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, $65

96 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, $79 

95 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, $40

94 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, $45

94 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, $55

94 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, $85

94 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, $45

93 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, $40

93 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, $42

93 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.