red wine bottle
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.