Since syrah was first planted at Red Willow Vineyard in 1986, the variety has prospered in Washington—it’s now the third-most produced red variety behind cabernet sauvignon and merlot. In the ensuing 25-plus years, the state has seen an explosion of other red and white varieties native to France’s Rhone Valley: grenache, mourvèdre, viognier, roussanne, and marsanne. These Rhone-style grapes are now making up some of Washington’s best wines. 

Nearly half of this year’s Top 15 wines are rhone varieties or Rhone-style blends, compared with 22 percent of the overall list in 2012. Rhone varietals also comprise more than a third of this year’s overall list, with viognier making a particularly strong showing. While Bordeaux varieties—such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot—and blends still dominate in Washington, the times they are a-changing as Rhone wines take off.


Published: September 2013