1. Horsepower Vineyards Grenache Sur Echalas Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $115
This wine comes from a new project from vigneron Christophe Baron that focuses on vines planted at such high density only draft horses can fit between the rows to plow them. It offers outrageous complexity with aromas of flowers, smoked meat, and pepper leading to a simultaneously elegant yet supremely rich feel. Nothing short of an accomplishment—it’s the year’s top wine.
2. Cayuse Vineyards God Only Knows Grenache Armada Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $90
A perfumed wine hailing from the Rocks region of the valley, it leads with savory aromas of dried flowers, peat, mineral, and olive, followed by a textured, elegant, but decadent feel.
3. Cayuse Vineyards Bionic Frog Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $95
The winery makes five vineyard-specific syrahs; this one comes from the Coccinelle Vineyard (French for “ladybug”). The perfume is arresting—notes of olive, earth, and smoke—and the mouthfeel dazzles.
4. Horsepower Vineyards Syrah The Tribe Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $115
Coming from a vineyard planted at a staggering 3,555 vines per acre (a typical vineyard in the state would be more like 1,000), this wine is palate shaking in its intensity with notes of green olive, flowers, earth, and mineral.
5. Avennia Arnaut Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012 - $50
In a very short time, Avennia has catapulted itself into the upper tier of the state’s wineries. This wine, however, takes things to a whole new level. It pops with aromas of smoked meat, earthy funk, and mineral followed by dense fruit and savory flavors that are rich but don’t sacrifice balance.
6. Reynvaan Family Vineyards Foothills Reserve Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $65
Reynvaan is a consistent top performer on our annual list, and this year is no exception. Brooding black pepper, earth, and olive brine aromas lead to concentrated smoke and savory notes on the palate and a hyperextended finish. Just a baby now, this wine should deliver well into the next decade.
7. Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah Columbia Valley 2012 - $55
The name Lagniappe comes from the Cajun word for “a little something extra” and this wine certainly has that. The palate is brimming with herb and savory notes, almost overwhelming the senses with its intensity. The best Lagniappe to date.
8. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 - $140
This benchmark cabernet sauvignon takes days of being open to fully reveal its charms. But oh, what charms it has. It’s wound up tightly at present with incense, barrel spices, and blue and black fruit supported by a firm scaffolding of tannins. Give this wine at least seven years in the cellar to see it at its peak.
9. Reynvaan Family Vineyards In the Hills Syrah Foothills in the Sun Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2012 - $60
This wine comes from the winery’s vineyard nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It’s über aromatic with notes of black olive, sea salt, smoked meat, and earth. The flavors are rich but light; that finish just won’t quit.
10. Betz Family Winery Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 - $75
Winemaker and master of wine Bob Betz is in top form with a wine that offers a near-endless list of aromatic descriptors, from black currant and bay leaf to graphite and smoke. It’s seamless in feel with layered fruit that captivates the senses. Drink it at a cool 62 degrees to see it shine.