the goal of making Old World-style wines from New World fruit. Rotie’s 2008 Southern Blend Red Wine is a blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre and shows why so many winemakers are bullish about the prospects of grenache and grenache blends in Washington.
Nose is marked by bright raspberries, cranberries and other fresh red fruit. On the taste, lots of pure fruit expression with the oak far, far in the background. Needs time to come together still. Give six to twelve months. 70 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah, 15 percent mourvedre. 14.2 percent alcohol. 400 cases produced.
68. Fidelitas Malbec Columbia Valley 2007, $3590 points | Malbec has been an emerging varietal in Washington in the last five years and this wine from Fidelitasdemonstrates what all the fuss is about. Fidelitas’s malbec brings all of the fruit intensity its Argentinian counterparts are known for while possessing the structure to age nicely in the cellar.
An aromatic nose with lots of pepper, plum, spice, and herbal notes. The palate is rich with blue fruit accented by chocolate. A very well put-together wine that is prototypic of the varietal. 100 percent malbec. Conner Lee (50 percent), Stillwater Creek (25 percent), and Northridge-Milbrandt (25 percent) vineyards. 14.6 percent alcohol. 359 cases produced.
69. Doyenne Signature Syrah Yakima Valley 2007, $3990 points | The Doyenne label from DeLille Cellarsis used for the winery’s Rhone-style wines. This delectable syrah is a mixture of fruit from various Red Mountain sites and Boushey Vineyards.
A moderately aromatic nose with game, cranberries, licorice, and toast. A delicious palate with chocolate, blackberries, and floral notes. 98 percent syrah, 2 percent viognier. 14.9 percent alcohol. 1,400 cases produced.
70. Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series #16 Washington State 2007, $4990 points | The majority of the fruit for Woodward Canyon’s exemplary Washington State cabernet—almost one-hundred percent cab—comes from Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. This vineyard boasts some of the oldest cabernet vines in the state and produces many of its finest wines.
Takes time to open up but when it does show toasty oak and dark fruit. On the palate, a big, bold, rich cabernet loaded with fruit and packed tight with tannins. Give two to three years. 99 percent cabernet sauvignon and 1 percent petit verdot. Champoux Vineyard, Sagemoor, and Woodward Canyon Estate vineyards. 14.6 percent alcohol. 2,327 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
71. Northstar Winery Merlot Columbia Valley 2006, $4190 points | This Northstarmerlot is designated Columbia Valley, in contrast to the Walla Walla Valley merlot ranked 33 on this list, and together the two make a powerful case for this varietal’s special place in Washington State. The fruit for this wine comes from 14 different vineyards throughout Washington’s largest viticultural area.
A very pretty nose with toast, light spices, and red fruit. Exceptionally well balanced on the palate with luscious red fruit flavors. 76 percent merlot, 19 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent petit verdot, and 2 percent cabernet franc. Aged in French and American oak (65 percent new). 14.7 percent alcohol. 10,000 cases produced.
72. Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $3090 points | Januik Winerywinemaker Mike Januik has an impressive resume. He holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis, and worked as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for 10 years before starting his own winery in 1999.
Nose is marked by cedar, blackberry, cocoa, and light herbal notes. Beautifully polished on the palate with focused fruit and silky oak flavors. 93 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent merlot, 2 percent cabernet franc, and 2 percent malbec. 14.4 percent alcohol. 1,668 cases produced.
73. Spring Valley Uriah Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007, $5090 points | Spring Valley Vineyardis located in one of the most striking locations in the Walla Walla Valley with rolling hills of wheat framed by the Blue Mountains. The Spring Valley wines are named after the Corkrum and Derby family ancestors, whose images also adorn the labels. The Uriah is Spring Valley’s merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend.
Abundant high-toned cherry aromas along with light herbal notes and dust. Big and brawny on the taste with lots of fruit buffeted by firm tannins. Give one to two years. 60 percent merlot, 28 percent cabernet franc, 6 percent petit verdot, 6 percent malbec. 14.9 percent alcohol. 2,600 cases produced.
74. Grand Reve Vintners Collaboration Series I Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2006, $5590 points | Grand Reve’s Collaboration Series I Red Wine is crafted by Ben Smith of Cadence Winery. This wine provides a fascinating contrast to the Cadence wine from the same vineyard, which boasts a considerably higher percentage of cabernet franc. Ciel du Cheval is one of Washington’s finest vineyards and few express the fruit better than Smith.
Abundant black cherries, herbal notes, and earth along with a dusting of chocolate. The palate shows refined fruit flavors backed by a firm scaffolding of tannins. 63 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 12 percent petit verdot, 12 percent merlot. Ciel du Cheval (Red Mountain). Aged 23 months in French oak (70 percent new). 14.5 percent alcohol. 200 cases produced.
75. Mark Ryan Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2007, $7590 points | This is the first barrel-select cabernet sauvignon from Mark Ryan. The winery has become known for its structured reds and this one lives up to that expectation. It’s a big, intense, cellar-worthy wine.
An appealing nose with baker’s chocolate, earth, light herbal notes, and licorice. On the palate, a big, bold tannic wine with lots of fruit and a lot of structure. Give two to three years. 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent petit verdot. Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun vineyards. 14.3 percent alcohol. 188 cases produced.
76. Syncline Wine Cellars Roussanne Horse Heaven Hills 2008, $2290 points | James and Poppie Mantone were working in the Willamette Valley when they met, fell in love, and decided to start a winery together. In 2001, they relocated to the Columbia Gorge and started Syncline Wine Cellars, focusing on Rhone varietals. Crispness and purity of fruit expression take center stage with Syncline, while oak is cast in a supporting role.
Pale lemon-yellow. A lively nose redolent with candied fruit and melon. Nicely balanced on the palate with a slightly rounded mouthfeel and abundant mineral flavors. 100 percent roussanne. Alder Ridge and McKinley Springs Vineyards. 14.2 percent alcohol 300 cases produced.
77. Fidelitas Red Wine Red Mountain 2007, $5090 points | This cabernet-dominant Bordeaux-style blend from Fidelitas’s Charlie Hoppes calls out to the Old World with its aromatics while delivering the rich fruit for which Washington is famous.
Nose is marked by cedar, chocolate, char, and abundant black cherry aromas. Taste is rich with fruit with a firm backbone of tannins holding it all together. A very pretty wine that calls out to Bordeaux. 62 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 13 percent cabernet franc. Aged in French and American oak (50 percent new) for 24 months. 14.9 percent alcohol. 356 cases produced.
78. Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2008, $2090 points | Armin Diel, proprietor of Germany’s Schlossgut Diel, brings his considerable skills to bear on this Riesling from Walla Walla’s Long Shadows.
A moderately aromatic nose marked by lemon, diesel, and mineral notes. A beautifully balanced palate with lots of apple flavors with mineral accents. A touch of sweetness ties it all together. 12.9 percent alcohol. 2,656 cases produced.
79. DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc Columbia Valley 2008, $3490 points | This is DeLille Cellars’s flagship white wine, a Bordeaux-style blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon with an alluring nose, flavors of citrus and light tropical fruit, and a long finish.
Pale lemon-yellow. An alluring nose with gooseberry, straw, and toast. A rounded mouthfeel with citrus flavors and light tropical fruit. Capped off by a long finish. 62 percent sauvignon blanc, 38 percent semillon. Boushey, Sagemoor, and Klipsun vineyards. 14.2 percent alcohol. 2,400 cases produced.
80. Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2008, $2890 points | It seems like cabernet franc is always a crowd favorite and this one from Walla Walla Vintnersshows why. The 2008 features the house style of rich chocolate and cherry flavors accented by light herbal notes and silky tannins.
A moderately aromatic wine with milk chocolate, S’mores, cherry, and toasty oak. The palate shows light herbal notes, cherry, and silky tannins. 91 percent cabernet franc, 9 percent merlot. Weinbau, Sagemoor, Cordon Grove, Dwelley, Killian, and Spring Creek vineyards. 14.2 percent alcohol. 800 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
81. William Church Winery Viognier Columbia Valley 2009, $2190 points | Husband-and-wife team Rod and Leslie Balsley met working at a technology company and founded William Church Wineryin 2005. Viognier, along with malbec, has become a signature wine for the Woodinville winery. This one displays the rich aromatics characteristic of the varietal, and is full and crisp on the palate.
An aromatic wine with peaches, melon, and floral notes. Full and round on the palate. Lingers on the finish. 100 percent viognier. Conner Lee Vineyard. Aged in stainless steel. 14.3 percent alcohol. 240 cases produced.
82. Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley 2008, $2490 points | The 2008 vintage is the tenth for Chateau Ste Michelle’s Eroica riesling. Named after Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the wine is created in partnership with the estate of Germany’s great winemaker Ernst Loosen.
Nose is marked by light diesel aromas along with lime and mineral notes. On the palate, mandarin orange and green apple flavors are accented by crisp acidity. 100 percent riesling. 11.5 percent alcohol. 24,000 cases produced.
83. Zero One Vintners The Wild Sky Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007, $3090 points | Zero One labels its cabernet sauvignon the Wild Sky after a Washington wilderness area with the same name. A portion of all sales of this wine go to Leave No Trace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to outdoor stewardship.
A moderately aromatic, very varietal nose marked by black cherry, chocolate, cedar, and licorice. Very pretty fruit on a palate that is simultaneously nuanced and bold. Draws out on the palate into a very long finish. 86 percent cabernet sauvignon and 14 percent merlot. Spofford Station and Olsen Estates vineyards. 14.4 percent alcohol. 946 cases produced.
84. Forgeron Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2005, $3090 points | Eighty-seven (and a half!) percent of the fruit in this Forgeron Cellarswine comes from Boushey Vineyards, widely considered to be one of the state’s best for syrah. It may not be a vineyard designate, but at $30 it’s a high-value way to see what makes Bouschey bottles so distinctive.
Nose is marked by light berries, pepper, and game along with a healthy dose of chocolate and earth. Rich and syrupy on the palate. 87.5 percent syrah, 12.5 percent merlot. 14.2 percent alcohol. 382 cases produced.
VALUE WINE: 85. Pacific Rim Riesling Organic Columbia Valley 2009, $1490 points | This beautifully balanced off-dry riesling from Pacific Rimis made with organic grapes and fermented with native yeast.
A very pretty nose marked by honey, jasmine, and golden delicious apples. The palate displays a fair amount of sugar but the acid keeps it in check. 11.1 percent alcohol. 3.7 percent residual sugar. 16,700 cases produced.
86. Tranche Cellars Barbera Columbia Valley 2005, $2090 points | The Barbera grape is a rare beast in Washington State; this bottling from Tranche Cellarsmakes you wonder why. Like its sister winery Corliss Estates, Tranche holds onto its wines for a while before releasing them, so they are gracefully mature upon purchase but still have the potential to develop for years in the cellar.
Nose is marked by high-toned cherry, herbal notes, earth, and leather. On the palate: tart and pleasing fruit accented by silky oak. 15.2 percent alcohol. 380 cases produced.
87. Syncline Wine Cellars Syrah McKinley Spring Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008, $3090 points | While many syrahs in the state have favored a big, bold style with increasingly ripe fruit, Synclinemakes restrained wines with pure fruit expression. With the oak confined to the background, the focus of this 2008 syrah rests squarely on the fruit.
A somewhat restrained nose marked by espresso, orange peel, and pepper. The palate shows very pure berry flavors accented by chocolate with the oak influence far in the background. Give one year. 9 percent syrah, 2 percent viognier. 14.2 percent alcohol. 270 cases produced.
88. Walter Dacon Wines Syrah Appanage Boushey Vineyards Yakima Valley 2007, $5090 points | Located in Shelton, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, Walter Dacon Winesdevotes itself largely to Rhone and Mediterranean-style wines. This barrel-select syrah, more elegant than powerful, comes from Boushey Vineyards.
Light in color, nose is marked by floral notes, bacon fat, umami, and orange rind. Restrained and elegant on the palate with lots of pure fruit flavors. Give one to two years. 14.3 percent alcohol. 120 cases produced.
89. Dunham Cellars Merlot Lewis Estate Vineyard Columbia Valley 2006, $7590 points | Dunham Cellarsmakes several vineyard-designated wines with fruit from Lewis—the vineyard is known for producing cherry cola aromas and flavors. The 2006 merlot is an unapologetically brawny Washington State merlot, a showcase for what makes our take on the varietal so distinctive.
Nose is marked by licorice, cola, fresh cranberries, mint, and light herbal notes. The palate packs a big punch with tightly wound tannins. Give two to three years. 13.8 percent alcohol. 450 cases produced.
90. Trust Cellars Riesling Columbia Valley 2009, $1690 points | Winemaker Steve Brooks of Trust Cellarsshows a skilled touch with riesling. This excellent effort shows beautiful fruit flavors and just the slightest touch of sweetness balanced by bright acidity.
Nose is marked by white grapefruit, lemon rind, and mineral notes. Tart and crisp on the palate with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness on the finish. 12.4 percent alcohol. 293 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.
91. Alexandria Nicole Cellars Quarry Butte Estate Grown Red Wine Destiny Ridge Vineyards Horse Heaven Hills 2008, $2090 points | This value standout from Alexandria Nicole Cellarsis a Washington variant of a Bordeaux-style blend with 13 percent syrah added to the mix.
A rich nose with cherry cola, cranberries, and medicinal notes. Big and bold on the palate with opulent amounts of fruit and firm tannins. 52 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent merlot, 15 percent malbec, 13 percent syrah, 2 percent petit verdot. 14.3 percent alcohol. 1,272 cases produced.
92. Tempus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007, $3090 points | In the past few years winemaker Joe Forest and his wife Mollie moved to Walla Walla, found new jobs, got a dog, got married, bought their first home, and had a baby. To top it all off they started a winery, Tempus Cellars, which released its first vintage in spring of 2009.
An alluring nose with lots of chocolate, spice, and black fruit. On the palate, very well put together with luscious red and black fruit. 86 percent cabernet sauvigon, 14 percent merlot. Sagemoor and Klipsun vineyards. Aged in French oak. 14.8 percent alcohol. 150 cases produced.
93. Hestia Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006, $3590 points | Hestia Cellarsis a small, family-run winery located in Carnation, Washington. While it’s not a vineyard designate, owner and winemaker Shannon Jones gets the fruit for this 100 percent-varietal cabernet sauvignon from Dineen Vineyard.
An appealing nose marked by cedar, cherry cola, mint, and abundant black fruit. Palate is elegantly structured with rich fruit flavors. The alcohol level is high in this wine but it pulls it off. 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Dineen Vineyard, Yakima Valley. Aged 24 months in new French oak. 15 percent alcohol. 185 cases produced.
94. Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2005, $5090 points | Winemaker Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellarsblends this cabernet sauvignon with six additional grape varietals from 10 different vineyard sites. This is a big, syrupy, tannic wine that still needs time in the cellar.
Nose is marked by cherry cola, medicinal notes, and baker’s chocolate. A big, tannic wine with waves of intensely rich fruit. 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent merlot, 4 percent cabernet franc, 3 percent malbec, 3 percent petit verdot, 2 percent syrah, and 2 percent sangiovese. Aged in French, Hungarian, and American oak. 13.5 percent alcohol. 1,400 cases produced.
95. Darby Grenache Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2008, $4590 points | Grenache and grenache blends have become increasingly prominent in Washington in the last several years. Darby’s shows why more and more winemakers think this grape has a promising future in the state.
Dark in color with a distinct purple tinge. Nose shows abundant white pepper, earth, red fruit, and plum. Tart and fruit filled with a creamy texture on the palate. 100 percent grenache. Stillwater Creek Vineyard. 14.8 percent alcohol. 125 cases produced.
96. Sleight of Hand Cellars The Spellbinder Red Wine Blend Columbia Valley 2008, $1990 points | The 2008 Spellbinder is a fascinating blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, and sangiovese from Sleight of Hand. Aged in neutral oak, the result is a fresh, fruit-driven wine with a complex aromatic profile, a smooth palate, and a price that can’t be beat.
A complex, aromatic wine marked by earth, chocolate, cherry, and licorice. The palate shows lots of bright, fresh-fruit flavors that glide along to a harmonious finish. 42 percent cabernet franc, 21 percent cabernet sauvignon, 14 percent syrah, 12 percent merlot, 11 percent sangiovese. Aged 11 months in neutral French oak barrels. 13.5 percent alcohol. 800 cases produced.
97. Waters Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006, $5090 points | While Jamie Brown of Waters Wineryis perhaps best known for his syrah, he shows an equally skilled touch with cabernet sauvignon. This 100 percent varietal wine comes from Cold Creek and Pepper Bridge vineyards.
A very pleasing nose with tobacco, cranberries, herbal notes, cherry, and earth. Tart and puckering on a fruit-filled palate. 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. Cold Creek and Pepper Bridge vineyards. 14.2 percent alcohol. 346 cases produced.
98. Novelty Hill Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007, $2890 points | Novelty Hillgets fruit for many of its wines from its estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, which is located in the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. This is another excellent example of Washington State malbec.
Takes time to open up but once it does this wine shines. Nose brims with plum, pepper, and spice. The palate is smooth and evenly balanced with rich black fruit and silky oak flavors. Lingers on the finish. 88 percent malbec, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent cabernet franc. Stillwater Creek Vineyard (Columbia Valley). Aged 20 months in predominately French oak barrels (50 percent new). 14.4 percent alcohol. 248 cases produced.
99. Tsillan Cellars Syrah Estate Barrel Select Lake Chelan 2007, $2890 points | Tsillan Cellars —pronounced shuhLAN—is located in Washington’s newest wine region, Lake Chelan. While many in the area are most optimistic about the area’s white wines, Tsillan Cellars, located on a 135-acre Tuscan-inspired estate, shows that there is promise in red wines as well with their 2007 Estate syrah.
Nose is initially quite closed but has red fruit, jasmine, and floral notes. As it opens up it shows generous amounts of bacon fat and blueberries. The palate is seamlessly put together with expressive fruit and well-integrated oak. 14.2 percent alcohol. 490 cases produced.
100. Dunham Cellars Late Harvest Riesling Lewis Estate Vineyard 2008, $1990 points | And now for dessert. Winemaker Eric Dunham started Dunham Cellarsin 1998, but he’s an accomplished visual artist as well as a blending one: his work adorns vineyard-designated wines and special bottlings, like this late-harvest riesling.
An intense, crazy nose with sugared grapefruit, diesel, and dried apricots. Intensely sweet with a palate like liquid marmalade. 100 percent riesling. Lewis Estate Vineyard. Aged in stainless steel. 9.5 percent alcohol. 23.1 percent Residual Sugar. 750 cases produced.
All labels courtesy the wineries.