Image: Erik Skaar

1  Cayuse Vineyards Cailloux Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $70
97 Points  In the late 1990s, Christophe Baron set about making a series of highly rated syrahs that would transform the Washington wine industry. Today he is still a syrah maker in a class by himself. Case in point: this intensely aromatic wine with floral and savory notes, minerality, light funk, saline, and black olive juice.



2  Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Contender Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $60
96 Points  Cofermented with marsanne to provide extra depth and texture, this syrah sings of the region where its fruit was grown, with distinctive meat, earth, and savory notes.



3  Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $130
95 Points  Exceptionally polished tannins and brooding aromatics of black cherry, dark fruit, floral notes, spice, and chocolate are capped off by a lingering finish.



4  Rasa Vineyards Creative Impulse DuBrul Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008 $95
94 Points  Brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane of Rasa Vineyards hold math and engineering degrees from top universities. But it is their artistic talents that are on display in this breathtaking bordeaux-style blend (61 percent cabernet sauvignon, 39 percent merlot) from DuBrul Vineyard. Just a baby now, this wine promises to mature beautifully in the cellar.
5 Figgins Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $85

 

94 Points This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot is aromatically compelling with scorched earth, black currant, red fruit, and dark licorice. The palate is dense and elegant, both structured and light on its feet.



6  Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Unnamed Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $45
94 Points  Like those in the Contender (number two on this list), the grapes for this wine come from the Reynvaan family’s In the Rocks vineyard in the southern section of the Walla Walla Valley. It’s aromatically explosive with stargazer lilies, sea breeze, savory notes, and olive juice, and the palate is plush and expansive with iron and umami flavors.



7  Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Red Wine Columbia Valley Washington State 2009 $40
94 Points  An endlessly fascinating aroma profile with floral notes, game, mineral, ash, black olive, and savory notes. The palate—meaty, rich, full of savory flavors and earth—is followed up by a seemingly endless finish.





8  DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2007 $135
93 Points  This is a beautiful wine with the structure to go the distance. Its palate is dense and perfumed with cherry flavors and firm, ripe tannins.





 

 

9 Grand Rêve Vintners Collaboration Series II Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2008 $50

93 Points
 Grand Rêve Vintners is the “great dream” of businessman Paul McBride and Red Mountain superstar vineyard manager Ryan Johnson. Their Collaboration Series wines pair top makers from around the state with fruit from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Here Ross Mickel of Ross Andrews Winery offers a compelling southern Rhone-style blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre.





10 
Cadence Bel Canto Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $55
93 Points Though it is already alluring with floral notes, earth, mineral, dark fruit, and light chocolate, this blend (67 percent cabernet franc, 25 percent merlot, and 8 percent petit verdot) needs at least two years in the cellar.





11 
Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $55

93 Points
  An aromatic wine made from 100 percent syrah, it smells of char, blueberries, game, earth, and vanilla, and the palate is textured with lush fruit flavors.

 

 



12 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008 $85

93 Points
  This almost completely opaque cab blend with aromas of earth, coffee bean, raspberries, dark fruit, chocolate, and light herbal notes, packs a wallop of dark fruit flavors on the palate and has exceptionally well-integrated tannins.




13  Gramercy Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009 $45

93 Points
  Master Sommelier Greg Harrington left a promising career in the restaurant industry to go to Walla Walla and, in his own words, “make wine that tastes like dirt.” As with all of his Gramercy wines, the emphasis here is squarely on the fruit with the oak and alcohol dialed way back.





14 
Sparkman Cellars Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2007 $56

93 Points
  Winemaker Chris Sparkman refers to Klipsun Vineyard as “the Led Zeppelin of Washington vineyards. Pure rock and roll.” Here Sparkman brings the hammer of the gods down forcefully with a richly tannic wine that includes 11 percent petit verdot for even greater brawn.




15  Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
2008 $87

93 Points
  On the nose: raspberries, dark cherries, earth, and floral and high-toned herbal notes. The palate is lush and fruity with polished tannins and tart, lingering fruit flavors.




16 
Betz Family Winery Besoleil Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45

93 Points
  Grenache is making waves in Washington, and winemaker Bob Betz’s 2009 Besoleil red (in which grenache is blended with syrah, mourvedre, and cinsault) makes excellent use of the evermore popular grape. Fresh raspberries, game, pepper, mineral notes, and milk chocolate dominate the nose; the palate is full of fruit and ample tannins.




17 
Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley
2008 $60

93 Points
  With each vintage, Adams Bench winemakers Tim and Erica Blue take strides forward. This blend of cab and merlot is bold and lush with firm tannins. Allow it to age two years if you want to taste it at its peak.




18 
Maison Bleue Gravière Red Wine Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2009 $40

93 Points
  Prosser winery Maison Bleue has created a compelling blend of syrah—50 percent—and equal parts grenache and mour-vedre, with aromas of raspberries, blueberries, orange peel, and spice. The palate is incredibly fresh and fruit-filled, and the wine lingers on the finish for almost a minute.




19 
Efeste Big Papa Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2008 $49

93 Points
  Winemaker Brennon Leighton used vines (from the Kiona, Klipsun, Sagemoor, and Weinbau vineyards) averaging 31 years in age to create this dark, glass-staining cab. It’s locked up tightly at present with aromas of mineral, the darkest of fruits, earth, and violets. Let it age: This is a lay-me-down wine if ever there was one.



20 
àMaurice Cellars Artist Series Red Blend The Tobey
Columbia Valley 2008 $35

93 Points
  A rich, hedonistic wine from àMaurice’s Anna Schafer with black fruit, herbal notes, toasty spice, and bittersweet chocolate, the palate is rich, lush, and packed full of black fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins.




All labels courtesy the wineries.

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21 
Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain
2008 $32

93 Points
  A blend of 87 percent syrah with 13 percent cabernet sauvignon—all of the fruit comes from Red Mountain’s Klipsun vineyard—this dark wine is tart, dense, and rich. It’s also quite closed up at present. Allow to age two to three years.




22 
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Walla
Walla Valley 2008 $34

93 Points
  Walla Walla’s Kerloo Cellars, named after the call a crane makes, follows its impressive set of debut releases with a second group of wines that is every bit as compelling. Its 100 percent syrah is dark as night with aromas of mineral, floral notes, orange peel, berries, light game, and chocolate. Seamless on the palate, it has a finish that continues about as long as you can count.




23 
Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008 $55

92 Points
  Often gigantic in their youth, Pepper Bridge wines offer tremendous aging potential. This blend (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc, malbec, and petit verdot) smells of earth, flowers, raspberries, cherries, and dry chocolate, and has firm but well-integrated tannins. It will only improve with time in the cellar.



24 
Corliss Estates Red Wine
Columbia Valley 2006 $65

92 Points
  This bordeaux blend is a perfect mixture of grace and power with aromas of cedar, toasty spice, black cherry, floral notes, dark chocolate, and espresso, and a beautifully rich and cohesive palate with lingering cherry flavors and polished tannins.




25 
K Vintners Cougar Hills Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009 $45

92 Points
  A 100 percent syrah with aromas of bacon fat, floral notes, mineral, and smoke, it has
a savory palate with accents of ash, game, and black olives.




26 
Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval Red Wine 2008 $55

92 Points
  Age this blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon for two or more years—it is tightly wound up at present with rich fruit flavors and grainy tannins.




27 
Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2008 $42

92 Points
  Fielding Hills owners Mike and Karen Wade have established themselves among the state’s best since planting their Riverbend vineyard on the Wahluke Slope in 1998. True to the house style, this is a rich, layered cabernet accented with sweet spices.




28 
Abeja Chardonnay
Washington State 2009 $36

92 Points
  Winemaker John Abbott of Abeja (Spanish for bee) has spent almost 20 years crafting wine in Washington. Simultaneously alluring and elusive, this 100 percent chard makes the most of the fruit and isn’t overly oaky, and has subtle and textured fruit flavors and a persistent, apple-filled finish.

 

29 
Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $50

92 Points
  Uriah, Spring Valley’s merlot-dominant bordeaux-style blend (merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec), is named after vineyard co-owner Shari Corkrum Derby’s grandfather, who was born in Walla Walla in 1866. It’s an aromatically complex wine with high-toned herbal notes, floral notes, raspberries, cranberries, and bittersweet chocolate.



30 
Cadence Ciel du Cheval
Red Wine Red Mountain 2008 $45

92 Points
  Unlike many of his contemporaries who favor varietally labeled wines, winemaker Ben Smith has focused his efforts on vineyard-designated blends, all of which hail from Red Mountain. With fruit from the celebrated Ciel du Cheval vineyard, this mix of cabernet franc, cab sauvignon, petit verdot, and merlot has a beautifully balanced palate with dense, firm tannins and sophisticated fruit flavors. Age for two years or more.



31 
Fidélitas Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $60

92 Points
  On the nose of this dark ruby cab are coffee, blackberries, floral notes, raspberries, earth, herbal notes, and mint; the palate is tart and pleasing with abundant cherry flavors and firm tannins. Cellar it for two years to achieve maximum tastiness.



32 
Januik Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $40

92 Points
  Winemaker Mike Januik brings almost three decades of experience to his winery, including a 10-year stint as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle. In a lineup of consistently top-quality wines, it is the vineyard designates (showcasing one particular vineyard) that often show the most sparkle, such as this aromatic cabernet from Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval vineyard. Give two to three years in the cellar to allow it to come into its own.



33 
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $34

92 Points
 The oak-aged 2009 vintage of the consistently dazzling Chaleur Estate is two-thirds sauvignon blanc and one-third semillon. Pale lemon to medium yellow in the glass, it smells of gooseberry, crushed walnuts, and oak spices. Herbal flavors and oak spices on the palate lead to a long, lingering finish.




34 
JM Cellars Founder’s Reserve Red Wine Red Mountain 2008 $75

92 Points
  A big, aromatic wine with cedar, toasty spice, dark fruit, mesquite, floral notes, and earth on the nose; sweet fruit flavors and bold tannins on the palate. It needs time to fully come together—give it two years.






35 
Maison Bleue Soleil
Roussanne Olsen Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $25

92 Points
  Maison Bleue’s full-bodied 100 percent roussanne has a pale lemon yellow color, complex aromatics of light tropical fruit, marzipan, and creamy spice, and a textured, layered palate with tart fruit flavors and spice.



36 
Col Solare Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $70

92 Points
  This incredibly rich, hedonistic wine (75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot, and 5 percent cabernet franc) boasts abundant cherry and chocolate flavors, polished tannins, and a lingering finish.



37 
Mark Ryan Winery Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2008 $80

92 Points
  Woodinville winemaker Mark McNeilly has developed a cultlike following for his bold, fruit-filled wines, with good reason: Few do the no-holds-barred style better, as in this dense rich cab blend from Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun vineyards. Age three or more years.



38 
Guardian Cellars The Alibi Red Wine Red Mountain 2008 $39

92 Points
  Aromatically locked up at present with dust, dark cherries, light herbal notes, mocha, and spice, this blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot will be ready to drink in one to two years.





39 
Walla Walla Vintners
Cabernet Sauvignon Tokar Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2008 $70

92 Points
  Cherries, raspberries, milk chocolate, and light herbal notes make up the nose of this dense, brooding wine. The palate, meanwhile, is loaded with cherry flavors and chalky tannins with a long finish.




40 
Tenor Wines Cabernet
Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $78

92 Points
  Tenor’s cab blend is full and fleshy with lip-smacking cherry flavors and well-integrated tannins and lingers on the finish.




All labels courtesy the wineries.

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41 
Rasa Vineyards The Lyricist Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $30

92 Points
  Since 2010 was considerably cooler than recent vintages, brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane of Rasa Vineyards created a riesling with additional sugar to balance out the higher acidity brought on by the chill. The medium-plus sweet wine drinks beautifully now but will likely age well for up to a decade in the cellar.

 

42 
L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee Red Wine Seven Hills Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley 2008 $50

92 Points
  This year Walla Walla winery L’Ecole No. 41 changed its label from the much-loved watercolor to an etched drawing of its iconic schoolhouse. But some things stay the same: Here is another superb offering of its flagship Perigee Red Wine from Seven Hills Vineyard, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.




43  Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot Columbia Valley 2007 $55

92 Points
  Some of the fruit from this big, bold merlot blend comes from the lauded Tapteil and Weinbau vineyards in the Columbia Valley. It’s lush and full of red fruit with well-integrated tannins.
44  Tamarack Cellars Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Reserve Red Wine Red Mountain 2007 $50

92 Points
  The winery best known for its consistently delicious Firehouse Red wine presents a reserve blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc that’s dark in color and rich and intense on the palate with plump, ripe fruit flavors and polished tannins.

 

 

 

45  J. Bookwalter Winery Chapter Three Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $78

92 Points
  This cabernet sauvignon blend has toasty, smoky-char aromas along with dark fruit, resin, floral notes, and light game. Silky smooth on the palate, it’s full of chocolate at the finish.




46  Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $40

92 Points
  Let this blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot age one to two years—it’s currently locked up aromatically with brambly berries, bittersweet chocolate, licorice, sweet spices, and toast.
47 
Amavi Cellars Syrah Les
Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2008 $34

92 Points
  Amavi—rhymes with “mama me”—is a combination of the Latin words for love and life. And what’s not to love about life when you’re drinking a 100 percent syrah that is aromatic with chocolate and wild blueberries, and has a gauzy palate of blueberry flavors?
48 
Northstar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50

92 Points
  Northstar is one of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s “string of pearls,” founded with the goal of creating the state’s best merlot. The winery inches ever closer to its goal with its 2007 Walla Walla Valley wine, a thick, muscular varietal with rich fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins.
49 
Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Red Wine Ciel du
Cheval Red Mountain
2008 $45

92 Points
  An aromatic wine with black fruit, raspberries, and floral notes, it is dense, dark, and rich with tightly coiled tannins that slowly unwind to an extended finish.
50 
Pepper Bridge Merlot
Walla Walla Valley 2008 $50

92 Points
  This exquisitely rich wine bursts with red and dark fruit flavors and ripe tannins: a real-deal Washington merlot. Age two or more years for optimal sipping.
51 
Woodinville Wine Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2007 $45

92 Points
  Winemaker Sean Boyd traveled the globe working at wineries in Australia and Portugal before putting his roots down in Woodinville. His worldliness shows with this dark, rich 100 percent cab made with fruit from the Stillwater Creek, Conner Lee, and Dineen vineyard
52 
Long Shadows Sequel Syrah Columbia Valley 2007 $50

92 Points
  Aussie John Duval made his name crafting Penfolds’s iconic Grange in the ’80s and ’90s before leaving to establish Duval Wines in 2002. Since that time, he has continued to make some of Australia’s greatest shiraz. With Sequel, he interprets the grape on Washington soil, and it remains a consistent standout from this top-tier winery. The ’07 is brooding on the nose with salted licorice, dark fruit, dry chocolate, and mint.

 

53 
Lantz Cellars Cabernet
Sauvignon Barrel Select Columbia Valley 2007 $42

92 Points
  The alcohol on this cab is high at 15.9, but the wine carries it beautifully. It’s dark in color with aromas of toasty spice, dark fruit, and black currant. The palate is tightly wound up with dark fruit and chalky tannins.



54 
Matthews Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $70

92 Points
  Woodinville’s Matthews Estate dates back to the mid-’90s, but this is the winery’s first cabernet sauvignon in 10 years. An impressive comeback indeed: The nose is a big bowl of fruit with raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, and rose hips covered with a dusting of chocolate and licorice. The palate is tart and puckering with cranberry flavors and a lingering finish.

 

55 
Sinclair Estate Vineyards Pentatonic Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $40
92 Points  Talk about tricky timing: Microsoftee Tim Sinclair and his wife Cathy opened Sinclair’s doors in April of 2010 despite a stormy economic forecast. But the winery has thrived with top-notch wines from former Columbia Crest hand Amy Alvarez-­Wampfler. This one has alluring aromas of sweet oak spices, dark fruit, chocolate, and floral notes, and is abundant with chocolate and dark fruit flavors: Drinking it is like biting into a candy bar.




56 
Sleight of Hand Cellars The Illusionist Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $45
92 Points  Audiophile and winemaker extraordinaire Trey Busch was working as a clothing buyer at Nordstrom when he went out to Walla Walla to visit some friends. Within a month’s time he had quit his job, put his house on the market, and was working as an assistant winemaker at Dunham Cellars. His deliberate passion is clear in this dark, fruit-filled red (92 percent cabernet sauvignon and 8 percent syrah) made from free-run juice.



57 
Covington Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Klipsun
Vineyards Red Mountain 2007 $60

92 Points
  The palate on this cab (blended with 10 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent merlot, and 5 percent petit verdot) is gigantic: tart, puckering, lush, and rich.

58
 
àMaurice Cellars Viognier Columbia Valley 2009 $25
91 Points àMaurice delivers a full-bodied viognier with aromas of flowers, toasty spice, and white peaches that leap from the glass.

 

59 
Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $42

91 Points
  In an impressive lineup, Abeja’s cabernet sauvignon consistently hogs the spotlight: It’s one of the state’s best. The 2008 is aromatically closed up at present but has hints of black cherry, raspberries, ash, and spice

60 
Cadaretta Windthrow
Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $50

91 Points
  This blend of syrah, mourvedre, counoise, and
grenache has a dark ruby color and smells of raspberries, game, ash, and smoke. It’s full of pure, penetrating fruit flavors capped off by a lingering finish.




All labels courtesy the wineries.

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61 
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Druthers Cabernet
Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $80

91 Points
  Ste. Michelle’s former winemaker Joshua Maloney wrote on the front of the bottle: “Subtlety and restraint are not in my nature. I love bold, assertive flavors.” It shows. This aromatic wine has floral and herbal notes, black cherry, and mint while the palate is dense, rich, and firm.




62 
Northstar Merlot Columbia Valley 2007 $40

91 Points
  An aromatically compelling wine with raspberries and other red fruit, earth, sweet spices, and milk chocolate, Northstar’s Columbia Valley merlot is polished on the palate with supple fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins.






63 
Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Windrow Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007 $55

91 Points
  Made from fruit grown at one of Walla Walla’s oldest vineyards, this wine boasts pleasingly tangy dark fruit flavors and a lingering finish.
64 
Walla Walla Vintners
Cabernet Sauvignon
Sagemoor Vineyard
Columbia Valley 2008 $40

91 Points
  Owners Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson refer to this as their “black-tie-and-tails” wine. The fruit comes from one of the state’s oldest and most highly regarded vineyards, and the results are deliciously decadent.

 

65 
Sleight of Hand Cellars Funkadelic Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009 $60

91 Points
  The name Funkadelic has a dual meaning here: The fruit source is Richard Funk’s eponymous vineyard, located in the southern Walla Walla Valley, a region famous for the so-called Cayuse funk. You can smell that funk on the nose of this 100 percent syrah, along with ash, iron, floral and savory notes.

 

66 
Pacific Rim Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $11

91 Points
  Riesling specialist Pacific Rim consistently crafts outrageously good wines at ridiculously cheap prices. Case in point: this off-dry riesling from the 2010 vintage with flavors of jasmine, orange, and stone fruit.
67 
Pamplin Family Winery
Proprietary Red Wine
Columbia Valley 2008 $50

91 Points
  Pamplin has produced a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, and merlot that is dark in color and closed up very tightly at present with aromas of raspberries, pencil lead, rose hips, and pepper. The palate shows both a lushness and a restrained elegance. Give it two years in the cellar to develop.

 

68 
DeLille Cellars D2 Red Wine
Columbia Valley 2008 $36

91 Points
  This exquisite cab blend crashes in waves across the palate with rich fruit flavors and grippy tannins, and seems to linger endlessly.




 

69 
Woodward Canyon
Chardonnay Washington State 2010 $44

91 Points
  A vibrant 100 percent chardonnay from Walla Walla Valley stalwart Woodward Canyon that has alluring aromas of spice and melon, a rich palate with touches of tropical fruit, and a crisp, acidic finish.



70 
Stevens Winery XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley 2007 $42

91 Points
  The XY Reserve cab is immediately appealing with aromas of raspberries, cranberries, bittersweet chocolate, and licorice. On the palate it’s rich and fruit-forward but not over the top, with tart flavors and well-integrated tannins.

 

71 
Salida Wine Tempranillo Yakima Valley 2008 $24

91 Points
  Doug McCrea is known for exploring new grape varietals (picpoul anyone?) at McCrea Cellars. In his latest project, Salida, Spanish for “exit,” McCrea is experimenting with the grapes of the Iberian Peninsula. And while tempranillo is a hot topic in Washington these days, few do it so well. This one’s rich and full of plump red flavors.



72 
Amavi Cellars Semillon Walla Walla Valley 2010 $20

91 Points
  Pale in color, this semi-llon (with 12 percent sauvignon blanc) is an aromatic tour de force with pineapple, mango, toasty spice, floral notes, and pear syrup. It’s rich and full on the palate and has beautifully balanced acidity and a lingering finish.
73 
Sineann Baby Poux Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2008 $42

91 Points
  Made in Oregon but grown in Washington, this 100 percent cab leaps from the glass with raspberries, earth, bittersweet chocolate, and spice. A luscious, fruit-filled wine, it’s flavored with pure cherry and raspberries and tannins that squeeze the tongue before gently letting go.

 

74 
Bunchgrass Winery Triolet Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $28

91 Points
  With a trio of new investors in place and a top-notch winemaker to take the torch from founder Roger Cockerline, this Walla Walla winery has reinvented itself. The Triolet, a bordeaux-style blend, is named after an eight-line poem in which the first, fourth, and seventh lines are repeated. At $28, it’s a total steal.
75 
Soos Creek Wine Cellars Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Red Mountain 2008 $30

91 Points
  Winemaker David Larsen cut his teeth in the Boeing Employees Wine and Beermakers Club. With 23 vintages’ worth of experience, Larsen continues to make outrageously high-quality wines at prices way lower than those of his peers. This one has appealing aromas of dark fruit, floral notes, chocolate, toast, and spice, and grippy tannins that wrap around a tight core of black fruit.

 

76 
Syncline Wine Cellars Syrah
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $50

91 Points
  At Syncline Wine Cellars, James and Poppie Mantone buck the trend of bigger, riper, oakier wines, focusing instead on fruit. Here, the result is a seductive wine with pure fruit flavors.




77 
Saviah Cellars Petit Verdot
Walla Walla Valley 2007 $30

91 Points
  Wine Advocate reviewer Jay Miller wrote last year that petit verdot was Washington’s up-and-coming star; Saviah Cellars’ inky offering demonstrates exactly what he means. A perfumed, floral palate packs a wallop on the front end and then ramps down and lingers on the finish.
78 
Zero One Vintners The Wild Sky Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2008 $30

91 Points
  The Wild Sky smells of toast, spice, licorice, blackberry, black pepper, and earth, and the palate is full of dark fruit flavors that linger after each sip.
79 
Rasa Vineyards Vox Populi Mourvedre Columbia Valley 2009 $45

91 Points
  Everyone who barrel-tasted the ’09 mourvedre from Rasa Vineyards’ Billo and Pinot Naravane begged the brothers not to blend it, thus the name for this rare 100 percent mourvedre, Latin for “voice of the people.”



80 
Stevens Winery 424 Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $35

91 Points
  The 424 Red Wine is Stevens’s blend of cabernet franc (39 percent), cabernet sauvignon (36 percent), merlot (17 percent), and a splash of petit verdot. Biscuit aromas jump up from the nose and are joined by sea breeze, pepper, dry chocolate, cherries, and raspberries. The palate shows rich, tart dark cherry flavors, beautifully polished tannins, and a tart, lingering finish.




All labels courtesy the wineries.

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81 
Syzygy Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2007 $36

91 Points
  This cab has aromas of cranberries, strawberries, earth, and licorice. On the palate: plump fruit flavors and ripe tannins.







82 
Waters Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $50

91 Points
  While Waters Winery is best known for its compelling single-vineyard syrahs, winemaker Jamie Brown shows an equally deft touch with cabernet sauvignon. True to the house style, the oak and alcohol are dialed down while the acid is dialed up. The result is a beautiful exploration of cabernet’s feminine side with plenty of earth and herbal accents.




83 
Buty Winery Columbia
Rediviva Phinny Hill Estate
Grown Horse Heaven Hills 2007 $50

91 Points
  Aromas of dark fruit, blueberries, bittersweet chocolate, and spice dominate this blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon. It is luscious on the palate with a sweet, chocolate-filled finish.




84 
Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon The V Columbia Valley 2008 $49

91 Points
  The V’s pure dark-cherry aromas mix with high-toned herbal notes and black currant. The palate is wound up tightly with dark fruit, herbal notes, and chewy tannins. Give this one two or more years in the cellar.



85 
Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley 2007 $38

91 Points
  The Chateau’s perfumed wine shows earth, toasty spice, dark fruit, mineral, and very light herbal notes, and a palate that is densely packed with black fruit and well-integrated tannins.




86 
Bergevin Lane Vineyards
Intuition Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $59

91 Points
  The Intuition Red is Bergevin Lane’s top-of-the-line bordeaux-style blend, dark and brooding with chocolate, espresso, black currant, and black cherries on the nose, it’s dense and powerful wine that drinks like a candy bar with a firm grip of tannins wrapped around a tight core of blackberry flavors and a long, lingering finish.




87 
L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008 $35

91 Points
  This ripe, full, 100 percent cabernet sauvignon is made with fruit from a series of distinctive vineyards: Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket.







88 
Tranche Cellars Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley 2007 $25

91 Points
  A first release from Tranche, sister winery to Corliss Estates with a breathtaking Blue Mountain estate vineyard, this cab franc’s extra bottle age helps it drink like a much spendier bottle.




89 
Sineann Merlot Champoux Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $36

91 Points
  Winemaker Peter Rosback says he almost gave up on making varietally labeled merlot after the beating it took in the marketplace due to what he describes as “the plethora of overpriced mediocre examples.” The rich, voluptuous fruit from Champoux Vineyard changed his mind. Give this wine one to two years in the cellar before opening.






90 
Ramseyer Vintage Four Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $42

91 Points
  This blend (90 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc) could use at least two years in the cellar; it’s somewhat closed up at present with aromas of dust, cherries, pepper, and herbal notes. The palate has chalky tannins with a firm grip.




91 
Tulpen Cellars Merlot
Columbia Valley 2007 $28

91 Points
  Ken Hart is vineyard manager for a who’s-who list of Walla Walla Valley vineyards. For his own Tulpen Cellars wines, Hart cherry-picks some of the best rows from these vineyards to make wines that dazzle the senses without breaking the bank.




92 
Tempus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $32

91 Points
  Winemaker Joe Forest follows up his impressive 2007 vintage release with another standout cabernet, a big, bold, fruit-filled wine with firm tannins.




93 
Forgeron Cellars Vinfinity Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $46

91 Points
  Give this cab blend one to two years to age; it’s somewhat closed up at present with dusty cranberries and high-toned red fruit on the nose. The palate is loaded with red fruit flavors and grippy, chalky tannins.








94 
Novelty Hill Grenache Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2008 $28

91 Points
  This Stillwater Creek Grenache hails from a steep, south-facing section of the vineyard, littered with fractured basalt. The resultant wine is aromatic and perfumed with white pepper, floral notes, fresh raspberries, and light chocolate. The broad, expansive palate has soft fruit flavors and a persistent finish.




95 
Darby The Flipside Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $35

91 Points
  Seattle native and former professional golfer Darby English is well known for his big, bold reds. But the Flipside, a richly flavored blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre, shows his more subtle side. It is full on the palate with a distinctive earthy funkiness.




96 
Buty Winery Rediviva of the Stones Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $55

91 Points
  A syrah (79 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (21 percent) blend made with fruit that grew on the winery’s LeFore estate vineyard, the nose has mineral and floral notes, plus orange peel, barnyard, and cherry. The tart palate is elegantly structured.




97  Guardian Cellars Chalk Line Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $25

91 Points
  The Chalk Line red is Guardian’s “kitchen sink” wine, made with fruit from a variety of vineyards. Nice sink: dark fruit, black pepper, oak spice, herbal notes, and saline on the nose and a palate that ramps up with waves of dark fruit flavors before slowly receding to a long finish.




98  Elsom Cellars Malbec Yakima Valley 2008 $38

91 Points
  This dark blend of 91 percent malbec and 9 percent merlot has a beautifully rich, textured palate with dark fruit flavors and a firm backbone of tannins.




99 
Sinclair Estate Vineyard Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $28

91 Points
  Hailing from Lewis Vineyard, this 100 percent chard was barrel aged sur lie (the
residual yeast is left unfiltered) to provide a creamy complement to its stone and tropical fruit flavors.






100 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $32
91 Points  Winemaker Danny Gordon sources cabernet for this wine from a list of the state’s best vineyard sites including Tapteil, Seven Hills, Bacchus, DuBrul, and Ciel du Cheval. The resulting wine is full of chocolate flavors and velvety tannins.





Too Much of a Good Thing

These two 91-point wines didn’t fit in our top 100, but you definitely don’t want to miss them.




101 Syzygy Red Wine |Columbia Valley 2007 $24

91 Points
  This rich and extremely well-priced wine from Syzygy is half Syrah with the balance made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec.







102 Zero One Vintners Golden Delicious Riesling |Columbia Valley 2009 $13

91 Points
  This off-dry, 100 percent riesling is singing with vibrant fruit flavors and has a lingering finish.




All labels courtesy the wineries.

This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Seattle Met Magazine.

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